V. Legal Updates
Guam/Puerto Rico/U.S. Virgin Islands: The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that residents of Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands have no right to vote absentee in their former state of residence. “Absent a constitutional amendment, only residents of the 50 states have the right to vote in federal elections,” U.S. Circuit Judge Daniel Manion wrote for a three-judge panel. “The plaintiffs have no special right simply because they used to live in a state.” (Emphasis in original.)
Michigan: In a 42-page opinion, U.S. District Judge Gershwin Drain has given the go-ahead for a springtime trial in the fight over straight-ticket voting in The Great Lakes State. Secretary of State Ruth Johnson had sought the dismissal of the suit, but Drain, who did not rule on the merits of the case, said “a reasonable person” could conclude the law violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Minnesota: In February, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear a challenge to Minnesota’s polling place dress code. State law provides that “political badge, political button, or other political insignia may not be worn at or about the polling place on primary or election day.” However, the plaintiff in the case argues the ban violates his First Amendment rights.
North Carolina: The Supreme Court of the United States has temporarily blocked a trial court’s order requiring lawmakers to create a revised congressional voting map. The trial court had found that Republican legislators violated the state constitution when drawing the map.
Ohio: Eric Morgan, the former deputy director of the Miami County board of elections, who was fired in January of last year, is suing the BOE claiming violations of open meeting laws and defamation.
Pennsylvania: The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has thrown out the state’s congressional map giving legislators three weeks to draw a new one. According to Reuters, in a 5-2 decision, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled the electoral map violated the state’s Constitution by manipulating the district boundaries to marginalize Democratic voters, a practice called partisan gerrymandering.
Rhode Island: In June 2016, U.S. District Court Judge John J. McConnell dismissed the unlawful termination lawsuit brought by Robert Kando, the former executive director of the Rhode Island Board of Elections. This week, a three- judge panel agreed with the McConnell’s dismissal saying, according to The Providence Journal, that Kando’s claim was “largely within the realm of conjecture,” and not supported by “sufficient facts to make his claim plausible.”