Thursday, June 18, 2020

Electionline Weekly June 18th, 2020

Legislative Updates

California: The California Senate last week Approved a Measure that would Guarantee All Registered Voters get a Ballot in the Mail before the November Election. The Bill would also Extend the Deadline for those Ballots to make it back into the Elections Office to 20 days after the General Election. The Senate Passed the Bill with a 31-7 Vote. It still must be approved by the State Assembly before it can become Law.

The San Diego City’s Rules Committee Voted 3-2 to Send a Proposal to the Full Council to consider whether or Not to put a Measure on the Ballot that would Move City Elections to Ranked-Choice Voting System. The City would be Required to also Hold a Voter Awareness Campaign to familiarize Voters with the Change.

Georgia: Rep. Josh McLaurin (D-51st District, Sandy Springs), has introduced Two pieces of Election Reform Legislation that he hopes will address some of the Problems encountered during the June 9th Primary. Under the Proposal, the Fulton Board of Registration and Elections would be Reborn on Aug. 1st, which would be during Early Voting for the Aug. 11th Runoff. The Board and the County’s Elections Department work together to Plan the Election, doing things as granular as Select Polling Sites. McLaurin proposes Evaluating the Elections Board Chair every year, Staggering the Other Four Board Member Term Limits, Appointment Power going Back to the Fulton Delegation instead of the Fulton Board of Commissioners.

Illinois: Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D), on Tuesday, Signed SB 1863 and HB 2238 into Law to: provide Vote-by-Mail Applications to All Recent Voters in Illinois; Expands Early Voting Hours at Permanent Polling Places; Improves the Signature Verification Process; and makes Election Day a State Holiday.

Iowa: Republicans in the Legislature Voted to Cut the State Budget for Conducting Elections by a Quarter of a million dollars and to Force the State’s Top Election Official to get Permission from Legislative Leaders if he Intends to send Absentee Ballot Request Forms to Voters. GOP Lawmakers also Voted to Create New Voter Verification Steps for Casting an Absentee Ballot. State Senator Roby Smith (R-47th District, Davenport), said if a Ballot Request Form has the Wrong Voter ID Number on it, a County Auditor Cannot use Voter Registration Data to Correct it and Send a Ballot Out, but must Contact the Voter by Phone, Email. or Letter to Verify the Person is a Qualified Voter.

With Bipartisan Support the House Amended an Elections Bill Removing Language that would Prevent Elections Officials from Sending Mail-In Ballot Request Forms to All Registered Voters. Instead, the Iowa Secretary of State, Paul Pate, is Allowed to take such Action, as he did this most recent Primary amid the Pandemic, if he gets Approval from a Cohort of Lawmakers in Both Parties. The Bill now says the Secretary of State can make Changes to the Procedure of an Election with Approval from the Legislative Council and the Proposal Allows the Council to Proposal its Own Alternative or Take No Action.

The Senate Adjourned Without Passing HJR14, a Proposed Amendment to Restore Felon Voting Rights in the State. Senate Republicans Declined to Pass the Measure, citing the Belief Governor, Kim Reynolds (R) may Sign an Executive Order immediately Restoring Voting Eligibility for People with Felony Convictions after Serving their Sentence.

Massachusetts: The Senate Passed Expanded Vote-by-Mail Legislation this week that would Allow Voters to Avoid the Polls, but still Participate, during the Upcoming Primaries and General Election if they feel Unsafe due to the Ongoing Pandemic. S. 2755 would offer Registered Voters Three Options to Cast a Ballot: during Extended Early Voting periods; Voting In-Person on Election Day; or Voting-by-Mail. Between Early Voting and Vote-by-Mail, the Reforms could substantially Reduce Lines on Nov. 3rd and Increase Interest in sometimes Lower-Turnout Primary Contests, Supporters said.

Minnesota: The Minnetonka City Council on June 8th adopted an Ordinance to Amend the City Charter requiring the Use of Ranked-Choice Voting (RCV) for Municipal Elections and Removes All References to Primaries from the Charter. The Charter Commission has now been Tasked with Further Study of the RCV Amendment, which begins the Process under State Law. The Commission needs at least 60 days, or until Aug. 7th, to Review a Proposed Amendment, though it could potentially take up to 150 days, or until Nov. 5th, if more Information is Requested. After the Study is Completed, the Council will decide if, when, and how, to put the Issue on the Ballot for Voters to Decide if they want the RCV Method.

North Carolina: Gov. Roy Cooper (D) Signed into Law on Friday Legislation providing Money to Help Run North Carolina Elections during the COVID-19 Pandemic and making it Easier to Cast Mail-In Absentee Ballots this Fall. The House and Senate gave Final Legislative Approval on Thursday to the Bipartisan Measure and sent it to Cooper’s Desk. The Measure is Designed to Prepare for a Spike in Demand for Absentee Ballots from People at Higher Risk of Developing Complications from the Coronavirus. Voters would need Only One Witness Signature on the Envelope Holding a Completed Ballot, not Two.

Legal Updates

Alaska: In a Unanimous Decision Published Friday, the Alaska Supreme Court Upheld a Lower-Court Decision and Confirmed the Legality of a Proposed Multipart Ballot Measure including All Three Topics. The State of Alaska had Argued that the Measure Violated a Constitutional Requirement that Ballot Measures be Limited to One Subject. Backers of the Initiative Sued the State after the Measure was Rejected, and in October, Superior Court Judge, Yvonne Lamoureaux, Ruled that All Three Components Fall under the Single Subject of “election reform.”

Alabama: In a 77-page Opinion, U.S. District Judge, Abdul Kallon, Waived some of the Requirements to Vote Absentee in Alabama Ahead of the Republican Runoff Primary. “Because the plaintiffs have shown that the challenged laws will likely dissuade some citizens from voting … the court finds that the burdens imposed by the challenged election laws on voters at high risk of severe complications or death from Covid-19 are not justified by the state’s interests in enforcing the laws,” Kallon wrote. In the Opinion, Kallon Issued a Preliminary Injunction Waiving the Requirements that an Alabama Voter seeking to Cast a Ballot-by-Mail must Submit a Copy of their Photo ID and have a Notary or Two Witnesses Sign the Ballot. The Injunction also Prevents the State from Shutting Down Attempts by County Election Officials to Allow Voters to Drive-Up to a Polling Location and Cast a Ballot via “curbside voting” in Next month’s Runoff Race. Secretary of State, John Merrill, has said he will Appeal the Ruling.

California: District Court Judge, Perry Parker, put a Hold on an Executive Order inked by the Governor last week that Specified how County Registrars should Conduct the Coming Presidential Election. Parker Agreed that Newsom’s Directive may be an “impermissible use of legislative powers in violation of the California Constitution.” The Temporary Hold on the Gubernatorial Order will Last until the Case can go to Trial.

Former Contra Costa County Elections Chief, Joe Canciamilla, has been Charged with 34 Felony Crimes of Illegally Spending Campaign Funds. The Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office has Charged Canciamilla with 30 Counts of Perjury involving Campaign Disclosure Statements and Four Counts of Personal Grand Theft of Campaign Funds spent on a Vacation in Asia, Airfare, Restaurants, and Other Personal Expenses. According to the Complaint, Canciamilla Illegally spent $261,800.68 of his Campaign Funds in all. The Charges stem from Conduct Starting in 2010

Florida: A Federal Appellate Court has Agreed to Fast Track the State’s Appeal of a Ruling that paved the way for Hundreds of Thousands of Florida Felons to Register and Vote in the November Elections. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday Granted Gov. Ron DeSantis’ Request to Expedite the Appeal. The Atlanta-based Court also Scheduled Oral Arguments in the Case during the week of Aug. 10th. The Order Agreeing to Expedite the Appeal did Not Address the DeSantis’ Administration’s Request for the Full Circuit to Hear the Appeal.

Georgia: The Democratic Party of Georgia filed an Emergency Motion to give Voters more Time to Correct Problems with Rejected Absentee or Provisional Ballots. The Motion said Many Voters Won’t be Notified whether their Ballots were Rejected until it’s Too Late. Counties are still Counting Tens of Thousands of Absentee Ballots. The Normal Deadline to Verify Ballot Discrepancies, such as Signature Mismatches or Missing Photo ID, is Three days after Tuesday’s Election. “Voters deserve to know that their vote is counted and have the chance to correct any errors,” said Democratic Party of Georgia Chairwoman, Nikema Williams. “Georgians still don’t know whether their vote was counted in this primary.”

Indiana: Indiana Vote by Mail, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization which advocates for accessible, secure, auditable and fiscally responsible voting practices, and a dozen named plaintiffs filed a motion for a preliminary injunction last week against the state in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana seeking to extend no-excuse absentee voting for the 2020 general election. They filed a lawsuit April 29, 2020 to remove the state’s restrictions on absentee voting, and with the motion for preliminary injunction, the plaintiffs are imploring the court to require officials to begin the process to expand absentee voting.

Michigan: Sherikia Hawkins, a Clerk in Southfield, was bound over this week to Oakland County Circuit Court, the Michigan Attorney General’s Office said. Hawkins is Charged with; Election Law for Falsifying Records; Forgery of a Public Record; Misconduct in Office; and Using a Computer to Commit a Crime. The Attorney General’s Office said a Computer was used to Fraudulently Alter or Modify a Qualified Voter File after the Nov. 6th, 2018 General Election to Falsely Reflect that Previously Logged Absentee Ballots were Void due to Arriving in Envelopes that were Not Signed by the Voter.

Minnesota: Ramsey County District Judge, Sara Grewing, issued a Consent Decree this week that, among other things, Allows Voters to Skip the Witness Signature part of the Mail-In Ballot Envelope. It will also Allow Ballots that Arrive up to Two days after Election Day to be Counted as long as they are Postmarked on or before Aug. 11th. Under Current Law, Absentee Ballots can be Counted after the day of the Election, but Only if they’re Received On or Before Election Day. “The constitution says you can’t unduly interfere with the right to vote. The Conclusion here is that, under the present circumstances with COVID-19, that might happen unless there is some modification of the rules just for this primary election.” Minnesota Secretary of State, Steve Simon, said.

Missouri: This week, Sophia Lakin, Deputy Director of the Voting Rights Project for the American Civil Liberties Union, asked the Missouri Supreme Court to Reverse a Cole County Judge’s Dismissal of a Lawsuit filed by the Civil Rights Group seeking Unrestricted Absentee Voting. Senate Bill 631, Passed last month by Missouri’s GOP-dominated Legislature, Expanded Mail-In Voting Options and Narrowed the Legal Grounds for the ACLU’s Case. But Lakin Argued it Fell Short of Giving All Missourians Concerned about Covid-19 to Ability to Submit an Absentee Ballot.

New Jersey: The League of Women Voters (LVW) announced this week that it had come to an Agreement with the State in a Lawsuit over Ballot Signatures. The LWV and the State Agreed to a “notice and cure” Process for Mail-In Ballots for the July 7th Primary. Voters who Cast their Ballot-by-Mail will be Notified of any Issues and Offered the Option to Fix the Problem. The Agreement Only Applies to the July 7th Primary, Not Subsequent Elections. Last month, Gov. Murphy (D) Announced that Mail-In Ballots would be Sent to All Registered Voters in the Garden State. As a result, a Surge in Mail-In Ballots is Expected for the Delayed Primary, which means that a Surge of Ballots would be Subject to a Signature Match. The Agreement must still be Accepted by the District Court Judge in Newark.

North Dakota: U.S. District Judge, Peter Welte, says he will Not Waive North Dakota’s Ban on Electronic Signature Gathering for a Group Attempting to get a Wide-Ranging Measure on the November Ballot. North Dakota Voters First asked to Allow Online Signature Gathering because of the Coronavirus Pandemic. The Group Argued that the COVID-19 Outbreak “creates an environment that is impossible to comply” with the Laws. In Denying a Motion for a Preliminary Injunction, Welte noted that the State did Not Issue a Stay-at-Home Order and Gov. Doug Burgum (R) on May 1st “revoked nearly all the previously imposed pandemic-related restrictions.”

Ohio: Ballot Campaigns in Ohio, asked the U.S. Supreme Court to weigh in, on whether they have the Legal Right to see Signature-Gathering Rules Relaxed during the Coronavirus Pandemic. The move came after the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals Declined Tuesday, to Reconsider its Decision to Block the Campaigns from Proceeding under Less Restrictive Signature-Gathering Rules they’d been Granted by a Lower Court. U.S. District Court Judge, Edmund Sargus Jr., set Guidelines that would have Allowed Campaigns Promoting Minimum Wage, Voting Rights, and Marijuana Issues to Collect Signatures Electronically. Sargus had also Extended the Deadline for Submitting Signatures by about a Month, to July 31st. But he Stopped Short of Reducing the Overall Number of Signatures Ohio Requires.

Tennessee: Davidson County Chancellor, Ellen Hobbs Lyle, Ordered Changes to the State Absentee Form but Stopped Short of Ordering Sanctions against the State for Not Complying, citing Tough Budget Times for the State during the Pandemic. But she warned “there always is the specter of criminal contempt if after today’s orders there’s still noncompliance and there’s disobedience.” “Shame on you for not following that procedure and just taking matters into your own hands,” Lyle said at a Hearing last week. “So, I’m calling the state out on that, for not adhering to the standards of legal process, and not adhering to the order.” In addition, the Attorney General’s Office has filed a Motion seeking to Fast-Track the Appeal of Hobbs Lyle’s Original Ruling.

Texas: The Texas Democratic Party asked the U.S. Supreme Court to Immediately Lift the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ Block on a Sweeping Ruling that would allow All Texas Voters who are Seeking to Avoid becoming Infected at In-Person Polling Places to instead Vote-by-Mail. Early Voting for the July 14th Primary Runoff Election begins June 29th. Earlier this month, a Panel of the 5th Circuit Extended its Block on a Preliminary Injunction by U.S. District Judge, Fred Biery, Ordering that All State Voters, regardless of Age, Qualify for Mail-In Ballots during the Pandemic. Biery Agreed with Plaintiffs, including the Texas Democratic Party, that Voters would face Irreparable Harm if Existing Age Eligibility Rules for Voting-by-Mail remain in place for Elections held while the Coronavirus Remains in Wide Circulation. Under his Order, Voters under the age of 65 who would Ordinarily Not Qualify for Mail-In Ballots would now be Eligible. But after Attorney General, Ken Paxton (R) Appealed that Ruling, the 5th Circuit put it On-Hold.

West Virginia: The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals has Settled a yearlong Debate over Four Provisional Ballots in Harpers Ferry. The State’s Highest Court Voted Unanimously on Monday for the Harpers Ferry Town Council to Count Four Provisional Ballots from Last June’s Municipal Election. The Council had Thrown-Out those Ballots over Typographical Errors. Secretary of State, Mac Warner (R), said he’s pleased the Supreme Court Upheld State Code that says Technical Errors shall be Disregarded and the Votes would be Required to be Counted.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker

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