Thursday, July 2, 2020

Electionline July-2nd-2020

Legislative Updates

California: The San Francisco Board of Supervisors has Unanimously Approved asking Voters this fall if the City’s Charter should be Amended to let Younger Voters have more of a say in Local Politics. It will be the Second Time in Four years that San Franciscans have Voted on a Proposal to Expand Voting Rights to Younger Residents. A nearly Identical Proposal Failed in 2016 with 52.6% of San Franciscans Voting against it. “It’s essential that young people build a habit of voting as early as possible and continue to participate in our democracy throughout their lives,” said Board of Supervisors, President Norman Yee, who Sponsored the Ballot Measure.

Delaware: The House and Senate have both Approved Legislation that will allow the First State to Vote-by-Mail. Under the Voting by Mail Legislation, the Department of Elections will be Required to Mail Applications for Mail-In Ballots to All Voters in Delaware. Postage for the Application Return Envelopes, as well as Ballot Return Envelopes, will be Paid by the State. Officials Estimates that Half of the Votes in the September Primary and in the November General Election will be Cast by Mail. Gov. John Carney (D) has Signed the Bill into Law.

Florida: Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has Signed HB1213 into Law. The Bill directs a Newly Formed Task Force to find ways to Include the 1920 Ocoee Election Day Riots, into the State’s Public School African-American History Curriculum, in Museum Exhibits, and for other Departments to use the Names of the Victims for State Parks and Facilities, as well as School Facilities. The 1920 Massacre occurred after July Perry, a Black man, tried to Vote in Ocoee while encouraging other African-Americans to do the same. A White Mob attacked the Black Residents. It’s estimated 50 People were Killed. Most Black-owned Buildings and Homes in North Ocoee were Burned, and other Residents were eventually Driven-Out of the City. “This bill I hope provides some consolation, and provides a way to reconcile what has happened,” said State Sen. Randolph Bracy (D-11th District, Orlando), who helped Sponsor the Bill.

DeSantis has also Signed a Bill into Law that will Allow Elections Officials across the State to use a Secondary System to Speed-Up Recounts and Verify the Accuracy of Results. The Law gives the Supervisors of Elections in the State’s 67 Counties the Option of Employing Auditing Systems that are Separate from the Machines and Software used for the Initial Ballot Counts.

Georgia: A Bill that would have Barred Election Officials from Mailing Absentee Ballot Applications to Georgia Voters Failed to Pass last week. The Proposal sputtered amid Opposition to a Limiting Voting Access after Record Numbers of Georgians cast Absentee Ballots in the State’s Primary Election. Over Half of All Primary Voters, 1.1 million, Voted Absentee. The Legislation, Senate Bill 463, never Received another Votes after it Passed the House Governmental Affairs Committee.

Iowa: Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) Signed a Bill Tuesday that will Deny County Officials the Ability to use a Voter Database to Confirm Missing or Incorrect Information on Absentee Ballot Requests. The Measure was Inserted by Republicans into a Massive Budget Bill on the Final day of the Legislative Session. Reynolds Signed the Measure into Law, opting Not to Kill the Rule Change with a Line-Item Veto. The Bill requires a County Election Officials who Notices Missing or Incorrect Information on a Ballot Request Form to Telephone or Email the Person requesting the Ballot within 24 hours. If that Fails the Auditor must Mail a Letter. Currently an Auditor can Double-Check Information in the Voter Database and Correct it if needed. A similar Administrative Rule was Struck Down by a Judge last year and the Law could Draw another Legal Challenge.

The Legislative Council Unanimously Approved an Emergency Directive to give Iowans Living Overseas the Option of Returning Ballots Electronically for July 7th Special Elections, but Not without First returning to a Partisan Debate Lawmakers had in the Final hours of their June Session. The Approval was needed because of a Change Legislators made in House File 2486 Requiring the Secretary of State to get the Council’s Approval before Changing the Conduct of an Election during an Emergency, such as the Coronavirus Pandemic. The Panel also Voted Down a Proposal from Sen. Pam Jochum (D-50th District, Dubuque), to Allow the Secretary of State’s Office to Send Absentee Ballot Request Forms to Every Registered Voter in Iowa.

Massachusetts: Rep. John Lawn (D-10th, Middlesex) told the State House New Service that a Deal has been Reached between Leaders in the House and Senate on Early Voting and Vote-by-Mail Legislation that should pave the way for a Major Expansion of Voting Options ahead of the 2020 Election to Encourage Participation during the COVID-19 Pandemic. The House and Senate Versions of the Bill instruct the Secretary of State’s Office to Mail every Voter an Application to Request a Mail-In Ballot for the Primaries on Sept. 1st and the General Election on Nov. 3rd. The Goal, Lawmakers have said, is to 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. The Bill also for the First time in Massachusetts Creates an Early Voting Window before the Statewide Primary, and Expands Early Voting before the General Election. Voting In-Person will remain an Option.

Pennsylvania: A Bill introduced in the State House would Provide a Mail-In Ballot to All Registered Pennsylvania Voters. The Bill would Direct County Boards of Elections to Provide an Official Mail-In Ballot to each Qualified Voter before any Primary or General Election. The Bill would also Repeal an Earlier Law that Requires Voters to Submit an Application for a Mail-In Ballot to their County’s Board of Elections. Mail-In Ballots were introduced to the State Election Code October, 2019.

New Hampshire: The Legislature has sent a Bill to Gov. Sununu (R) that Temporarily Changes State Law to Expand Absentee Voting so Voters can Avoid the Polls with Less Exposure for Election Workers. The Bill will Allow a Person to Request Absentee Ballots for both the Primary and General Election with One Application, and Allows Election Officials to begin Processing Absentee Ballots before Election Day but Not Open or Count them until the Final Tally after Polls Close.

New Mexico: Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) has Signed Legislation into Law that may Change how Voters Cast their Ballots during the General Election. Under the Legislation, any New Procedures will have to be Designed to Protect Public Health amid the Coronavirus Pandemic. Procedures must be Consistent with Federal Guidelines or be “otherwise evidence-based.” The Rules could Vary by County, depending on the Severity of the Outbreak in Different Parts of New Mexico. The Legislation, Senate Bill 4, Won Senate Approval 40-2 last week and Passed the House 44-26.

Legal Updates

Alabama: A Three-Judge panel of the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Criminal Appeals Refused to Stop a lower Court Ruling that Allowed Curbside Voting and Loosened some Absentee Voter Requirements in Three Counties for the July 14th Runoff. Writing for the Court, U.S. Circuit Judges, Robin Rosenbaum and Jill Pryor, Ruled that the State had Failed to Prove that the Plaintiffs in the Case who Argued that Current Policies put them at Greater Risk of Contracting COVID-19 would Lose in Court. The Judges also Accused the State of Minimizing the Potential Harms from the Outbreak. “Appellants’, the State, Failure to acknowledge the significant difference between leaving one’s home to vote in non-pandemic times and forcing high-risk COVID-19 individuals to breach social-distancing and self-isolation protocols so they can vote reflects a serious lack of understanding of or disregard for the science and facts involved here,” the Judges wrote. Alabama Secretary of State, John Merrill, filed an Application to the U.S. Supreme Court Monday, to Overturn a Lower Court’s Injunction that found that the Requirements could Violate the Constitutional Right to Vote for some Elderly and Disabled Voters during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Attorneys with Two Birmingham Law Firms filed a Lawsuit today Challenging Gov. Kay Ivey’s (R) Appointment of James P. “Jim” Naftel II as One of Jefferson County’s Two Probate Judges. The Lawsuit does Not Challenge Naftel’s Qualifications but says the Appointment is Not Valid because State Law requires the Governor to Choose from Three Nominees submitted by the Jefferson County Judicial Commission. Ivey Press Secretary, Gina Maiola said the Governor Disagrees. “The state constitution gives the governor the authority to fill this vacancy,” Maiola said in an Email. “Judge Naftel is highly qualified to serve as probate judge, and the governor looks forward to his many years of excellent public service to the people of Jefferson County and the state as a whole.”

Arkansas: Three Arkansans, including a Former Court of Appeals Judge and a Former State Director of Elections, are Suing Secretary of State, John Thurston, for what they say are Unconstitutional Voting Restrictions. The Lawsuit Challenges Absentee Voting Restrictions that the Plaintiffs say Force Voters to Choose between Exposing Themselves to COVID-19 or Exercising their Right to Vote. “When the election cycle rolls around and polling sites are closed because workers don’t appear, people will be disenfranchised,” said Susan Inman, the Former State Director of Elections. Currently, Arkansas Law Limits Voting by Mail to Only those who are “unavoidably absent” or Unavailable because of an Illness or Disability. Voters can face a $10,000 Fine or 10 years in Prison for Violating the Mail-In Guidelines. The Lawsuit argues that a 1985 Arkansas Supreme Court Decision that Allows Voters to Determine on their Own whether they are Unavailable, without Detailing a Reason, should be Upheld.

Connecticut: Four Republican Candidates for Congress are trying to Block the State from Implementing an Emergency Pandemic Order by Gov. Ned Lamont (D) that could Dramatically Increase the use of Absentee Ballots for the State’s Delayed Aug. 11th Primary by Distributing them to Any Voter who Claims to be Worried about Contracting the Coronavirus at the Polls. The Suit contends Secretary of State, Denise Merrill, has Interpreted the Emergency Order so broadly that the Absentee Ballot Applications prepared by her Office Encourage Absentee Voting by Everyone, putting the Integrity of Primary Elections at Risk.

Florida: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit Ruled in Favor of State Officials and Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), who asked the Court to Stop a Ruling in May by U.S. District Judge, Robert Hinkle. Hinkle Ruled that DeSantis and Florida Elections Officials can’t keep Felons from Voting if they can’t Afford to Pay off All Court Fees, Fines, and Restitution, finding that the Requirement is Unconstitutional. The Court’s Order also states that the Entire Panel of 11th Circuit Judges will hear the Case, a Rare Decision that was Requested by DeSantis. The Panel, which is known as One of the more Conservative Appellate Courts in the Nation, includes Two Judges that DeSantis had First Appointed to Florida’s Supreme Court.

Massachusetts: Officials in the Town of Grafton are seeking a Court Order to Open 202 Early-Voting Ballots discovered in a Sealed Box in the Town Clerk’s Vault a week after the Town Election. Town Administrator, Timothy McInerney, told the Select Board the Sealed Box containing 202 Uncounted Ballots was Discovered by Accident in the Vault on Tuesday by the Assistant Town Clerk. Upon Discovering the Mistake, the Assistant Town Clerk immediately Contacted the Town Administrator and the State Elections Division.

Michigan: The Public Interest Legal Foundation (PLF) is Dropping its Lawsuit against the City of Detroit after the City made Inroads into Fixing Issues with its Voter Rolls. The PLF had Sued the City Back in December over Allegations that the City’s Rolls were Bloated with Voters who were Deceased and Duplicate Registration.

North Dakota: Questions surrounding the Legality of Stark County’s Mail-In Only Voting have Resulted in a Civil Complaint filed against the County’s Commissioners, Canvassing Board, State’s Attorney, and Election Official. “We’re saying that their actions were illegal, and they disenfranchised numerous Stark County voters and did that without legal authority,” said Riley Kuntz, One of the Plaintiffs. North Dakota Century Code Section 16.1-11.1-01 Authorizes County Commissions to Conduct Ballot Elections and Sets out Procedures and Requirements for such Elections, one of which Requires that each County identify a Polling Location to be Open on Election Day.

Texas: The U.S. Supreme Court has Rejected an Initial Bid by Texas Democrats to Expand Voting-by-Mail to All Texas Voters during the Coronavirus Pandemic. Justice Samuel Alito, whose Oversight of Federal Courts includes Cases coming through Texas, Issued the Court’s Denial of the Texas Democratic Party’s Request to let a Federal District Judge’s Order to Expand Mail-in-Voting take effect while the Case is on Appeal. U.S. District Judge, Fred Biery, Ruled in May that Texas must Allow All Voters fearful of becoming Infected at Polling Places to Vote-by-Mail even if they wouldn’t ordinarily Qualify for Mail-In Ballots under State Election Law. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Stayed Biery’s Order while Texas Appeals his Ruling.

Wisconsin: A Seventh Circuit Panel issued Decision this week related to a Raft of Sweeping Lawsuits Challenging Wisconsin Voting Rules, including those: Affecting Voter IDs, Early Voting Procedures, and several other Election Policies. The Ruling by a Panel of Three Judges arrived more than Three years after Arguments took place for a Number of Consolidated Lawsuits, some touching on Fights over State Election Laws that have been simmering for almost a Decade. The Decision was largely a Win for Wisconsin Conservatives who have long Fought to Tighten Election Rules, but contained a few Concessions for Liberals who have spent years trying to Loosen the same Rules. The Panel found that there is No Evidence to Support the notion that Republican Legislators Intentionally Targeted Black Voters for Disenfranchisement but that the Rules were instead Politically Motivated in a Partisan sense, which is the Legislators’ Prerogative. “This record does not support a conclusion that the legislators who voted for the contested statutes cared about race; they cared about voters’ political preferences,” U.S. Circuit Judge, Frank Easterbrook, wrote. The Judge did Not find that the Challenged Limits on the Time-of-Day and Number-of-Days Allotted for Early Voting Violated either the First Amendment or the Voting Rights Act since, ultimately, “they leave all voters with equal opportunities to participate.”

U.S. District Judge, William Conley, said this week he was likely to Rule in a Suite of Election Lawsuits by the End of August but warned those bringing the Cases that he has Limited Powers to Change Voting Rules ahead of the Nov. 3rd Presidential Election. Conley noted State Election Officials don’t have Direct Authority over Municipal Clerks, who are in Charge of Running their Own Elections. The Lawsuits, which seek to Change Voting Policies because of the Coronavirus Pandemic, have been brought against the Wisconsin Elections Commission but Not Local Authorities. “I’m not sure the Wisconsin Elections Commission has the power to direct the city of Milwaukee to change the number of polling locations (and) to ensure accessibility at those locations,” Conley said during a Videoconference.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court Won’t hear a Case that could Remove up to 129,000 People from Voter Rolls until this fall, narrowing the Likelihood a Purge of Voter Names could happen before the November Election. On Tuesday evening, the Court Denied a Request by the Conservative Advocacy Group that brought the Case to either Bypass Oral Arguments or Expedite those Arguments. The Court said Oral Arguments will Not take place in the Case before Sept. 29th, just 34 days before Election Day. After Oral Arguments, the Court could Rule any time.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker

No comments: