Thursday, May 13, 2021

Electionline Weekly May-13-2021

Legislative Updates

Federal Legislation: The Senate Rules Committee deadlocked over Democrats’ sweeping proposed elections overhaul, setting the stage for a showdown on the Senate floor in the coming months that could determine the future of voting rights and campaign rules across the country. The tie vote by the Committee, with nine Democrats in favor and nine Republicans opposed, does not prevent Democrats from moving forward with the 800-page legislation, known as the For the People Act. Proponents of the bill hailed it as an important step toward adopting far-reaching federal changes to blunt the restrictive new voting laws emerging in Republican-led battlegrounds like Georgia and Florida. But the action unavoidably thrust a set of thorny questions into Democrats’ laps about how to proceed with an issue they view as a pressing civil rights fight with sweeping implications for democracy and their party. The bill as written faces near-impossible odds in the Senate, where Republicans are expected to block it using a filibuster and at least one Democrat, Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, remains opposed. Among other changes, the Democrats’ bill would essentially overwrite some of these recent state laws by requiring each state implement 15 days of early voting, no-excuse vote by mail programs — like the ones many states expanded during the pandemic — and automatic and same-day voter registration. The legislation also would restore voting rights to former felons and neutralize restrictive state voter identification laws that Democrats say can make it harder for minorities to vote. Republicans gave no indication they were willing to cede any ground to Democrats in a fight that now stretches from the Capitol in Washington to state houses across the country.

Arizona: Gov. Doug Ducey signed a bill which will remove the word “permanent” from the state’s permanent early voting list (PEVL), a method that was heavily used by voters in the 2020 election. He signed the controversial bill, SB 1485, less than an hour after the Arizona Senate passed it 16-14, along party lines. The new law dissolves the word “permanent” before references to the early voting list. County officials are now required to send a notice by Dec. 1 of every even-numbered year to any voters on the list who failed to vote using an early ballot in at least one primary or general election where a municipal, statewide, legislative or federal race was on the ballot over four years. Democrats have said the bill will remove at least 126,000 people from the early voting list — a number which would have been higher if the measure was applied for records based on the 2020 election.

Ducey has also signed into law a bill prohibits election officials from counting a ballot that is not properly signed by 7:00 p.m. on Election Day. Prior to the law’s passing, there was a five-day grace period to fix missing or inconsistent signatures.

Connecticut: In a bipartisan vote, the House advanced the first of two expected constitutional amendments to let Connecticut voters weigh in on the state’s election laws through a referendum question on early voting. Lawmakers are considering two voting resolutions this year. Both would put ballot questions before state voters to consider changing the constitutional language on Connecticut’s election policies. The House passed one of those resolutions on a bipartisan 115 to 26 vote. If the measure is approved by the Senate, voters will see a question at the polls next year on whether to allow early voting in Connecticut. During a debate on the resolution, House Majority Leader Jason Rojas said the proposal would give Connecticut residents the opportunity to join the 44 other states that allow some form of early voting. Rojas said the change could help residents who lead sometimes busy and unpredictable lives.

The House voted 104-44 on a bipartisan basis for a constitutional amendment to change the law and make it easier to obtain an absentee ballot. The spirited debate lasted nearly 4½ hours before nine Republicans joined with all Democrats in favor of the resolution. But the vote count fell short of the necessary 75% to fast-track the process under a complicated, multi-year process to make the changes. Since the measure passed by a simple majority in the House, the earliest that the amendment would appear on the ballot for the general public would be in November 2024 if also passed by a simple majority in the state Senate. The fastest way under the system would have occurred if 75% of the members in the House and Senate approved the constitutional amendment, which would then be placed on the ballot in November 2022. But lawmakers predicted before the vote that the chamber did not have the necessary votes for the fast-track result. If also approved by the Senate in the coming days, the question on the ballot would be: “Shall the Constitution of the State be amended to permit the General Assembly to allow each voter to vote by absentee ballot?”

Delaware: Republican state lawmakers unveil a package of bills seeking to change voter ID laws and reform the election system as a whole. The package of bills are mostly aimed at discouraging voter fraud, according to House Minority Leader Danny Short (R-Seaford). Short says these bills aren’t a reaction to any actual cases of voter fraud seen in the First State. “We’re just saying we need to tighten it up, make it more reasonable — and try to make sure that things are done so that people have confidence in the system,” Short said. One bill would increase the penalty for voter fraud in the state, making it a felony and stripping the person of their right to vote for five years. Two of the bills would tighten voter ID requirements, both in person and voting absentee. Voters do not currently need to present a photo ID at the polls, and can sign an affidavit instead. This bill would remove that option, and require a voter without ID to use a provisional ballot that the Department of Elections would verify after the polls close. The last two resolutions call for examining the voter registration system for improvements, and reviewing the signature verification system for absentee ballots.

Florida: Gov. Ron DeSantis enthusiastically embraced former the president’s demand for tougher election laws, signing into law a slew of new voting restrictions in a staged live broadcast despite previously touting how smoothly his state’s elections ran last fall. DeSantis (R) hailed the measure as necessary to shore up public faith in elections, but critics accused him of trying to make it harder to vote, particularly for people of color. DeSantis offered a string of justifications for the law, claiming it would prevent ballot “harvesting” and the stuffing of ballots into unmonitored drop boxes — though such practices were already prohibited in the state and there is no evidence they occurred last year. “We’re not going to let political operatives go and get satchels of votes and dump them in some drop box,” the governor said. County supervisors of elections opposed the bulk of the changes as mostly unnecessary and, in some cases, counterproductive. “It’s going to make it harder for people to vote,” said Broward Supervisor of Elections Joe Scott. Scott, who is Black, said it amounts to voter suppression, especially of people of color and older voters.

Illinois: Republican Sens. Sally Turner, of Beason, and Sue Rezin, of Morris have introduced legislation to standardize the way local authorities across Illinois handle elections, from the training of election judges to posting information about delays in ballot counting. The proposal, introduced last month as an amendment to Senate Bill 1326, dubbed the Election Standardization Act, addresses four areas of election practices. First, it would require each county and county clerk to establish training courses for election judges that incorporate material developed by the Illinois State Board of Elections. Currently, state board is required to develop those materials but counties are not required to use them. Those training materials would cover such topics as voter verification, campaign-free zones, electioneering, vote-by-mail procedures, provisional voting, and ballot handling and processing. Second, whenever there is a delay of delivering precinct tallies to a county clerk’s office, it would require the election judges in that precinct to submit an affidavit explaining the delay, and it would require the county clerk to post that information on the clerk’s website. Third, after each election, it would require the State Board of Elections to audit 5% of all election authorities, selected at random, to verify that they properly handled mail ballots that were received after the close of polls on Election Day. And finally, it would require election authorities to post on their public websites the processes and procedures they use for handling mail-in ballots.

Michigan: State Republican lawmakers introduced legislation that would require “fact checkers” to register with the state and face possible fines for improper findings. House Bill 4813, along with HB 4814, would apply to members of the “International Fact Check Network,” according to the bill. That is an apparent reference to the International Fact-Checking Network — a unit of the Poynter Institute dedicated to bringing together fact-checkers from around the world. The lead sponsor of the bills is state Rep. Matt Maddock, R-Milford, who has promoted claims of voter fraud in the 2020 election. The bill would require fact checkers to register with the Michigan Secretary of State and post bonds of at least $1 million. Affected parties could then bring civil actions against the fact checkers, and, if successful, collect damages from the bond amount. Fines could be up to $1,000 a day.

Senate Bill 305 would prevent the name or likeness of an elected or appointed official from being used on communication about election activity that was paid for with public money. Anyone who violates the rule, if it became law, would be fined $100 for a first offense and $250 for a second offense. The bill was one of the 39 election bills introduced by Michigan Senate Republicans that Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson has been opposing. “Limiting our ability to most directly impact voters – and social media is one of the most direct ways that we can reach voters in a short period of time if we’re low-cost or no-cost – really hampers our ability to do our jobs as the chief voter educators throughout the state and throughout our communities,” said Benson. The bill directly called on the Secretary of State, city and county clerks, focusing on most of the ways those offices reach voters, including mail, billboard, and social media posts. Benson said, if passed, the bill would set up the state to have to deal with even more misinformation. The bill, which has not been addressed in committee yet, was sponsored by state Sen. Dale Zorn, R-Ida, and co-sponsored by state Sens. Kenneth Horn, R-Frankenmuth; Lana Theis, R-Brighton; and Jim Stamas, R-Midland.

Missouri: Missouri Republican lawmakers want Gov. Mike Parson to call a special session on election legislation, acknowledging voter ID and other GOP-backed measures won’t pass before Friday when the General Assembly adjourns. The House Elections Chairman, Rep. Dan Shaul, and six other Republican committee members on Wednesday sent a letter to Parson requesting the session and faulting the Senate for inaction on the bills. Their request received a boost from Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, whose office said he supports a special session if the General Assembly can’t pass the legislation during the current session. The proposals would restore a voter ID law struck down by the state Supreme Court and more tightly regulate voting, part of a broad effort by Republicans nationwide to restrict ballot access following a presidential election featuring false and unsubstantiated allegations of fraud and corruption. A bill passed by the House in February would require voters to use forms of ID from a pre-approved list, such as a driver’s license. Those without required photo ID can cast a provisional ballot that would only be counted if the local election department verifies the voter’s signature with one on file.

New Hampshire: The Senate Election Law and Municipal Affairs Committee, during a lengthy meeting, did vote recommendations on the following bills: It voted 3-2 to suggest that the full Senate pass a bill that addresses a requirement that people who register to vote on Election Day without presenting a photo ID have their photo taken at the polling place. The committee also voted 5-0 to recommend that the full House pass legislation to allow political parties to be provided information regularly about absentee voter applicants.

New Jersey: A panel of lawmakers on Wednesday advanced a bill, A2763, that would let 17-year-olds vote in June primary elections starting in 2022 if they will turn 18 on or before the November general election next year. New Jersey law currently allows 17-year-olds to register to vote, but they cannot cast ballots until their 18th birthday. The bill would create the “New Voter Empowerment Act,” and advocates say it would encourage election participation in the Garden State. “It will form a voting habit the earlier we get them to engage,” said Uyen Khuong, executive director of Action Together New Jersey, a statewide organization that advocates for expanded voting rights. “It creates an ethos in participating in our democracy.” About 40,000 17-year-olds would qualify to vote in the primary every year if the bill is passed, Khuong said, citing the advocacy organization’s analysis of state voter registration data.

North Carolina: The House approved legislation Thursday meant to ensure General Assembly leaders have more say in lawsuits targeting the laws the legislature writes. House bill 606 says that, if the state’s top lawmakers are part of a lawsuit, it can’t be settled without their permission. The measure is a response to a settlement last fall that changed the state’s absentee ballot rules, surprising Republican majority leaders in the General Assembly. The legislature had considered some of the changes that the lawsuit ultimately wrought – a later deadline for absentee ballots to arrive and changes in ballot witness procedures – and rejected them. A judge put them in place after attorneys with connections to the Democratic Party sued and said the state’s pandemic election rules weren’t constitutional, a matter eventually settled in a lawsuit with the State Board of Elections.

Ohio: A newly introduced voting overhaul bill in the Ohio House would put into law that absentee ballot drop boxes are only allowed at one place in each county and for a shorter length of time than in November’s election. Up to three boxes would be allowed at each county board of elections under House Bill 294. HB 294 also changes how people can register to vote, request absentee ballots, among other issues. The bill comes after a wave of election law changes in Republican-controlled states. Many Republicans falsely believe that widespread fraud in the 2020 election led to the loss of former President Donald Trump. The bill is called the Election Modernization and Security Act. HB 294 would allow Ohio voters to request an absentee ballot online, through a secure two-factor authentication, similar to the current online voter registration system. The window for people to request an absentee ballot would be reduced under HB 294 from the current deadline of noon Saturday before Election Day to 10 days before the election. New under the bill would be an option for Ohioans to register to vote when they visit the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. It would also allow new addresses, driver license numbers, legal name changes and other such information to be updated. This would register as “voter activity,” resetting the clock on the process through which a voter can be purged for inactivity. In-person voting the Monday before an election would be eliminated – a request the lawmakers said came from many county boards of elections. It would be replaced with “Monday hours” that would be added to other early voting days. It would create a prioritized list of voter identification methods, as well as expand the list to allow electronic versions of voters’ bank statements or utility bills instead of hard copies, the lawmakers said. Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, the state’s chief elections official, will work with the Ohio House as the bill moves forward, said his spokesman, Rob Nichols. “The bill makes it easier to register to vote, easier to vote absentee, and easier to vote on Election Day, and all the while maintaining Ohio’s high security standards,” Nichols said in an email.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt signed a bill to expand early, in-person voting by one day during presidential elections. The bill Stitt signed late Tuesday will add one day of early, in-person voting from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on the Wednesday before a presidential election. Oklahoma currently has 2 1/2 days of early, in-person absentee voting on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The bill would also require voters to request mail-in absentee ballots earlier to ensure election officials have time to receive and count the ballot by Election Day.

Rhode Island: Rep. Barbara Ann Fenton-Fung (R-Dist. 15, Cranston) has introduced legislation that would require all official mail ballots to include a watermark for verification purposes. The legislation (2021-H 6316), which has garnered bipartisan support, would require the Secretary of State to include on all mail ballots it provides, an easily discernible watermark for verification purposes that is also approved by the Board of Elections. “This bill allows the voter and election officials to ensure that this is an official ballot, and not a replication made for nefarious purposes,” said Representative Fenton-Fung. “Let’s find common ground and bipartisan approaches to improve the security of our election system when we can; and to that, H 6316 is a great start.” The bill is modeled on legislation that was recently approved nearly unanimously by the Tennessee state legislature. The bill was touted as a simple and commonsense measure that would prevent election fraud while having little financial impact on the state.

Texas: Texas has become the latest Republican-dominated state to advance sweeping new limits on voting. The GOP-led restrictions cleared the Texas House on, starting with the a key vote at 3 a.m. It followed hours of debate that started the day before, and lawmakers are now likely to begin negotiating a final version of the legislation that will need approval before heading to Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, who signaled an eagerness to sign it. The bill, which returns now to the Senate is different from the original version. he original language in Senate Bill 7, approved April 1 on a party-line Senate vote, was removed in the House and replaced with language from a House bill that had largely different policy proposals, though there were areas of overlap. The original Senate and House-modified versions of SB 7, for example, banned local officials from sending unsolicited vote-by-mail applications to registered voters. Both also required people who help voters cast a ballot because of a disability or limited English proficiency to file a document disclosing their name, address and help provided. But the version of SB 7 approved by the House also stripped out several major Senate provisions, including: A ban on drive-thru voting and on overnight or 24-hour polling locations; A requirement that people who provide rides for three or more voters to a polling place fill out a form with their name, address and information on whether they also assisted the voter in casting a ballot; A requirement that voters applying for a mail-in ballot because of a disability acknowledge that they have a sickness or condition that prevents in-person voting; and • Language authorizing poll watchers to record video at a polling place, including a voter at a voting machine if the voter is suspected of receiving illegal help, though the recording cannot show the ballot. Both versions of the bill sought to protect poll watchers, who monitor election sites and vote counting on behalf of a political party or campaign, as essential to ensuring fair and accurate elections. The House, however, added limits on what can be photographed in polling places and adopted language allowing watchers to be removed for disruptive or illegal behavior. The House also added new crimes, including voting in Texas and in another state on the same day, as well as “vote harvesting,” defined as interacting with voters intending “to deliver votes for a specific candidate or measure.” The differences will likely need a conference committee of senators and representatives to work out, so it’s too soon to know what the final version of SB 7 will look like.

An East Texas state representative’s legislation to expedite the process by which dead Texans are purged from voter registration rolls has been approved in the Texas Senate phase. HB 1264, authored by Rep. Keith Bell (R-Forney) was considered by the Senate Committee on State Affairs on Thursday. The passed the bill on a 7-0 vote and will be placed on the uncontested calendar for the Senate, mean it can be voted on without discussion. Under current law, there is no specified amount of time between a person’s death and when a registrar is required to remove their name from voter rolls.

Vermont: The House on approved legislation that would make universal mail-in voting a permanent feature of the state’s general elections. The bill, S.15, which passed in a vote of 119-30, would require local officials to mail ballots to all registered voters in the weeks leading up to November general elections. The bill, which first passed the Senate in March, was proposed after the state decided to automatically send voters ballots in the fall to prevent the spread of Covid-19 at the polls. That change led to historically high turnout in the November 2020 election when 75% of voters opted to vote by mail. The bill would also give voters an opportunity to fix their mail-in ballots if they’re defective, meaning they can’t be counted because they were filled out or mailed back incorrectly.

Wisconsin: Republican lawmakers passed legislation that would largely prevent private groups from funding the costs of running elections. Also, Republicans approved bills that would limit who can return absentee ballots for others and tighten the rules for correcting errors on absentee ballot paperwork. All the proposals face likely vetoes from Democratic Gov. Tony Evers if they get to him.

On a party-line, 60-36 vote, the Assembly approved Assembly Bill 173, which would prohibit local governments from accepting donations from private groups to help run their elections. Any donations to the state for running elections would have to be distributed to local governments equally based on their populations.

The Senate passed Senate Bill 203, which would limit who could return absentee ballots for others. The measure, approved 21-12, is meant to prevent what Republicans label as ballot harvesting — having political groups collect many absentee ballots to return them to election officials.

The Senate approved, Senate Bill 212, would prevent election officials from filling in the addresses of witnesses on absentee ballot envelopes. That bill passed 20-13, with Republican Sen. Roger Roth joining all Democrats in opposing it.

Legal Updates

Arizona: The Arizona Supreme Court declined to entertain the case of a group of anonymous voters who wanted to toss out the past two statewide general elections, depose the officeholders elected in them and install themselves as temporary leaders. The state’s highest court, in its ruling, said there was “no legal basis for the relief requested” by the group of 20, who had asked that their names be sealed for security reasons. The court also said it found no legal basis to keep the names of the 20 people who filed the pleading from public view, citing its open records policy. The Arizona Supreme Court said the group had until 5 p.m. Monday to file a pleading explaining why their names should remain shielded from public view. The lawsuit said the general elections held in 2018 and 2020 were invalid because the voting machines used in them did not follow the exacting certification process outlined in federal law. For good measure, the group also wanted to toss out the 2019 Tucson municipal election for the same reason. The group said since the machines’ certifications were not up to snuff, it called into question the validity of the election. The Arizona Supreme Court said it would not entertain the group’s bid to hold office for several reasons. One was that the latest election challenged was held six months ago. The ruling also said that such challenges need to show that the errors made in running an election would change the results. “The validity of an election is not voided by honest mistakes or omissions,” the court wrote in its ruling, citing a case dating back to 1887, when Arizona was still a territory. The court also said that while eligible voters have certain rights to bring challenges over voting machines before the court, “nothing in the statutes Petitioners cite grants them a private right of action to remove office holders and sit in their stead.”

Florida: The League of Women Voters of Florida, Black Voters Matter and the Florida Alliance For Retired Americans filed a lawsuit challenging Senate Bill 90 just minutes after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the controversial new voting restrictions into law. The organizations were joined by several individual voters in their legal challenge of what they describe as “Florida’s voter suppression bill.” The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund has separately filed a federal lawsuit against Secretary of State Laurel M. Lee, arguing Florida’s new law “greatly obstructs voting access.” “He just signed in a bill for restrictions…to deal with a problem that doesn’t exist,” said Lakeland NAACP President Terry Coney. “The League of Women Voters of Florida has fought SB 90 since its introduction, and we’re continuing our fight now,” Patricia Brigham, president of the League of Women Voters of Florida, wrote in a statement announcing the 67-county lawsuit. “The legislation has a deliberate and disproportionate impact on elderly voters, voters with disabilities, students and communities of color. It’s a despicable attempt by a one party ruled legislature to choose who can vote in our state and who cannot. It’s undemocratic, unconstitutional, and un-American.” “The lawsuit challenges provisions in the bill that impose restrictions on vote-by-mail drop boxes, the effective ban on organizations and volunteers from helping voters return their vote-by-mail ballots, and the requirements that force voters to request a vote-by-mail ballot more frequently and ban any non-poll worker from giving food or drink, including water, to voters waiting in line,” the League wrote. The complaint says that the bill seeks to “solve problems that do not exist” and “caters to a dangerous lie about the 2020 election.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida filed a constitutional challenge to a measure that would limit contributions to political committees backing ballot initiatives. The ACLU argued in a lawsuit filed in federal court in Tallahassee that the bill (SB 1890) “burdens and chills” free speech and association protected under the First Amendment. The bill, part of years of efforts by lawmakers to clamp down on ballot initiatives, would place a $3,000 cap on contributions to political committees trying to put proposed constitutional amendments on the ballot. It was among 15 bills that DeSantis signed Friday and is scheduled to take effect July 1. The ACLU was heavily involved in passing a 2018 ballot initiative aimed at restoring the voting rights of felons who have fulfilled their sentences. It said in the lawsuit that it has developed other plans for initiatives to “expand voter participation in Florida.” The limit on contributions to political committees would make it difficult or, as critics contend, impossible to collect the 891,589 petition signatures needed to put proposed constitutional amendments on the 2022 ballot. Political committees in the past often have spent millions of dollars to gather petition signatures and get required Florida Supreme Court approval of the wording of ballot proposals.

Michigan: Two right-wing operatives accused of orchestrating robocalls designed to suppress voter turnout in the 2020 presidential election are heading to trial in Michigan over several felony charges. Last October, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel filed several felony charges against Jack Burkman, 54, from Arlington, Virginia, and Jacob Wohl, 23, from Los Angeles, for allegedly attempting to suppress votes in multiple U.S. cities — specifically those with significant minority populations — in the U.S. presidential election. According to officials, an investigation revealed that robocalls riddled with misinformation about mail-in voting were reported in Detroit and a number of other cities across New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Illinois. For Detroit, the calls specifically targeted residents with a 313 area code — nearly 12,000 of them — in August of 2020. Officials believe about 85,000 of the robocalls were made nationally. After Burkman and Wohl were arraigned in Michigan last October, the men reportedly filed a motion to have the case dismissed, which a circuit court judge denied in February. The pair appealed to the Michigan Court of Appeals in March and were denied again, meaning their case will be going to trial. Burkman and Wohl have both been charged with the following offenses: One count of election law – intimidating voters, a five-year felony; One count of conspiracy to commit an election law violation, a five-year felony; One count of using a computer to commit the crime of election law – intimidating voters, a seven-year felony; and Using a computer to commit the crime of conspiracy, a seven-year felony.

Nevada: Several Republican former elected officials have dropped their lawsuit claiming Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske failed in her duties during the 2020 election. Former Assemblyman Al Kramer, former Washoe County District Attorney Dick Gammick and real estate developer Roger William Norman sued Cegavske in December, alleging their votes in 2020 were “diluted” by “many” ballots cast by noncitizens. It sought to force Cegavske into removing noncitizens from Nevada’s voter rolls — something her office has maintained is already done consistently throughout the year. The state asked a Carson City judge to dismiss the case in February, claiming a lack of evidence of noncitizen votes and no specific injury to the plaintiffs, since they were just three of more than 1.4 million Nevadans who voted in 2020. The motion also alleged a conflict of interest due to the plaintiffs’ selection of former Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt as legal counsel alongside O’Mara.

New Hampshire: Rockingham County Superior Court Judge Dan St. Hilaire denied a request to halt the state-ordered audit of the November 2020 state representatives’ election in Windham. Windham resident Ken Eyring filed an emergency motion for an injunction, arguing that once the audit gets underway, the data stored in the town’s voting machines “could be destroyed.” He wrote in his motion, “It is critical to allow for the copying of all data prior to the forensic audit procedure to begin. Irrevocable damage would result otherwise.” Eyring objected to the town’s choice of Mark Lindeman of Verified Voting to be part of the audit team because Lindeman was among a group of election experts who called for a halt of a Donald Trump-inspired audit of 2.1 million votes in Maricopa County, Arizona. Eyring asked that the audit be delayed long enough for the data contained in the town’s voting machines and the paper ballots to be made available to the public. He further asked that the court order the release of all the documentation related to the audit under the state’s right-to-know law. But after a 30-minute emergency hearing St. Hilaire denied Eyring’s request. The judge said in ruling from the bench: “Getting the injunction requires a hefty amount of proof. The party seeking the injunction needs to show there is no adequate remedy at law to request the injunction.” He said that if there is an issue of voter integrity that should be addressed by the court, “The plaintiff needs to show clearly that he has a very good chance of success to prevail on the merits of that argument. “I believe the plaintiff has failed to do that.”

New Mexico: The state Supreme Court issued an opinion explaining its legal reasoning for ordering the state’s top election official to mail applications for absentee ballots to all eligible primary election voters last year during the public health emergency from the COVID-19 pandemic. “This remedy promoted the health of the voting public and election workers by making it easier for voters to cast their ballots from the safety of their own homes. We also honored the separation of powers by preserving the Legislature’s plenary power to set election procedures,” the Court wrote in a unanimous opinion by Chief Justice Michael E. Vigil. “The writ we issued was designed to protect public health, promote free and open elections, and preserve the rule of law.” After hearing oral arguments in the case in April 2020, the Court ruled from the bench and directed Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver to mail applications for absentee ballots to all major party voters in the primary election. Voters would receive a ballot if they submitted a completed application. The Court announced it would later issue a written opinion with a detailed legal explanation for its decision. In the opinion, the Court explained that election laws do not provide for a statewide primary election conducted exclusively through a vote-by-mail arrangement and the secretary of state cannot “mail absentee ballots directly to voters without a prior request from the voters.” “Our equitable powers do not extend so far as to allow us to disregard procedures set forth by statute or to rearrange the Election Code,” the Court wrote. “To do so would violate the separation of powers.” But the Court determined that nothing in the Election Code prohibited the secretary of state from “encouraging voters to exercise their right to vote by mail and facilitating absentee voting” by sending every eligible primary election voter an application that could be used to request a ballot.

North Carolina: The Fourth Circuit revived an election watchdog’s challenge seeking documents in North Carolina that relate to the citizenship status of registered voters. “Upon our review, we hold that the district court erred in dismissing the complaint at this stage of the proceedings. Because discovery was not conducted, we cannot discern on this record whether the foundation may be entitled to disclosure of some of the documents requested,” U.S. Circuit Judge Barbara Keenan wrote in a 22-page opinion issued Monday. The Public Interest Legal Foundation sued the North Carolina State Board of Elections in 2019, alleging a violation of the disclosure provision in the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA). When North Carolina’s elections officials refused to hand over information that the group considers to be public record, attorneys with the foundation said, they had no other recourse but to sue the board and former executive director Karen Brinson Bell. U.S. District Judge Terrence W. Boyle dismissed the case, concluding the foundation failed to state a claim under the NVRA. Boyle attributed his decision to the “sensitive nature” of the requested information. But the Fourth Circuit panel remanded the case to Boyle for further consideration.

Tennessee: Metro Nashville filed a lawsuit against the Davidson County Election Commission following its vote to allow a charter referendum on the Nashville Taxpayer Protection Act (NTPA). The suit was filed less than 24 hours after the commission voted to put the issue on a ballot. Metro argues the petition is unconstitutional and does not meet referendum requirements. And the city is not alone. The Nashville Business Coalition also filed suit against the commission.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker

No comments: