Thursday, June 10, 2021

Electionline Weekly June-10-2021

Legislative Updates

Louisiana: The Legislature has approved a bill that would require the Louisiana Legislative Auditor to review local, state, and federal elections has received final legislative passage. Evangeline Parish Senator Heather Cloud says the legislative auditor already reviews numerous other state agencies and departments on how they operate and where they can improve. She says elections should also undergo an independent review. The bill also allows parish registrars of voters to keep and maintain all records relating to absentees by mail and early voting 2 years following the election.

Maine: The Senate voted in favor of a bill from Senator David Miramant (D-Camden), to expand the use of ranked-choice voting in Maine elections. LD 202, “Resolution, Proposing an Amendment to the Constitution of Maine To Implement Ranked-choice Voting,” received a vote of 21-12. This resolution would amend the Constitution of Maine to require candidates for the offices of governor, state senator and state representative to be elected by a majority of the votes cast for that office, with a ranked-choice voting system, in a general election, according to a news release. Currently, those offices are elected by a plurality of the votes cast.

Michigan: Republican lawmakers have introduced a slate of six more bills that would change election law in Michigan. All of the bills were referred to the State House Committee on Elections and Ethics. The bills are not tie-barred, meaning that any of them could be passed:

House Bill 4962 would change the procedure for election boards to appoint election inspectors. The major political parties could submit lists of people to serve as inspectors on their behalf, and people on those lists would have to be given first priority over everyone else. Election inspectors would also have to be selected randomly from the pool of eligible people.

House Bill 4963 would clarify and expand the rights of election inspectors and election challengers. Election inspectors would have to wear a badge. Training for election workers would have to include the rights of inspectors and challengers, including how interfering with them is a crime. The Secretary of State would have to create formal signature identification training, which could not include presumptions about the validity of signatures.

House Bill 4964 would require that voting machines be incapable of connecting to the internet. It is similar to House Bill 4838 introduced last month, which would require voting machines to be disconnected from the internet from the time the polls open until the results have been tabulated.

House Bill 4965 would make major changes to the recount system for Michigan, including creating methods for the courts to change the result of an election following a recount. The county leaders of major political parties could request recounts on behalf of candidates.

House Bill 4966 would increase the deadline for boards of county canvassers to identify winners from 14 days to 21 days after the election. Ballots would have to be preserved for 6 months after an election, rather than the 30 days prescribed under current law. The bill would also create a mechanism to undo certification of a county’s election results if a canvasser says their vote to certify was made under duress.

House Bill 4967 would create a new law requiring security features in all Michigan ballots to prevent duplication, including color inks and microprinting. That is a process to include very small words or images on a document that are easy to recognize, but difficult to duplicate by normal means.

New Jersey: The Legislature approved and Gov. Phil Murphy signed into law A-5842/S-3880 that would increase a poll workers daily pay to $400 for the June 8 primary. The legislation would also allow for voting districts to be staffed by two workers instead of the usual four to six. And it permits National Guard members in civilian clothes to work the polls. County election officials had been warning for weeks that they were having trouble getting enough poll workers, in many cases because of the low pay for a long day. When Murphy lifted the statewide mask mandate, that caused other workers to drop out, officials said. The legislation states the shortage of workers due to COVID-19-pandemic concerns has left counties unable to “meet the statutory requirements concerning the number of poll workers necessary in each election district,” thus requiring legislation to waive certain rules. Those rule changes include allowing only one Democrat and one Republican, instead of two or three of each, to staff each voting location, allowing a person to work the polls in a county other than the one where he lives and allowing citizens who are not registered to vote to also staff voting sites. There are also some changes allowed for polling locations. The bills were introduced Thursday, bypassed committee hearings and voted on by both houses. They were not listed on the Assembly agenda and the Senate version was a late add to that house’s board list. The Democratic and Republican leaders of each house sponsored them.

New Mexico: Albuquerque City Council is expected to give final approval to a bill getting rid of a voter ID ordinance. The vote could repeal the 2005 voter ID requirement. This would put the city in line with the state law where there is no voter ID requirement. Under state rules, voters are still expected to verbally identify themselves by their name, year of birth, and address. The next municipal election will be held this November.

North Carolina: The Senate has approved SB722 that will allow municipalities to postpone 2021 elections until new maps can be drawn. The bill seeks to give cities the authority to delay these elections without getting individual approval from the General Assembly through resolutions. The vote to approve the measure was unanimous. The bill would affect 36 municipalities that use population-based electoral districts in elections slated in 2021. Sen. Warren Daniel, a Burke County Republican and co-sponsor of the bill, explained that the measure offers solutions to the current law by moving the deadlines on a set schedule. The bill would postpone the deadline for the affected cities to complete redistricting for municipal elections to November 17 of this year. The filing period for candidates would be delayed and run from noon on Dec. 6 till noon on Dec. 17.

Mail-in absentee ballots would have to be received by the day of the election, under a Republican-backed bill that cleared a divided Senate committee. Current law says ballot envelopes must be postmarked by the election date and received within three days to be counted. That window got extended to nine days in 2020 only as the result of a legal settlement between the State Board of Elections and a union-affiliated group who argued more time was needed due to COVID-19 and mail delays. Republicans still miffed about that settlement say setting the receipt deadline at 5 p.m. on Election Day or on the statewide primary election date will improve the public’s confidence in election results.

Barely a day after the request came in, the state House voted to permanently move Raleigh’s municipal elections to even-numbered years. If the bill becomes law, it would move Raleigh’s October 2021 municipal election to November of 2022, with elections coming every two years thereafter. This would mean Raleigh’s current city council would remain in office for an additional 13 months.

Texas:Gov. Greg Abbott has signed HB 1624 into law. The new law will expedite the process by which dead Texans are purged from voter registration rolls.

Wisconsin: Republicans in the Wisconsin Senate approved legislation to limit the availability of ballot drop boxes in some communities, create more paperwork for absentee voters and require disabled voters to provide copies of their IDs to vote in more cases. On a voice vote, the Senate approved a bill that would allow municipalities to have drive-up ballot drop boxes on the premises of the offices of election clerks. Communities with 70,000 or more residents could have up to three additional drop boxes. Municipalities across Wisconsin installed drop boxes last year when absentee voting surged because of the coronavirus pandemic.

With an 18-14 vote, the Senate 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 conducting elections would have to be equally distributed to local governments based on their populations.

The Senate on an 18-14 vote sent Senate Bill 204 to the Assembly. The measure would require Wisconsinites to fill out more paperwork to vote absentee. Now, an absentee voter puts a ballot into an envelope that includes a form on it that serves as both an application for a ballot and a certification stating who filled out the ballot. The legislation would require voters to fill out separate forms — one to apply for an absentee ballot and one to certify they filled out the ballot. The bill would also require voters to provide a copy of their ID every time they ask for an absentee ballot. Now, voters have to provide a copy of their ID the first time they vote absentee but not after that. The bill would also bar election officials from sending unsolicited absentee ballot applications to voters.

On a 20-12, party-line vote, the senators approved Senate Bill 205 to create a backup system for voting at nursing homes if poll workers are unable to visit the facilities. The bill would allow nursing home workers to fulfill those duties if the voting deputies could not visit, provided the nursing home workers belonged to different parties. The bills face almost certain vetoes from Democratic Gov. Tony Evers if they get to him. “My basic theory is democracy works best when we get as many people to the polls as possible,” Evers said in an interview. “I don’t care if they vote for Republicans or Democrats, as long as they vote. Any time that we take a step back from that, I will look with great disdain on those bills.”

Wyoming: The Legislature’s Joint Committee on Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivision voted to pursue two bills that would significantly change the way Wyoming’s statewide elections are run as soon as next year. One bill would create a ranked-choice system. The other would institute an open primary. One of the bills would implement a ranked-choice voting system if passed in next year’s budget session. The other approach would implement what’s called a “jungle primary,” or an open primary where the top two vote-getters move to the general election regardless of party. Neither candidate would need a majority. While more committee members voted to move forward with the ranked-choice bill, Rep. Dan Zwonitzer (R-Cheyenne) believes that the jungle primary bill would find more success in the full Legislature next year.

Legal Updates

Illinois: Grundy County Judge Scott Belt is considering whether to throw out LaSalle County Republican Party Chairman Larry Smith’s complaint against LaSalle County Clerk Lori Bongartz. Smith has alleged in various ways since November that mail-in ballot mishandling tipped the State’s Attorney’s race to Democrat Todd Martin. Republican Karen Donnelly left office at the end of November. Belt said he would try to issue a written ruling on throwing out the complaint or letting it stand this week. The lawyers and judge are to talk again next Friday morning when the judge could take up Krueger’s request to forbid any more complaints on the matter.

Michigan: Oakland County Circuit Judge Edward Sosnick as ruled that two felony charges will remain for a Southfield city clerk in connection with the November 2018 election. Sherikia Hawkins had sought dismissal of the charges — one count of using a computer to commit a crime connected to misconduct in office and one count of misconduct in office but Sosnick heard arguments on the case and denied her request. Trial is scheduled to start in late October. Hawkins’ legal woes stem from allegations that she fraudulently altered or modified the Qualified Voter File after the 2018 general election to falsely reflect that previously logged absentee ballots were void because they arrived in envelopes not signed by the voter. She initially was charged with six crimes — the two she still faces as well as forgery, filing false records and two other counts of using a computer to commit a crime.

Minnesota: A Minnesota Court of Appeals has ruled that Olmsted County’s actions for establishing its absentee ballot board was lawful. The court ruled Monday that the Minnesota Voter Alliance and others failed to show that county and city governing bodies violated the law when appointing deputy county auditors and deputy city clerks to absentee ballot boards. The challenge against Olmsted County was one of four cases filed as cities and counties were preparing plans to review an increased number of absentee ballots cast because of COVID-19 concerns and restrictions. Ramsey County and Duluth were also part of the case in which the Minnesota Voter Alliance, the Republican Party of Minnesota and several individuals objected to how absentee ballot review boards were created to oversee the review of questioned ballots. A suit also was brought against Minneapolis but there was no mention of it in Monday’s ruling. In making its decision, the high court found that the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying the request to take action since the alliance and others failed to establish that local government bodies had violated “any clearly imposed duty when appointing members to their ballot boards.”

New Jersey: Atlantic County Superior Court Judge James P. Savio refused to grant Atlantic City Democratic mayoral candidate Tom Foley an injunction that would have kept the June 8 primary election open for two more weekends. Savio said Foley waited too long to file a legal action and failed to provide “clear and convincing evidence” that voters have been prevented from obtaining messenger ballots on time by policies of the Atlantic County Clerk’s Office. Savio also said he was concerned any injunction would affect all candidates from both parties, and there was not time to allow those candidates a say. “Your application is asking me to enter an order keeping election results open for the next three weeks,” Savio said. “I’m concerned because we got the briefs Friday afternoon at 2 p.m. before the election on Tuesday. That doesn’t give anybody a lot of time to respond.” In a civil action filed Friday afternoon, Foley argued that the County Clerk, by requiring messengers to make appointments to apply for vote-by-mail ballots for other voters, was disenfranchising voters and denying them their rights.

New Mexico: Third District Judge Manuel Arrieta dismissed with prejudice the claims of Dave Gallus, a Republican state senate candidate in the 2020 election who had sued everal politicians and officials including state Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, Doña Ana County Clerk Amanda Lopez Askin and Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver last December. Gallus wrote in a civil complaint that Ivey-Soto, Lopez Askin and Toulouse Oliver conspired to undermine the election he ultimately lost. Specifically, he wanted some 30,000 absentee ballots in Doña Ana County removed because he said there was no proper oversight. He said that the election was compromised because Lopez Askin was both a candidate and an overseer to the process. Lopez Askin testified on Wednesday that she did not oversee the 2020 primary and general elections. Instead, Lopez Askin, who won her bid to become the clerk in 2020 after being appointed to the position two years prior, stepped away for the responsibilities. Deputy Clerk Lindsey Bachman oversaw the election process in Doña Ana County. In his ruling, Arrieta cited a lack of facts. He also Gallus could amend his complaint against the secretary of state since it was not received by the attorney general’s office. According to the Las Cruces Sun News, Gallus’ suit was one of several lawsuits that challenged the results of the 2020 general election in New Mexico. None of the lawsuits have gone far in court and many were tossed out because of a lack of facts or standing.

New York: Judge Adam W. Silverman tossed out Rensselaer County’s three early voting locations as too remote and not providing equitable access for people of color, and ordered the county Board of Elections to have new polling places selected by Wednesday. The county elections commissioners “shall select early voting poll site locations for the 2021 primary election that provide adequate and equitable access for all voters in Rensselaer County including voters in the city of Troy and otherwise comply with New York’s Early Voting Law,” Silverman said in his decision. Silverman observed “no other court of this state has reviewed the early voting statue and its requirement of adequate and equitable access to the polls.” The judge noted that the state Legislature has amended the early voting laws several times to ensure county Boards of Elections ensure voters had equal access for casting their ballots. Silverman’s ruling came after a possible deal on adding a fourth site in either downtown or the North Central neighborhood – that would be easily reached by Black voters – fell apart Monday, according to court officials. At this time, Rensselaer County is the only county in the state without early polling sites pending the submission of new locations and the court’s approval. The county board of elections has filed an appeal.

North Carolina: A majority of the 15 judges on the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that District Judge Loretta Biggs didn’t step over the line when she refused to let North Carolina’s legislative leaders formally defend the state’s latest photo identification voting law with other state government attorneys. The Court upheld Briggs 2019 ruling preventing House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger from becoming defendants in a race-bias lawsuit filed by the state NAACP and several local chapters. Barring a reversal by the U.S. Supreme Court, lawyers for legislative leaders who helped pass the 2018 law won’t be able to argue for it at a trial set to begin next January. Nine of the judges agreed that Biggs didn’t abuse her discretion with her decision. Biggs found no evidence that lawyers from Attorney General Josh Stein’s office — representing State Board of Elections members, the named defendants in the lawsuit — were inadequately defending the law on their own. Writing the majority opinion, Circuit Judge Pamela Harris said that the lower court properly followed federal rules in determining whether Berger and Moore should be allowed to intervene. The legislators “purported interest in defending (the law) on behalf of the state of North Carolina was adequately represented already by the State Board of Elections and attorney general,” Harris wrote.

Texas: A former candidate for Dallas City Council is asking the Texas Supreme Court not to certify the June 5 runoff election results for District 7. Donald Parrish argued that legal action to formally contest the May 1 election has not been settled as state law requires. “They shouldn’t certify the results. The June 5 runoff election was unlawful,” said Elizabeth Alvarez, an attorney for Parrish. On Tuesday, Parrish filed an 81-page writ asking the Texas Supreme Court to stop the City of Dallas from certifying a winner in the race. The state election code is very clear, Alvarez explained, stating that a runoff election cannot be held until there is a final judgment on an election contest. Alvarez and Parrish want to personally examine the 3,325 mail-in ballots, the 26 provisional ballots cast, all requests for ballots by mail, applications for all accepted ballots, and records for several polling places for any irregularities. She did not say what she suspects she might find.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker

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