Thursday, July 1, 2021

Electionline Weekly July-1-2021

Legislative Updates

Arizona: The House passed a series of GOP-backed election measures, which were included in budget legislation that had passed the state Senate on Wednesday. It now heads to the desk of GOP Gov. Doug Ducey, who is expected to sign the legislation. Among the measures is one that establishes Arizona’s attorney general as the “sole authority” to defend state election laws. That law will be in place only until January 2023 — with both the secretary of state’s office and the attorney general’s office potentially changing party hands in the 2022 election. Hobbs is running for governor, and Republican Attorney General Mark Brnovich is running for Senate. It also bars the secretary of state from using any public funds for hiring outside lawyers. Additionally, it limits Hobbs to hiring the equivalent of one full-time lawyer to represent her office. The budget bill tasks members of the Senate Government Committee with serving on an election audit committee that will review the audit’s results — which experts have said could be rife with errors. The measure also allows third parties designated by the legislature to sift through the state’s voter database and flag voters for removal. Ballot security measures could require counties to include watermarks, QR codes or other similar markings on ballots, potentially increasing the cost of printing those ballots, and could complicate their counting since election officials would have to determine how to verify those markings appear on each ballot.

Connecticut: Governor Ned Lamont signed into law Senate Bill 1202, restoring the right to vote for people on parole. Alongside signing the state budget, the 837-page special session bill aimed at broadening the state’s voting rules will now allow Connecticut citizens on parole to vote in addition to only those on probation. As of May 1, there were 3,997 people being supervised by the Department of Correction parole officers. This bill comes after a decade-long effort to end the disenfranchisement of people who have served time when Connecticut became the 21st state to restore voting rights for people on probation in 2001. Previously, Connecticut stood alone in the Northeast being the last state to restore voting rights immediately after release.

Maine: Governor Mills recently signed into law several bills that affect campaigns and elections in the state of Maine.

L.D. 1363 makes several changes to the use of ranked-choice voting and absentee ballots in Maine elections. The bill expands the type of elections using ranked-choice voting. The new law also uses ranked-choice voting in general elections for presidential electors and primary elections for president. Ranked-choice voting is used in elections with three or more candidates, or elections with two candidates and one for more declared write-in candidates. It allows the order of office printed on a ballot to be modified so that ranked-choice contests can be printed on separate sides of the ballot from non-ranked-choice contests. It also changes the rules by which batch eliminations can be used to remove candidates in ranked-choice voting races. For presidential primaries, batch elimination cannot be used for candidates with more than 100 votes. Tabulation must be used until only 2 candidates remain. And separate tabulations must be conducted statewide and for each congressional district. Other measures in the bill include changes to a requirement that the Bureau of Motor Vehicles scan documentation that will be used to create a pending voter registration record for an individual who hasn’t opted out of automatic voter registration and applies for a license of state-issued identification card. Instead, L.D. 1363 requires the Bureau to record the information of anyone applying for, updating or renewing a license or state ID and store it into a pending voter registration record, unless that individual opts out. It also allows voters who have an alternative registration signature statement on file with their municipal registrar to authorize any other Maine-registered voter to sign a candidate’s petition, direct initiative of legislation petition, people’s veto petition or any Maine Clean Election Act form on their behalf, in the presence of and at the direction of that voter. The individual assisting the voter cannot be a candidate, the circulator of the petition, the voter’s employer or an officer of the voter’s union. The individual signing on behalf of the voter must print their own name and residence on the petition or form and swear they are signing on the voter’s behalf. The law also allows residents of a municipality who are 16-years-old and conditionally registered to vote to serve as election clerks. L.D. 1363 also makes several changes to the way absentee ballot drop boxes are used. It allows a municipality to obtain a drop box for absentee ballots for use outside a municipal office building. Municipalities may use more than one drop box, but these must be approved by the secretary of state. They must submit certification that additional drop boxes meet requirements to the secretary of state at least 90 days before the election. Drop boxes must be secured and either be monitored by law enforcement, municipal staff, or a surveillance camera. They must be clearly labeled as absentee ballot drop boxes. They must have a slot or chute into which voters can drop their ballot, but which passersby cannot reach into to remove ballots. Absentee ballots must be retrieved, at minimum, once each day the municipal clerk’s staff is working in the office. Retrieval of ballots must be logged by the clerk’s staff. On election night, the clerk or the clerk’s staff must arrive at the drop box just prior to 8 p.m., remove deposited ballots at 8 p.m. and lock the deposit slot of the ballot box so no additional ballots can be deposited after the deadline to return ballots. The new law clarifies that candidates cannot be issued any absentee ballot except for their own. The law also provides voters an opportunity to cure defects in their absentee ballots.

L.D. 1575 makes several minor changes to election law. The law allows students who are registering to vote to use student photo identification cards from state-approved public or private schools to verify their identity. It also directs the secretary of state to prepare instructions for absentee voter applications that describe the reason a voter can request and receive an absentee ballot after the no-excuse absentee voting period has ended. The law requires municipalities to include this message on a sign posted at the municipal office and on any website, social media page or other medium the municipality uses to communicate election information to its residents. It also requires the municipal clerk to add information about the location of absentee ballot drop boxes and the hours in-person absentee voting is being conducted in a report filed with the secretary of state at least 60 days before an election. The law authorizes the secretary of state to adopt rules governing pollwatchers, party workers and others present in the polling place. It also stipulates that absentee ballots cannot be counted until after all polls have closed on election day, all ballots have been cast and and all absentee ballots have been processed.

L.D. 916 makes changes to the laws that govern how voter information can be accessed from the state’s central voter registration system. The law prohibits political parties, individuals, or organizations involved in get-out-the-vote (GOTV) efforts, or other efforts directly related to a campaign from releasing any specifically identifiable voter information to the general public when they access the state’s central voter registration system. The same prohibition applies to municipal, county, state, or federal office holders. The law further prohibits anyone who accesses or obtains voter information from using it to engage in discriminationon the basis of physical or mental ability, race, color, age, sex, sexual orientation, religion, ancestry, or national origin. Anyone who violates these restrictions can be fined up to $1,000 for a first offense and up to $5,000 for a second or subsequent offense. A separate fine can be imposed for each voter’s information that is made available on the Internet.

Michigan: The Senate approved legislation that would let active-duty military members vote electronically, although lawmakers stopped short of extending the proposed change to military spouses and dependents. Senate Bills 8 and 311, sponsored by Sens. Paul Wojno, D-Warren, and former Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, R-Holly, would let active-duty and overseas members of the military to electronically return their ballot to their city or township clerk using a U.S. Department of Defense verified electronic signature. Currently, military voters serving overseas have to print out their ballot and mail it back — an extra step that can be difficult for people serving in areas with little to no mail service.

A group of Democrats in the State House wants to allow some 17-year-olds to cast their votes in primary elections. They introduced House Joint Resolution I, which proposes a change to the Michigan Constitution. It would allow people to vote in the primary at the age of 17 as long as they would be 18 by the date of the general election in November. The resolution would also update the state’s constitution to reflect the national voting age of 18. The Michigan Constitution set the voting age at 21. Then in 1971, the 26th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, setting the voting age nationwide at 18. However, our state constitution has never been updated to reflect this. House Joint Resolution I has been referred to the Committee on Elections and Ethics.

Minnesota: Key lawmakers have agreed in principle to setting up new standards for absentee ballot drop boxes, including 24-hour video surveillance of those ballot receptacles. House Democrats and Senate Republicans agreed that ballot drop boxes need to be protected from tampering, or abuse through ballot harvesting schemes. A compromise version of the State Government Finance bill will set new standards and require video surveillance. Until now, state law has lacked a lot of specifics when it came to ballot drop boxes. “The law basically said, ‘Hey, here are these things called drop boxes. They exist and you can have them.’ But there wasn’t a lot of meat on the bone. So we decided to change that,” Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon told KARE.

New Hampshire: State gave final approval to a bill to move the date of the state primary election from the second Tuesday in September to the first Tuesday in August. The bill now heads to the desk of Gov. Chris Sununu, who, along with Secretary of State William Gardner, opposes the change. Sununu, however, has said through a spokesperson he will confer with Gardner and lawmakers before making a final decision on whether to veto the bill. As it stands, House Bill 98 would not take effect until Jan. 1, 2023, which means that in next year’s midterm election, the primary would be held Sept. 13, the second Tuesday of that month. The bill does not affect municipal elections, so the first state election that would be held on the new date would be in 2024.

New Jersey: The Assembly advanced a bill expanding the hours during which New Jersey’s minors can serve as poll workers. The measure, which was sponsored by Assemblyman Raj Mukherji (D-Jersey City) and cleared the chamber in an overwhelming 73-1 vote. Assemblyman Jay Webber (R-Morris Plains) was the only member to vote against it. The bill creates a carveout allowing minors between the ages of 16 and 18 to work from 5:30 a.m. to 9 PM on the day of an election. The current state law, sponsored by then-Assemblyman Thomas Kean, Jr. (R-Westfield) in 2002, allows 16 and 17-year-old to work eight-hours on Election Day, with the consent of a parent and a school official. The bill’s movement comes after sustained shortages of poll workers amid the pandemic. Earlier this month, lawmakers passed a bill doubling pay for poll workers, to $400 for the day, at breakneck speeds in an effort to fill the staffing gap. That bill only applied to 2021’s general elections.

The New Jersey State Senate today passed a bill to raise the pay of Election Day workers from $200 to $400 after amending a version approved by the Budget and Appropriations Committee last week that set the new compensation at $275. The legislation, which effectively raises the hourly rate from $14.28 to $28.57, was introduced by State Sens. Jim Beach (D-Voorhees) and Joseph Cryan (D-Union) and co-sponsored by lawmakers from both parties. Poll workers will also receive $50 for training on early voting-capable machines. For April school board elections, Election Day workers will see their pay increase to $19.64 per hour. The bill also includes an automatic trigger to increase poll worker pay if the minimum wage goes beyond the $400.

Oregon: Beginning in 2022 Oregon voters will be able to drop their ballot in the mail on Election Day without worrying it will be rejected, under a bill that has passed the state Legislature. House Bill 3291 cleared the state Senate on a razor-thin 16-13 margin, with one Democrat allowing the bill to pass despite his misgivings. The bill passed the House of Representatives last month. If signed by Gov. Kate Brown, HB 3291 would ensure ballots are accepted as long as they’re postmarked on or before Election Day, and reach elections officials within a week of the election. Under current law, ballots are only counted if they have been received by 8 p.m. on Election Day. The bill also would allow county clerks to begin counting ballots when they’re received, rather than waiting until a week before an election. It would also change some dates related to elections.

Pennsylvania: Despite a veto threat from Gov. Tom Wolf, the GOP-controlled Senate has passed a rewrite of Pennsylvania’s election code that tightens deadlines and expands voter identification requirements. The bill sponsored by House State Government Committee Chairman Seth Grove, R-York, also moves back the deadlines to apply for a mail-in ballot and voter registration, creates new restrictions on returning mail-in ballots in-person, and implements in-person early voting in 2025. It’s the product of 10 committee hearings on election reform held after the 2020 General Election. After an hour of debate and three days after it passed the state House of Representatives, the upper chamber voted 29-21 to send the 150-page bill to Wolf, who promised to veto the legislation because of its voter identification requirements. Among the proposed changes are giving counties five days to process mail-in ballots ahead of an election, as well as moving back the application deadline for absentee ballots from seven to 15 days before Election Day. County election officials have sought both of these changes for more than a year, but those same officials have said Grove’s bill — by packing their top two requests for a slew of other requirements and restrictions — could cause problems rather than address them. If the bill became law, counties would be required to send every voter a durable voter registration card that they could use instead of photo identification. Voters could also sign an affidavit certifying their identity if they don’t have an ID. The bill also requires counties to digitally scan and verify voter signatures on mail-in ballots. Voters whose ID doesn’t match would be able to fix, or “cure,” the ballot before Election Day. Wolf vetoed the bill on Wednesday. “This bill is ultimately not about improving access to voting or election security, but about restricting the freedom to vote,” Wolf said in a statement. “If adopted, it would threaten to disrupt election administration, undermine faith in government, and invite costly, time-consuming, and destabilizing litigation.”

Lawmakers are feuding over whether Pennsylvania’s roughly $40 billion budget package negotiated behind closed doors and passed within hours of becoming public includes money for the state auditor general to begin auditing election results. House Speaker Bryan Cutler, R-Lancaster, maintains that budget legislation carries $3.1 million for Auditor General Tim DeFoor, a Republican, to create a bureau of election audits with broad authority to subpoena materials and review votes counted, ballots, ballot envelopes, election machine logs, pre-election machine tests and more. Gov. Tom Wolf and his fellow Democrats in the Legislature say there was no agreement to fund an election-auditing bureau in budget legislation on Wolf’s desk, and there is nothing in the legislation requiring funding for such a bureau.

Virginia: Gov. Ralph Northam (D) has signed a series of elections-related bills into law. House Bill 1968 allows localities to provide in-person absentee voting on Sundays. HB1921 states any voter with a permanent or temporary physical disability has the right to vote outside of the polling place. During a state of emergency regarding public health, such as the coronavirus pandemic, any voter is entitled to the same right. In addition, the bill states designated outdoor voting areas should be clearly marked with instructions. HB1888 requires the processing of absentee ballots prior to election day, allowing voters to make corrections under certain circumstances. The bill also clarifies procedures for election officers on election day, ballot counting and more.

Wisconsin: Gov. Tony Evers has vetoed a bill that would have prevented local elections offices from accepting grant money to help conduct elections. Assembly Bill 173 would have prohibited local governments from accepting donations to help run elections from the center or other private groups. Any donations to the state for conducting elections would have to be equally distributed to local governments based on their populations. The governor in his veto message noted election officials must follow strict state laws for how they run elections, regardless of how they get their funding.

Legal Updates

U.S. Supreme Court: The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday upheld an Arizona law prohibiting anyone but a family member, household member or caregiver from turning in another person’s mail ballot. The practice, known as ballot collection or ballot harvesting had been used by campaigns to boost turnout but critics argued the ban was a reasonable precaution against fraud or tampering. The Democratic Party challenged Arizona’s ban in court, arguing it violated the Voting Rights Act because it disproportionately affected Black, Latino and Indigenous voters and contending it was enacted with what the law calls discriminatory intent. Today’s 6-3 decision focused on Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which remained in place and prohibits any election rule that denies or abridges a citizen’s right to vote on account of race or color. The section requires that — in the totality of circumstances — elections are equally open to participation. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down both laws last year, pointing to a district court’s ruling that the laws had a disproportionate impact on people of color and that racial discrimination was a motivating factor behind enacting the laws. Courts found that people of color were more likely to rely on ballot collection to vote, for example, and critics argued that banning the practice disproportionately affected people living in rural areas, without door-to-door mail service or with limited transportation. Writing for the court, Justice Samuel Alito said both laws pass muster under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. Ballot collection can lead to pressure and intimidation, he wrote. And he suggested it doesn’t matter that no case of voting fraud has been linked to the practice. “A State may take action to prevent election fraud without waiting for it to occur within its own borders,” he wrote. The court’s three more liberal members dissented — Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor and Stephen Breyer. “What is tragic here is that the Court has (yet again) rewritten — in order to weaken — a statute that stands as a monument to America’s greatness, and protects against its basest impulses. What is tragic is that the Court has damaged a statute de-signed to bring about ‘the end of discrimination in voting,'” Justice Elena Kagan wrote for the group.

Federal Lawsuit: Former President Donald Trump’s former lawyers and allies urged a federal judge in Washington to throw out a trio of billion-dollar defamation lawsuits filed by Dominion Voting Systems over false claims that the company’s technology was used to rig the 2020 presidential election. Dominion says the falsehoods spread by former Trump attorneys Sidney Powell and Rudolph W. Giuliani, in addition to MyPillow chief executive Mike Lindell, amounted to a “viral disinformation campaign” that damaged the company’s reputation and its business and led to death threats against employees. According to The Washington Post, U.S. District Judge Carl J. Nichols seemed skeptical Thursday of the argument from Lindell’s attorney that the Republican donor was merely opining on the important issue of election security. “The public debate about election security is not the same as saying a particular company intentionally committed voter fraud,” Nichols said.

Florida: Anthony Steven Guevara, 20, of Naples has agreed to plead no contest in a case where Guervara was charged with hacking Gov. Ron DeSanits’ voter record. Under a plea deal, Guevara expects to be sentenced to two years of probation and assigned 100 community service hours and fined an amount that represents the cost of the investigation and prosecution against him. Guervara’s attorney has described the crime as an effort to point out weaknesses in the state’s voter registration systems. “This is a mistake of the head, not the heart,” Mike Carr told WJCT, describing Guevara as a decent young man. “He honestly thought he was doing something good. He was pointing out a weakness in the system and he’s paying quite a price on it.”

Georgia: The U.S. Justice Department sued Georgia over a new election law that includes restrictions on voting, setting up a legal showdown over Republican-led changes that President Joe Biden and other Democrats cast as disproportionately harmful to Black voters. The challenge seeks to overturn portions of Senate Bill 202, the 98-page rewrite of election rules that imposes new voter identification requirements, limits the use of ballot drop boxes, shifts early voting days and gives the Republican-controlled Legislature more oversight in elections. It’s the first major voting rights case brought by the Justice Department under the Biden administration, and it comes days after the U.S. Senate failed to advance a measure that would have blunted the impact of changes in Georgia and other states that adopted ballot restrictions after the 2020 election. The complaint is the eighth lawsuit overall that seeks to overturn the law, though the federal government can devote far more resources than the various voting rights groups that brought previous challenges. U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland framed the court challenge as a way to meet promises to aggressively protect voting rights.

Superior Court Judge Brian Amero dismissed most of a lawsuit seeking a deep inspection of Fulton County absentee ballots from last year’s presidential election, a review pursued by voters trying to find fraud. Amero’s ruling jeopardizes the prospects for the ballot inspection to continue, though a plaintiff in the lawsuit said he believes it will soon move forward. Amero dismissed most claims against the county elections board, the county clerk and the county itself, deciding they couldn’t be sued under Georgia’s sovereign immunity laws, which limit when plaintiffs can turn to the courts for relief. The judge left in place a previous order requiring the county to produce digital images of absentee ballots and other election records that are public documents under the Georgia Open Records Act. “That litigation is finished,” said Don Samuel, a prominent Atlanta attorney hired by the Fulton elections board. “Is there going to be an audit? Not right now. … There’s no discovery permitted. There’s no lawsuit pending anymore.”

DeKalb County Board of Registrations and Elections voted on June 29 to settle a lawsuit for $82,500 filed by Georgia Chapter of NAACP and Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda. NAACP and Coalition for the People’s Agenda alleged in a lawsuit filed February 2020 that DeKalb County Elections Board was unlawfully purging voters from the DeKalb County registration rolls in violation of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA). Board member Susan Motter presented the motion: “To resolve this lawsuit, plaintiffs and their counsel will be paid the total sum of $82,500, subject to approval of that payment by the DeKalb County governing authority, and the Board of Registration and Elections will continue to utilize the written procedures for voter challenges previously adopted for at least two years after the effective date of the settlement agreement, and will not amend said procedures during that two-year period, except to the extent that amendment is necessary to comply with changes in applicable laws or regulations.” The vote was split 3-1-1.

Illinois: Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White has reached an agreement with a coalition of advocacy organizations to settle a lawsuit that alleged his office violated federal and state laws by botching the rollout of automatic voter registration. The lawsuit, filed in February 2020 in federal court in Chicago, came after a series of problems with the system came to light last year, including a mix-up that resulted in at least one non-U.S. citizen voting in a 2018 election. The groups that filed the lawsuit already had been critical of the state for the slow implementation of automatic voter registration, which is supposed to seamlessly add citizens to the voter rolls when they get a driver’s license or state identification card, since it became law in 2017. The settlement, reached last week, will address several problems identified in the system, including the lack of adequate access for people with limited English skills and the failure to automatically update the rolls when voters move. It will also stop registration information for people who aren’t eligible to vote because of age or citizenship status from being automatically sent to the elections board, the organizations said.

Michigan: Circuit Court Judge Kevin Elsenheimer denied a motion from the plaintiff in an election-related lawsuit asking the court reconsider a May 18 decision to dismiss the case against Antrim County. The motion argued a hand recount of all ballots cast in the county’s 2020 presidential election was “insufficient and premised on fraud” and that a case study conducted by a plaintiff’s expert witness provided new evidence. “The Court finds that the Plaintiff’s Motion for Reconsideration presents the same issues previously ruled on by the Court, either expressly or by reasonable implication,” Elsenheimer said in his written decision. In his dismissal of the lawsuit, Elsenheimer ruled the court had already provided the plaintiff with all the relief available to him.

Mississippi: The full panel of the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has agreed to hear the lawsuit seeking to strike down the Jim Crow-era provision that framers of the 1890 Mississippi Constitution said was designed to try to prevent African Americans from voting. Mississippi denies a higher percentage of its residents the right to vote because of felony convictions than any state in the country. In Mississippi, 235,150 people — or 10.6% of the state’s voting age population — have lost their right to vote, according to The Sentencing Project. Under the same restrictions, 130,500 Black Mississippians — or 16% of that voting age population — cannot vote. Since 2016, Mississippi has moved from second to first highest percentage in the nation. The lawsuit, which challenges the constitutionality of the disenfranchisement provisions and was filed by the Mississippi Center for Justice, appeared dead in the water after a three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in February rejected efforts to continue the lawsuit. But last week, the full panel of the Appeals Court agreed to hear the case. Oral arguments most likely will begin the week of Sept. 20.

New Jersey: A state appellate court has ruled on two cases that means there will be a special election for the 3rd District seat on the Atlantic County Board of Commissioners, and a full recount of the November 2020 election will be required in one at-large commissioner’s race. The appellate court sent the decisions back to the trial court for final orders, she said. The recount and special election come as local elections officials are preparing for the first election with 10 days of early voting. “We are glad to have the rulings so we can plan,” said Atlantic County Board of Elections Chair Lynn Caterson. “Regardless of timing, these decisions will be very costly for the Atlantic County taxpayer.”

Texas: Monica Rene Mendez, 36, of Port Lavaca was arrested by the Texas Attorney General’s Office last week on 26 counts of violating state election laws. Mendez was charged with three counts of illegal voting, seven counts of unlawful voter assistance, eight counts of returning marked ballots without consent and eight counts of election fraud, according to jail records. Victoria County Elections Administrator Margetta Hill said she was not aware of any violations that had occurred locally during this past November’s election or the May 1 elections this year. Local officials and the Attorney General’s office would typically communicate in the event of any election integrity issues, Hill said. “They would notify me, and I would notify them if I was having a problem also,” Hill said. Franklin said the Attorney General’s Office conducted an interview with Mendez at the Victoria County Sheriff’s Office, but said he did not know where the alleged election violations occurred.

Vermont: A superior court judge has effectively ended a Barre man’s bid to be hand-counted out of a city council race he lost by 38 votes on Town Meeting Day. Barring a Supreme Court appeal, Brian Judd will have to live with the loss in a man versus machine lawsuit that sought to put Barre’s vote tabulating machines on trial and secure a hand recount of ballots cast in a race he lost to Teddy Waszazak, 247-209, four months ago. Judd and two other Barre voters testified one of the voting machines used during the city’s March elections initially rejected their ballots before accepting them, Will Senning, the state’s veteran director of elections explained under oath that wasn’t unusual. “It’s a fairly common occurrence every election at almost every polling place for a number of ballots to be rejected by the tabulators,” he said, suggesting that isn’t an indication the optical scanning machines aren’t functioning properly, or that there is something defective with the ballot.

Wisconsin: The Wisconsin Supreme Court shot down an election lawsuit, offering the latest in a string of narrowly decided cases that found those bringing lawsuits must carefully follow court procedures. As with other recent politically tinged cases, this one was decided 4-3 by the court’s liberals and Justice Brian Hagedorn, who was elected in 2019 with the support of Republicans. The majority concluded the lawsuit put forward important questions but said it wouldn’t take the case because the issues it raised were not “cleanly presented.” The legal standards that should guide the justices were not clear, the majority wrote. “While this court must not shrink back from deciding challenging or politically fraught questions properly before us, neither should we be eager to insert ourselves at the expense of time-tested judicial norms,” the majority wrote in its unsigned opinion. In dissent, Justice Patience Roggensack maintained the majority was avoiding addressing difficult issues. “Are these (election) procedures lawful or contrary to Wisconsin statutes? The public deserves an answer, and it is the institutional obligation of this court to provide that answer,” she wrote. The Court majority expressed concerns that the plaintiffs had come straight to the high court instead of following that procedure, noting that the justices are not “on call to answer questions from citizens, legislators or executive branch officials whenever the answer to a statutory question is unclear.”

Two suburban Milwaukee voters asked a judge to block the use of absentee ballot drop boxes in Wisconsin. With the assistance of a conservative legal group, the pair made the request three days after the state Supreme Court declined to take a separate case that challenged the legality of ballot drop boxes. Drop boxes were widely used in Wisconsin last year in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The latest lawsuit also seeks to prevent voters from having someone else return their absentee ballot for them. If the suit were successful, voters would be barred from handing in the ballots of their spouses and neighbors. Madison officials would be blocked from reprising the “Democracy in the Park” events they held last year that allowed voters to drop off their ballots with poll workers who were stationed in more than 200 parks around the city. The lawsuit was filed in Waukesha County. The suit asks Judge Michael Bohren to invalidate advice to clerks from the bipartisan Wisconsin Elections Commission about how absentee ballots can be returned. The lawsuit contends voters can return absentee ballots in only two ways. They can drop them off in person at municipal clerks’ offices or they can return them through the mail.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker

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