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electionlineWeekly — October 16, 2014

Table of Contents

 IV. Legal Update

Arkansas: In a unanimous decision, the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled that the state’s voter ID law was unconstitutional. In their ruling, the justices wrote that the requirement to show a photo ID, “…imposes a requirement that falls outside…” the four qualifications outlined in the state constitution. According to published reports, the secretary of state and attorney general’s offices are reviewing the decision.

Florida: A Florida appeals court has upheld Miami-Dade’s county law that a person can only turn in two absentee ballots other than their own—one of an immediate family member and another from a voter who has signed a sworn statement. Plaintiffs had argued that the law was unconstitutional and unfair to elderly Hispanic voters. The county argued that the law helped prevent voter fraud.

Georgia: The Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights has sued Secretary of State Brian Kemp along with five counties asking a judge to ensure that more than 55,000 voter registration applications be found and processed and those people be allowed to vote. Voter registration applications submitted in five counties by the New Georgia Project seem to have gone missing and those voters also don’t appear on the voter rolls.

Kentucky: U.S. District Judge William O. Bertelsman struck down Kentucky’s 300-foot rule that banned campaigning within 300 feet of a polling location. "A 300-foot zone is a far greater distance than is necessary to prevent the targeted evils," Bertelsman wrote. "As in the present case, such a distance can run across busy streets and highways. It can cover areas, including private yards, not even visible from the polling place. It prohibits activities in private homes. Indeed, the Court fails to see how the typical, stationary yard sign could ever intimidate a voter or abet election fraud, unless it was blocking the entrance to the polling place." The secretary of state and attorney general’s office are reviewing the ruling.

Idaho: Bonner County Clerk Ann Dutson-Sater will be arraigned the day before Election Day on a charge of subornation of perjury. It is alleged that Dutson-Sater told someone that it was OK to lie about the signature-gathering process in a school district recall election.

Mississippi: U.S District Judge Nancy Atlas filed an order last week dismissing the lawsuit filed by True the Vote to obtain the birthdates of Mississippi voters. The organization has said that it will not appeal Atlas’ dismissal.

New Hampshire: Hillsborough County Superior Court Judge Jacalyn Colburn ruled this week that Secretary of State William Gardner was not in contempt of court for refusing to put Nashua-specific questions on the November ballots in Nashua.

New Mexico: According to court records the Sandoval County clerk and the county bureau of elections have filed an appeal in the September federal court ruling requiring the county elections office to comply with a resolution approved by county commissioners requiring the elections office to establish 17 vote centers in Rio Rancho and two in Corrales.

North Carolina: Wake County Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens ruled this week that Watauga County must place an early voting site on the campus of Appalachian State University. "All credible evidence indicates that the sole purpose of that plan was to eliminate an early voting site on campus so as to discourage student voting and, as such, it is unconstitutional," wrote Stephens in his order.

Ohio: Following a ruling from the Ohio Supreme Court, more than a thousand voters in Powell will have to recast their absentee ballots. The Supreme Court ruled that the county place a ballot initiative on the November ballot even though the ballots were already printed and voting had begun.

South Dakota: Four Lakota residents on the Pine Ridge Reservation, including Oglala Sioux Tribe Vice President Thomas Poor Bear filed suit against Jackson County claiming that the county was discriminating Native Americans by not opening a satellite voting site on Jackson County’s portion of the reservation.

Texas: Late last week U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos ruled that Texas’ voter ID law is unconstitutional. In her ruling, Gonzales Ramos equated the law to a poll tax. “The Court holds that S.B. 14 creates an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote, has an impermissible discriminatory effect against Hispanics and African-Americans, and was imposed with an unconstitutional discriminatory purpose,” Ramos’ opinion said. “The Court further holds that SB 14 constitutes an unconstitutional poll tax.” On Tuesday, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the law. An emergency application to vacate the Fifth Circuit’s stay was filed with the U.S. Supreme Court.

Wisconsin: The U.S. Supreme Court blocked Wisconsin from implementing the state’s voter ID law for this year’s election. The court issues a one-page order with three justices — Alito, Scalia and Thomas dissenting— vacating the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in favor of the law.