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electionlineWeekly — September 18, 2014

Table of Contents

IV. Legal Update

California: A Los Angeles Superior Court judge has dismissed a California Voting Rights Act lawsuit filed against the city of Whittier by three Latino residents. The judge ruled that the city’s change from an at-large voting system to voting districts alleviates the problems the suit originally sought to address. Activists have filed an appeal.

Kansas: This week the Kansas Supreme Court heard arguments about whether or not Democrat Chad Taylor should be allowed to have his name removed from the November ballot following his withdraw from the race. Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach argued that Taylor did not include “the magic words” in his request for withdraw and therefore should have to remain on the ballot. Taylor has endorsed the Independent candidate running against Republican Pat Roberts.

Missouri: A panel of judges on the Missouri Court of Appeals rewrote the ballot summary for an early voting proposal ruling that the wording approved by lawmakers was misleading because it failed to mention the measure is contingent upon funding. "We have little doubt that the current summary statement would lead voters to believe that, should the amendment pass, early voting will be permitted in all future general elections in Missouri," the appeals panel wrote. "That is not the effect of the proposed amendment, however. ... The current summary statement is insufficient and unfair for failing to make reference to the funding contingency." The attorney general’s office announced that it will not appeal the ruling. A report from The Daily Record noted that the late change will cost some counties significant money.

Nebraska: With the deadline to mail military and overseas ballots, elections officials in Nebraska were holding their breath waiting for a judge to rule on who will appear on the ballot as the running mate for the Republican gubernatorial nominee. On Wednesday a district judge upheld Secretary of State John Gale’s decision and ballot printing and mailing may go forward as planned.

New Mexico: Calling the 2012 election in Sandoval County “a debacle” District Judge William P. Johnson granted a preliminary injunction ordering the Sandoval County elections office to comply with a resolution approved by the county commission in 2013 establishing 17 vote centers in Rio Ranch and two in Corrales. The order states that the county “no longer has discretion to change the location or amount of polling centers without an order approving such change by a state district judge.”

Also in The Land of Enchantment, the state Supreme Court ordered election workers in Bernalillo County to postpone the mailing of general election ballots until the court can decide whether or not it is legal for the county to add advisory questions to the ballot. The county commission voted to include two advisory questions on the November ballot, but Secretary of State Dianna Duran refused to allow the questions on the ballot.

Ohio: This week, U.S. Senior District Judge S. Arthur Spiegel ruled that voters arrested and jailed the weekend before Election Day must be given an opportunity to cast and absentee ballot. The judge ruled that someone arrested after 6 p.m. on the Friday before the election and not yet convicted by 3 p.m. on Election Day should be afforded the same rights as someone who is hospitalized. Those rights include sending a two-person, bipartisan team to the jail to deliver the ballot.

Tennessee: A Johnson County voter has filed a lawsuit claiming that the county election commission is not running fair elections. According to WJHL the lawsuit claims several election violations including sending absentee ballots to deceased residents, mail ballots being denied to seniors and people with disabilities and doors to the elections office being closed while the ballots are counted.

Wisconsin: Late last week, a three-judge panel of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals cleared the way for the implementation of Wisconsin’s voter photo ID law. However, on Wednesday plaintiffs, including the American Civil Liberties Union ask the full court to reconsider lifting the ban citing the potential for disenfranchisement the late implementation could cause.

Also in Wisconsin, the state’s Republican party has filed suit against the Government Accountability Board over the redesign of the ballot for the November election. The Republican party said the ballot doesn't clearly separate state offices from the candidates. It's asking a judge force state election officials to use the old version.