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electionlineWeekly — June 14, 2018

Table of Contents

VI. Legal Updates

California: The Ninth Circuit heard arguments last week about whether or not it should reverse dismissal of a case brought by former Poway Mayor Don Higginson challenging the constitutionality of the California Voting Rights Act.

Indiana: U.S. District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt has blocked the state of Indiana from enforcing a 2017 law allowing election officials to remove voters from the rolls that were flagged through the Crosscheck program. "While the defendants have a strong public interest in protecting the integrity of voter registration rolls and the electoral process, they have other procedures in place that can protect that public interest that do not violate the NVRA," Pratt wrote in granting a preliminary injunction.

Kansas: A three-judge panel of the Kansas Court of Appeals has ruled that the Douglas County District Court must call a grand jury to investigate alleged misconduct in the secretary of state’s office. According to the Lawrence Journal-World, Steven X. Davis, of Lawrence, who had run for a seat in the Kansas Legislature in 2016 and who is running in a different district this year, filed petitions in August 2017 calling for a grand jury to investigate general allegations that Kobach’s office had mismanaged the state’s voter registration system and had been “grossly neglectful with respect to their election duties.”

Louisiana: Voice of the Experienced and eight convicted felons have appealed their felon voting-rights lawsuit to the state’s highest court. Their suit argues that the state’s constitution allows those no longer imprisoned to vote.

Missouri: Priorities USA, a voting rights organization, has filed a suit in Cole County on behalf of a 70-year-old Jackson County woman over the state’s voter ID law. “For voters who are unable to navigate these new and unnecessary procedural hurdles, the path to casting an effective ballot is fraught with uncertainty and unwarranted threats of criminal penalties,” the lawsuit states.

New Hampshire: Judge Charles Temple has stepped aside in the constitutional challenge to a 2017 tightening the state’s voter registration law because his friend is now part of the state’s legal team.

North Carolina: A lawyer for Whitney Brown, who has been charged for voting while still on probation, argues that the charges should be dismissed because the law has “toxic, racist origins” and is unconstitutional. Brown’s attorney argues that the law violates the state constitution and the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

North Dakota: The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has denied the state’s request to suspend a lower court’s order that loosened the state’s voter ID law. Given the proximity of the primary, the denial was without prejudice leaving the door open for the state to seek another stay.

Ohio: In a 5-4 ruling, the United States Supreme Court has upheld Ohio’s process of purging voters from the rolls. Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., writing for the majority, said federal laws allowed such notices as part of a process to cull inaccuracies from the voting rolls. A key provision, he wrote, “simply forbids the use of nonvoting as the sole criterion for removing a registrant, and Ohio does not use it that way.” In dissent, Justice Stephen G. Breyer wrote that the goal of ensuring the accuracy of voting rolls did not justify erecting obstacles to prevent eligible voters from casting ballots. “The purpose of our election process is not to test the fortitude and determination of the voter, but to discern the will of the majority,” he wrote, quoting a Senate report.

Texas: State District Judge Ruben Gonzalez has denied a new trial to Crystal Mason who was sentenced to five years in prison for voting while still on probation. Gonzalez is the same judge to sentenced Mason earlier this year. Mason’s attorneys vowed to take the original trial to the appellate court.

U.S. Virgin Islands: The territory’s highest court has upheld a newly enacted law that the there should be a single Virgin Islands board of elections and that district board members that are continuing to meet and refusing to select officers for the unified board are in violation of the law. Following the ruling, the territory’s attorney general backed it up by saying that “all actions taken by the district boards subsequent to August 1, 2017 are null and void.”