U.S. District Judge Peter C. Economus ruled against Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted this week, ordering him to reinstate early, in-person voting on the three days before Election Day. The eight-page decision was a victory for Democrats and made permanent a previous ruling reinstating the early voting days Husted had eliminated for the 2012 election but that the court had put back in place only for that election.
Rick Hasen at the Election Law Blog explains:
The background is complicated but here are the basics at this stage. Following all the fights over early voting in 2012, the Ohio legislature passed a new set of more restrictive voting laws for 2014 and beyond, including cutting back on early voting the weekend before the election (leading to a separate Voting Rights Act section 2 lawsuit claiming this discriminates against African-American voters in part because of the “Souls to the Polls” voting done on the Sunday before election day). However, when Ohio did its cutback on early voting this time, it did not repeal the earlier law (which was the focus of the earlier dispute in this case) giving overseas and military voters (UOCAVA voters) who happen to be in Ohio just before Election Day the option to vote on those three days before election day.From the Cleveland Plain Dealer:
The judge concluded that because Ohio continues to treat UOCAVA voters better than other voters, the same equal protection problem exists.
Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz said the decision is more than a victory for the Democratic Party, "it's a victory for the democratic process."Husted's Democratic opponent in the November elections is Nina Turner. In a press release, she said: "It is unfortunate that we must continuously rely on federal courts to protect Ohioans' ballot access instead of the elected officials who have been charged with that responsibility."
Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern, also a state representative from Catawba Island, said the ruling shows how important the last three days of early voting are to ensure equal access to the ballot.
"The Ohio Democratic Party has never lost one of these cases in our fight to protect voting rights for all Ohioans. It's time Jon Husted and John Kasich set aside their partisan loyalties and embrace voting rights," Redfern said in a statement.
More in the war on voting can be found below the orange butterfly ballot.
• Dems seek way forward on Voting Rights Act Amendment after Eric Cantor's loss: The amendment has been stalled for months because partisans in both parties aren't happy with various provisions of the proposed changes drafted as a consequence of the U.S. Supreme Court's evisceration of the crucial Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act last June.
The Voting Rights Act Amendment was introduced by Republican Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner and Democratic Rep. John Conyers. And while Cantor had not expressed support for it, he has previously said that he wants to restore the voter protections the Court obliterated. That stance, several accounts have suggested, is a product of Cantor's trip with Rep. John Lewis to Selma, Alabama, site of a bloody 1965 clash between peaceful civil rights marchers and billyclub-swinging police. Lewis, 24 at the time, had his skull fractured during the protest.
Ari Berman, who has assiduously followed voting issues at The Nation since 2011, wrote that the amendment "was written specifically with Cantor in mind, watered down on the key issue of voter ID to attract GOP support. I was told recently from a well-placed Capitol Hill source that Cantor planned to eventually announce his support for the bill, but was waiting for the right strategic moment."
So far, no committee hearing has been scheduled for the amendment, and with Cantor soon to lose his post as House Majority Leader to an as-yet-unknown replacement, the process is up in the air. Although Conyers and Sensenbrenner remain publicly optimistic, a good bet is that no hearing or vote on the amendment will happen this year.
• A.G. Holder says he will consult with Native tribes on increasing voter access. Tribal leaders expressed satisfaction over the attorney general's pledge. One objective will be to require state and local officials to set up at least one polling site at a place that tribal governments choose.
Long distances, especially in sparsely populated states or parts of states where Indians and Alaskan Natives live, are a particular problem needing resolution. Several Alaskan villages have gained permanent absentee ballot status for all residents because of this problem. But in Montana, tribal members of three reservations have sued to get county officials to set up satellite voting offices because of the long distances they otherwise have to travel. Sad that it takes a lawsuit to when county officials whose job it is to provide everyone a chance to vote take the attitude that Indians don't count.
The NAACP Legal Defense Fund is protesting Alabama election rules that require voters without photo identification to either prove their identities or have election officials vouch for them. [...]The defense fund says the state's photo-identification and voucher law could keep as many as 500,000 registered voters from casting ballots because they don't have the required state-issued identification such as a driver’s license, identification card issued by Alabama motor vehicle department, or a passport.
“It is deeply problematic that Alabama’s secretary of state is trying to resurrect an unconstitutional and illegal relic of the Jim Crow South,” said Ryan P. Haygood, director of the defense fund’s political participation group. “Discriminatory voucher tests, which Congress explicitly banned along with literacy tests when it passed the Voting Rights Act in 1965, has no place in modern-day Alabama.”
• 513 Mississippians had no ID at the primary polls: In the wake of Mississippi's June 3 election, the first in which a voter ID was required, Republican Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said 513 Mississippians had to cast affidavit ballots because they lacked proper identification. The votes of at least 177 of these affidavit voters were counted when they returned later to show their IDs. But 298 ballots were not counted because people did not return by the deadline. Thirteen affidavit votes were turned down for other reasons, including some because the person casting was not registered.
Hosemann said the process shows that voter ID is no big deal since 400,000 people turned out at the polls. But Larry Norden, deputy director of the Democracy Program at New York University's Brennan Center for Justice, said people who otherwise may have voted stayed away.
"That doesn't mean there weren't a lot of people without IDs who didn't vote," he said, although he said such figures are hard to prove.
• Colorado D.A. drops first case in Secretary of State's voter fraud campaign. Five months after first being asked to dismiss the case, the Republican district attorney of Arapahoe County has decided not to prosecute a person who it had charged procured false information on a voter registration form. The penalty for a conviction could have been $5,000 and up to 18 months in the county jail.
The would-be voter, who was not a citizen, had claimed that Mike Michaelis, who was being paid $10 an hour to register voters, had filled out the registration for her, which is illegal for canvassers to do. The woman is one of 155 registered voters who the Republican secretary of state considered suspicious.
Michaelis's lawyer had provided documents showing that the handwriting on the registration form was the same as on the woman's ballot. But repeated requests for a dismissal based on that evidence didn't move the district attorney to drop the charge until the media started asking questions. The district attorney's office had told the woman that they wanted her to be a witness in the case. She was informed that she would not be prosecuted despite the evidence showing that she filled out the form and falsely declared herself eligible to vote.
Secretary of State Scott Gessler had previously claimed as many at 16,000 non-citizens were registered to vote in Colorado. That number was 100 times more than the number Gessler finally sent to district attorneys throughout the state. In Boulder County, the district attorney found that none of the 17 people whose names Gessler sent him had voted illegally. Gessler sent the Arapahoe County district attorney, George Brauchler, 41 names. He found only four he thought were worthy of prosecution. The dismissal of the Michaelis cut that to three.