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Category: Minnesota (page 1 of 2)

Examining the Issue of Felon Voting in Minnesota

By Kristi Breyfogle

Minnesota Voter Alliance (MVA) filed suit in court alleging that the Minnesota Secretary of State was illegally allowing convicted felons and other ineligible voters to vote in the 2016 election.  According to MVA, the Secretary of State wrongly ordered election officials to give ballots to those marked as ineligible on the voter rolls provided that they swear an oath that they are actually eligible to vote. Under Minnesota law, the secretary of state has discretion to adopt and implement rules that are consistent with state and federal laws in regards to election procedures. In Minnesota, a person convicted of a felony is ineligible to vote until their civil rights have been restored.  This means convicted felons cannot vote until they have been released from prison and have completely finished their sentences, including any parole or probation.  When a registered voter commits a felony or is otherwise ineligible to vote, the voting roster marks that person’s right to vote as “challenged.”

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Trumping the Law: The Dilemma Behind Parties’ Executive Committees Selecting Presidential Electors

By: Kristi Breyfogle

The 2016 election in Minnesota gained national attention this year when the state Republican Party almost failed to get its presidential candidate on the ballot.  The problem became apparent shortly before the deadline to file paperwork to get candidates on the ballot. Republican leaders realized that due to an oversight, they failed to elect alternative electors for the November election at their state convention.  The party’s presidential candidate, therefore, was not on the Minnesota sample ballot.  This resulted in a last minute scramble to name ten alternative electors for the campaign.  The Republican Executive Committee met in private in August to select the missing alternatives.  After the state Republican Party scrambled to meet the deadline, Minnesota’s Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (DFL) challenged the validity of the ten alternative electors.  While the court ultimately decided to dismiss the DFL’s petition, it based its decision on a time and practicality consideration rather than on the merits of the claim.  The question remains open on whether a party must choose its electors publicly at its state convention or whether the party’s executive committee may select them at a private meeting.

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Dodging Disclosure

How the fight over Minnesota campaign finance disclosure requirements may shape the fate of the state’s marriage amendment 

by Stephanie Bitto

The Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board’s October clarification of Minnesota campaign finance laws may have quite an impact on a hot topic at issue in the 2012 election.

In 2012, Minnesota voters will be asked to approve an amendment to the Minnesota constitution that declares marriage as solely the union of one man and one woman. The Minnesota House and Senate passed a bill in May 2011 proposing the amendment. Governor Dayton issued a symbolic veto of the bill on May 25, 2011, but as constitutional amendment legislation cannot be vetoed, it will be up to the voters to determine the amendment’s fate. Continue reading

MN (campaign finance): A court unites post-Citizens United: the entire Eighth Circuit bench reviews Swanson

by Stephanie Bitto

The full eleven-member bench of the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral argument in the case of Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life v. Swanson on September 21st. The case is an appeal of a ruling by a three-judge panel upholding a lower-court decision that refused to grant a preliminary injunction and enjoin Minnesota election laws regarding independent expenditures and corporate contributions to candidates and political parties. In July, the Eighth Circuit granted the petitioners’ request for en banc review and vacated the Court’s previous ruling.

A three-judge panel found that that an injunction was not proper because the plaintiffs, three Minnesota corporations, were unlikely to prevail on the merits of their claims, and Minnesota’s provisions regarding corporate independent expenditures are similar in both purpose and effect to the federal disclosure laws that the Supreme Court upheld in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission. There, the Supreme Court found that both corporate and union contributions to independent political committees were constitutionally protected free speech and upheld contribution disclosure requirements. Following Citizens United, The Eighth Circuit panel found that the Swanson plaintiffs would likely not prevail on the claim that the Minnesota laws were not sufficiently tailored or on the claim that the ban on direct corporate contributions is unconstitutional.

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All states (IRV): The courts got it right: recognizing that instant runoff voting makes every vote count

by: Guest Contributor Elise Helgesen


This November, Instant Runoff Voting (IRV), also called ranked choice voting, will be used for fiercely contested elections for mayor in San Francisco (CA), Portland (ME), and Telluride (CO) as well as for city council elections in St. Paul (MN) and Takoma Park (MD). IRV is also used abroad: Ireland will elect its president with IRV this month, and London will use IRV for mayoral elections in 2012. As recommended by Robert’s Rules of Order, more than 50 American colleges and universities now elect their student leaders with IRV.

With IRV, voters get one vote and one ballot, but get to rank candidates in order of preference. If no candidate wins with a first-choice majority, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated and their supporters’ second choices are added to the totals of the remaining candidates in an “instant runoff.” The process of elimination and redistribution continues until one candidate has a majority. Continue reading

Defenders of Democracy: The Role of Secretaries of State as Chief Election Officers

This symposium panel will focus on the critical role a secretary of state plays in securing our democratic process. We will discuss bridging the gap between political theory and election reality and what it really takes to ensure the integrity of an election. While each state has laws that govern the execution of an election, it is up to the state’s chief election officer to add detail where only broad strokes exist. Panelists will share their insight into specific areas in which secretaries of state have been particularly active in running elections, from voter registration and voting machines to recounts and provisional ballots.

The symposium takes place on Tuesday, February 15 from 12:50 to 1:50 in Room 127 at William & Mary School of Law.

Panel will be moderated by Law School Dean Davison M. Douglas. Participants include former Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner and Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, current president of the National Association of Secretaries of State.

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Weekly Wrap Up

“It’s time to stop stonewalling”: The NAACP and the League of Women Voters filed a lawsuit against new Florida governor Rick Scott, demanding that he submit the voter-approved redistricting amendments to the Justice Department for review. Scott quietly withdrew a request for review in January shortly after taking office.

Misspellings might be OK in AK: A new measure proposed in the Alaska Senate would update the write-in laws, explicitly allowing minor misspellings on write-in votes to count. The law, proposed in response to the 2010 U.S. Senate election, cleared committee this week and should be voted on within days.

Voter IDs High on States’ Agendas: Across the nation, various states are considering voter identification laws. Some, like North Carolina’s proposal, have been in the works for several years; others, like in Minnesota, are new and focus on new technologies to prevent voter fraud. States like Texas, which are subject to the Voter Rights Act, must get these new laws–if passed–approved by the Department of Justice.

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Hotspots: Key Post-Election Disputes in the States

Keep checking back here for links to the latest state midterm election results and recount coverage

LINKS BY STATE:

Alaska, Arizona, CaliforniaColorado, Connecticut, Illinois (Gubernatorial, House), Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri,New York, North Carolina, OregonTexas, VirginiaWashington

SENATE

Alaska

Joe Miller, the Republican candidate for Senate in Alaska, will probably require a hand recount of the write-in votes before he will concede the race.

Wednesday night, Democrat Scott McAdams conceded the race after only getting 23% of the vote.

Murkowski and Miller are preparing for the next round of ballot counting that will begin next week. Murkowski has set up a separate campaign account to support campaign efforts in the counting process.

Joe Miller is questioning the fairness of the process and has filed a lawsuit in federal court to prevent misspelled ballots being counted for Senator Lisa Murkowski.

The Associated Press reports that a federal court judge has denied Republican Joe Miller’s request for an injunction to stop the counting of incorrectly spelled write-in ballots.

Live coverage of the counting is being streamed online.

The Court has rejected Miller’s request to stop the recount.  The count now shows Murkowski with 98% of the initial write-in vote.

Joe Miller’s prospects for victory are getting slimmer, and the lawyers are starting to leave Alaska.

Alaska election officials have completed the fifth day of counting write-in ballots.  Senator Lisa Murkowski has retained 89% of write-in votes

With almost all votes counted, Senator Lisa Murkowski currently has an edge of over 2,000 votes over Republican Joe Miller.  Murkowski’s total does not include the over 10,000 challenged ballots.

As counting ends, Murkowski is heading back home and is expected to declare victory soon.  8,135 ballots have been challenged, but even if all of those ballots were thrown out by the Court, Murkowski would still be ahead by more than 2,000 votes.

With all but 700 write-in votes counted, Senator Lisa Murkowski has declared victory over Republican candidate Joe Miller.  The AP called the race for Murkowski Wednesday evening.

Joe Miller is asking a federal judge to stop election officials from certifying results declaring Murkowski the winner.  Murkowski leads by about 10,400 votes; Miller has challenged 8,153 of the ballots counted for Murkowski.

A federal judge has granted Joe Miller (R) a temporary injunction preventing election officials from naming Senator Lisa Murkowski the winner.  Miller filed his complaint on the grounds that the counting of misspelled ballots for Murkowski violates state law.  Miller will now bring the issue to state court.

Attorneys for the state of Alaska have asked a judge to decide the case over contested absentee ballots by next week.  The case will be heard Wednesday in state court in Juneau.  Senator Lisa Murkowski is seeking to intervene in the suit.  Her attorneys have said her seniority will be in jeopardy if she is not sworn in when the new Congress meets in January. Continue reading

Image is Everything: Is Disclosure an Effective Check on Corporate Political Donations?

In his January State of the Union address President Obama warned that the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United would result in American elections being “bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests, or worse foreign entities.” President Obama wasn’t alone in his disapproval of the Supreme Court’s decision. The Pew Center reports that a large majority—65%—of Americans also disapprove of the decision. However, the gubernatorial race in Minnesota is demonstrating that corporate donations are not completely unchecked. In fact, the biggest factor limiting a corporation’s exercise of this First Amendment right may be the First Amendment itself.

Minnesota’s upcoming gubernatorial election has become the focus of corporation’s contributions to political organizations because of a Minnesota law requiring organizations to publicly disclose contributions over $100. The law does not set any limitation on the amount of a donation, but if it is more than $100, the public and the press are going to know about it. According to two Minnesota political organizations, the disclosure requirements are unconstitutional. Continue reading

Weekly Wrap-Up

Virginia governor Robert McDonnell is outpacing his Democratic predecessors in restoring voting rights to felons. McDonnell, known as a law-and-order attorney general, has approved 780 of 889 applications — approximately 88 percent of applications — since taking office in January. His predecessors, Democrats Timothy Kaine and Mark Warner, restored the rights of 4,402 and 3,486 felons, respectively. McDonnell revamped the process for restoring voting rights to felons, reducing the wait time for nonviolent felons to two years, allowing applicants to submit documents online, and self-imposing a deadline of 60 days after the application is complete to make a decision. Even as this process continues, however, 300,000 people in Virginia remain disenfranchised.

Rahm Emanuel may be out of a job. The same day that the White House announced he was leaving his post as Chief of Staff to run for mayor of Chicago, attorney Burt Odelson pointed out a 1871 law requiring candidates to live in their jurisdiction for the year before the election. Since Emanuel leased out his house in Chicago while he was working in DC, this may block him from running for Mayor.
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