State of Elections

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Tag: Supreme Court (page 2 of 2)

Weekly Wrap Up

No more automatic restoration of rights: Governor Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet have recently attempted to change how released felon regain the right to vote. Their proposal, which the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund suggests must get preclearance under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, would prevent people who committed non-violent felonies from regaining the right to vote for 5 years and the 5 year clock would restart if that person were arrested during that period, even if no charges are filed. Some have called these requirements a return to Jim Crow-style voting laws.

Campaign finance again in front of the Supreme Court: As mentioned on Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in McComish v. Bennett on Monday morning. The case is a constitutional challenge to Arizona’s Clean Elections Act, which includes a trigger fund provision for publicly-funded candidates. This is one a several such cases that have been heard in federal courts in the last year; several other challenges have come out of Florida, Connecticut, and most recently Wisconsin in the ongoing judicial elections.

“Fair Districts” Amendments go to the Justice Department: Three months after Governor Rick Scott quietly withdrew the preclearance request for the “Fair Districts” amendments (Amendments 5 and 6 to the Florida constitution), the legislature has renewed the request, after reviewing the amendments and deciding they were the proper body to make the request, as opposed to the governor. This, however, will likely not end the battle over these amendments as a lawsuit to block these amendments is still pending.

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The End of Public Financing Trigger Provisions? A Review of McComish v. Bennett

The Supreme Court on Monday heard oral argument in a case challenging provisions of Arizona’s public financing law, which it is said burden the free speech rights of opponents who don’t receive the funds.  Under the Arizona law, publicly financed candidates receive an initial grant of money with which to conduct their campaign.  Then, if an opponent who is not publicly funded spends more than the initial grant, it “triggers” the state to match what the opponent raises up to three times the initial amount.  Given the Court’s recent hostility to campaign finance regulations which are said to burden the exercise of political speech, it seems likely that the Court will reverse the Ninth Circuit and strike down at least portions of the matching funds system.  This conclusion was reinforced by the questions at oral argument, which seemed to suggest that the Justices will again vote by a 5-4 margin to restrict the ability of the government to regulate campaign finance. This post will briefly review the background of the case and look at how such a decision could effect the twenty-two other states with public financing systems and particularly those with triggering provisions. Continue reading

I Know What You Did Last Summer: Signed a Petition in Washington

Last year, female Facebook users around the world updated their status messages with their bra color.  Version 2.0 of this breast cancer awareness marketing strategy ran this year.  Perhaps some things should be kept private.  But what about our politics?  As vast amounts of information goes digital – from individual campaign contributions to the personal communications of our officials – traditional notions of privacy are giving way to an era of sunshine in all aspects of our lives.

Enter (from stage right) Tim Eyman, a veteran ballot initiative activist in the state of Washington.  If state-wide ballot initiatives create a de facto citizen legislature, then Eyman is the conservative Washington citizen’s whip.  To get an idea on the ballot, initiative supporters must sign petitions, and give such information as their home addresses to verify they’re eligible to sign. Continue reading

Want to Be a Senator, but Hate Those Pesky Elections? Just Become a ‘Temporary’ Appointee

The legal controversy over the appointment of a replacement to the Senate seat previously held by President Barack Obama is likely drawing to a close.  In the process of resolving the controversy, the U.S. Supreme Court also clarified their interpretation of a key portion of the Seventeenth Amendment regarding vacancies in Senate seats.  This topic has been relevant lately, particularly following the 2008 election cycle.  When Senator Obama was elected President, his incoming administration including numerous sitting Senators including Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, and, of course, himself.  Despite its seemingly straight-forward language, the Seventeenth Amendment required a certain amount of parsing to ensure these senatorial appointments would fulfill its procedural requirements.

The Seventeenth Amendment, ratified in 1913, in addition to providing for the direct election of senators, altered the procedure for filling vacancies in that office.  The amendment provides that, in the event of a vacancy, the governor must issue a “writ of election” to hold an election for a permanent replacement to fill the seat.  The state legislature may empower the governor to make a temporary appointment, but the appointee may only serve until the special election is held to fill the vacancy.  A date for a special election must be set by the governor, but the amendment does not specify when exactly it must be held. Continue reading

Weekly Wrap Up

Every week, State of Elections brings you the latest news in election law

– On Wednesday, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Doe v. Reed.  The plaintiffs argue that Washington’s Public Records Act, which makes the names of signatories to ballot initiatives a matter of public record, should be declared unconstitutional .  Members of a group called “Protect Marriage Washington”, who submitted petitions for a referendum to repeal Washington’s domestic partnership laws, have asked for an injunction against the publication of their names.  The signatories fear harassment from gay marriage proponents should their names be published, as required under the Public Records Act. Here’s a transcript of the oral arguments.

– The Supreme Court of New Jersey has agreed to hear a case involving an attempt by a Tea Party organization to recall Senator Robert Menendez.  The New Jersey constitution allows Senators to be recalled, but the U.S. Constitution is silent on the issue.  The appeals court previously ruled in favor of the Tea Party and allowed their recall efforts to continue.

– Merced County in California is seeking to remove itself from the restrictions of Section 5 of the Voting Rights ActSection 5 requires that certain states and municipalities “preclear” changes to their voting laws with the Attorney General.  Only four counties in California are subject to the additional restrictions imposed by Section 5.

– Here’s a very odd story out of Orange County California.  According to a local newspaper, dozens of voters were allegedly tricked into registering as Republicans.  Members of the Republican Party supposedly tricked passersby into thinking they were signing petitions for liberal causes, like legalizing marijuana, when they were actually signing voter registration forms that identified them as Republicans.  The California Republican Party offers an $8 dollar bounty for every new Republican registration, which apparently inspired this latest attempt to trick voters into registering as Republicans.

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Weekly Wrap Up

Every week, State of Elections brings you the latest news in state election law.

– The U.S. Census bureau has released its population estimates, and if their estimates are correct, 8 states stand to gain Congressional seats in 2010, and 10 states will lose seats.

– An editorial in the St. Petersburg Times accuses Florida’s “No Match, No Vote” law of disenfranchising thousands of minority voters during the 2008 presidential election.  The law denies voter registration to any applicant whose name on the registration form does not match the Social Security or Florida driver’s license databases.

– The Supreme Court has held its last session of 2009, and still has not released its decision in Citizen United v. Federal Election Commission. The Court was expected to overrule existing precedents that allowed the government to limit the amount corporations could spend on campaigns.  However, the long delay has fueled speculation that the Court’s decision may not be as clear cut as expected.  For a review of the issues involved in Citizen United, see this transcript of oral arguments and this analysis of the possible implications of the case.

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