A federal judge on Tuesday struck down a state law that eliminated “Golden Week,” several days when Ohio voters could both register to vote and cast a ballot. The 2014 law violates both the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, U.S. District Court Judge Michael Watson wrote in his opinion siding with Democrats who challenged the law. The state will appeal the ruling, a state attorney general spokesman said. If the ruling stands, Ohio voters will have 35 days to cast a ballot this November instead of 28 and will be able to register to vote and cast a ballot at the same time. In 2014, the American Civil Liberties Union challenged the law on behalf of the Ohio chapters of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and League of Women Voters and several African-American churches. A federal district court judge struck down the law, but the state was granted a stay. Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted and Statehouse Republicans argued that Ohio provides 28 days of absentee voting by mail and in-person, making it one of the most expansive voting systems in the country.
It’s been a rough few week for voting-rights advocates, who have seen a judge reject a challenge to North Carolina’s strict voting law and seen Missouri legislators successfully place a ballot referendum that would amend the state constitution to require photo ID. But they got a win in Ohio today, where a judge in Columbus ruled that a recent law that eliminated a week in which citizens could both register and vote early was unconstitutional. Judge Michael Watson found that the change would disparately impact minority voters, and that the law violated both the 14th Amendment and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.
A federal judge on Monday upheld sweeping Republican-backed changes to election rules, including a voter identification provision, that civil rights groups say unfairly targeted African-Americans and other minorities. The ruling could have serious political repercussions in a state that is closely contested in presidential elections. The opinion, by Judge Thomas D. Schroeder of Federal District Court in Winston-Salem, upheld the repeal of a provision that allowed people to register and vote on the same day. It also upheld a seven-day reduction in the early-voting period; the end of preregistration, which allowed some people to sign up before their 18th birthdays; and the repeal of a provision that allowed for the counting of ballots cast outside voters’ home precinct. It also left intact North Carolina’s voter identification requirement, which legislators softened last year to permit residents to cast ballots, even if they lack the required documentation, if they submit affidavits. The ruling could have significant repercussions in North Carolina, a state that Barack Obama barely won in 2008, and that the Republican Mitt Romney barely won four years later.
North Carolina: Federal judge who backed limits on early ballots upholds voter ID requirement | The Charlotte Observer
A federal judge has upheld North Carolina’s voter ID law in a ruling posted Monday evening. U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder issued a 485-page ruling dismissing all claims in the challenge to the state’s sweeping 2013 election law overhaul. Schroeder, a George W. Bush appointee, also upheld portions of the 2013 law that cut the number of days people could vote early, eliminated same-day registration and voting and prohibits people from casting a ballot outside their precinct. The decision comes nearly three months after a trial on the ID portion of the law. Schroeder noted that North Carolina had “become progressive nationally” by permitting absentee voting, having early voting for 17 days before the Election Day, a lengthy registration period, out of precinct voting on Election Day and a pre-registration program for 16-year-olds. “In 2013, North Carolina retrenched,” Schroeder said in his opinion. Ultimately, though, Schroeder said the state had provided “legitimate state interests” in making the changes and the challengers failed to demonstrate that the law was unconstitutional.
New York: 27 Percent of New York’s Registered Voters Won’t Be Able to Vote in the State’s Primary | The Nation
In June 2013, North Carolina passed the most sweeping voting restrictions in the country, requiring strict voter ID, cutting early voting and eliminating same-day registration, pre-registration for 16 and 17-year-olds, and out-of-precinct voting, among other political reforms. The state defended its cutbacks in court last summer by invoking, of all places, New York. “The state of New York has no early voting as opposed to North Carolina that has ten days of early voting,” lawyer Thomas Farr said. “The state of New York has no same-day registration. The state of New York has no out-of-precinct voting. The state of New York has no pre-registration.” It was a cynical defense of North Carolina’s law—North Carolinians don’t deserve to suffer because a state 500 miles away has different laws—but it was still unnerving to hear a Southern state invoke a progressive Northern state to rationalize making it harder to vote. The fact is, New York does have some of the worst voting laws in the country. New York has no early voting (unlike 37 states), no Election Day registration (the state constitution requires voters to register no later than 10 days before an election), and excuse-only absentee balloting (voters have to prove they’ll be out of town or have a disability.)
National: Election year brings new focus to voter rights in courts, legislatures | The Kansas City Star
Eric and Ivanka Trump learned this week they won’t be able to vote for their dad, Donald, in New York’s primary Tuesday. They didn’t register as Republicans in time. Trump was philosophical. “They were, you know, unaware of the rules,” he ruefully told Fox News. The story prompted chuckles in some political and media circles. But it also helped illustrate an ongoing truth: In 2016, America’s state-based election laws can confuse even the most interested voters. From a federal courthouse in Kansas City, Kan., Thursday, to Arizona and beyond, lawyers are arguing over how and when we vote. Voting rules are a confusing, contradictory hodgepodge from state to state and sometimes county to county, many experts say, often based more on perceived political advantage than fair exercise of the franchise. Consider: You can cast an early ballot in Kansas, but not in Missouri. You need a picture ID to vote in Texas, but not in California. In Colorado you can register on Election Day; in Arkansas, you must be on the registrar’s books 30 days before going to the polls.
A bill to allow no-excuse early voting in Kentucky is dead for this year. Legislation proposed by Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes cleared the House, but never came up for a vote in the Senate. The legislation was aimed at boosting voter turnout in Kentucky. Currently, voters must have a qualifying reason to vote early. Grimes was the leading supporter of the bill. She expressed frustration that the measure won’t be passed this year. “I’ve traveled the state and people feel it’s something that we should already have,” Grimes stated. “Much like online voter registration, it’s something they expect.”
The Senate on Wednesday unanimously approved campaign-finance and elections reform that includes prohibition of politicians using campaign money for personal expenses such as cars, apartments and clothes. “It’s really common sense,” said Senate Elections Chairwoman Sally Doty, R-Brookhaven. “The question you ask yourself is, ‘Is this a campaign-related expense, or an expense related to holding office?’ If the answer is yes, you’re fine. If it’s no, then you shouldn’t do it.” House Bill 797, now rewritten by the Senate, also includes a prohibition on politicians cashing out their campaign funds as a nest egg when they leave office and requires them to itemize campaign spending with a credit card. It would also prohibit legislators from soliciting campaign funds during a legislative session, although Doty said this might require changes so it doesn’t hamstring lawmakers running for other offices.
A bill that would allow a minimum of 12 days of early, no-excuse voting before Election Day by all registered voters in Kentucky, is currently in the Senate’s Veterans, Military Affairs & Public Protection Committee, and apparently at this point has not been scheduled for a hearing. Numbered HB 290, the measure passed the House last week by a vote of 57-37. If the bill is approved by the Senate and signed into law by Gov. Matt Bevin, it would allow early voting by all registered voters ahead of the November 8 general election. It is uncertain at the moment if the bill, sponsored by Rep. Reginald Meeks, D-Louisville, has been placed on the Senate committee’s agenda for a hearing.
Some rules for Ohio voters are under legal scrutiny as the focus starts shifting toward the fall election. The perennial presidential battleground is no stranger to election-law challenges. Voting disputes in Ohio seem to appear at the rate of political TV ads as Election Day nears. “There are always new issues that arise as the election approaches, especially in Ohio, given that we’re a perpetual swing state,” said Dan Tokaji, an Ohio State University law professor. … A federal judge began hearing testimony Wednesday over changes to requirements for absentee and provisional ballot. Advocates for Ohio’s homeless and the state’s Democratic Party claim the 2014 changes create new hurdles for voters, particularly minorities and Democratic-leaning voters. Among other arguments, they allege that numerous ballots are being tossed because of paperwork errors. They say voters lack an opportunity to cure the problems, in violation of their 14th Amendment rights.