A New Hampshire judge has struck down a 2012 law as unconstitutional that effectively blocked out-of-state students and others from voting in New Hampshire unless they established residency in the state that extended to other activities beyond voting, such as getting a driver’s license. The New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union filed a petition on behalf of four out-of-state college students and the New Hampshire League of Women Voters two years ago, arguing the law would freeze out eligible voters. The law required people registering to vote to sign a statement saying they declare New Hampshire their domicile and are subject to laws that apply to all residents, including requirements they register their cars in the state and get a New Hampshire driver’s license. Then-Gov. John Lynch vetoed the legislation, but lawmakers overrode his veto. In making a preliminary order permanent, Strafford County Superior Court Judge Brian Tucker said the law added language to voter registration forms that was a “confusing and unreasonable description of (existing) law” and was “unduly restrictive.”
A divided state Supreme Court on Thursday tweaked a provision of Wisconsin’s voter ID law to put it in keeping with the state constitution, making it easier for people to get identification cards without having to pay along the way. Despite Thursday’s rulings in two challenges of the law, the requirement to show photo identification at the polls remains blocked because a federal judge in April found Wisconsin’s voter ID law violates the U.S. Constitution and federal Voting Rights Act. That decision is now under review by the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago. State Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, who defended the law, said he believed Thursday’s rulings strengthened his hand in the federal litigation and he would use them to try to reinstate the voter ID requirement in time for the Nov. 4 election. The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled in two cases, upholding the voter ID law 4-3 in one and 5-2 in the other. In one case, the court majority crafted a “saving construction” of the voter ID law to keep it from being unconstitutional. That was aimed at preventing the state from requiring voters to pay any government fees to get a state-issued ID card.
The Obama administration filed court papers Wednesday challenging Republican-backed election laws in Ohio and Wisconsin, as the legal fights over voting rights spread beyond traditional Southern borders. In Wisconsin, the Justice Department filed a brief supporting a previous federal court ruling against the state’s photo identification requirement, which was deemed unfair to minority voters. In Ohio, the Justice Department weighed in against a law limiting early voting and same day registration. Attorney General Eric Holder, in a statement, said the two states’ voting laws “represent the latest, misguided attempts to fix a system that isn’t broken,” adding that both measures “threaten access to the ballot box.” Mr. Holder had previously signaled his department would take legal action against Ohio and Wisconsin. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate, has defended his state’s identification law as necessary to prevent voter fraud that could sway an election. His office didn’t immediately comment on Wednesday’s filing.
A state elections official says he disagrees with the Democratic secretary of state candidate’s call for government staff to help with technology for the Iowa caucuses. “It’s not appropriate for the secretary of state’s office to play a role in the Iowa caucuses,” Charlie Smithson, the office’s legal counsel and an adjunct professor of election law at Drake University School of Law, said in a statement Wednesday. The Iowa caucuses are one of the most important events in the nation’s presidential election process. By rules set by both national parties, Iowa holds the first caucuses (voting is independently handled by the two parties), then New Hampshire holds the first primary (voting is regulated by the state).
A federal judge on Wednesday denied a request from the Ohio Legislature to become part of a lawsuit challenging early voting rules in the key swing state. The Republican-controlled General Assembly had sought to be among the lawsuit’s defendants, which include the state’s attorney general and elections chief. Attorneys argued that lawmakers had a right to defend the statutes they enact. But U.S. District Judge Peter Economus said the General Assembly failed to convince the court that its position differed from the current defendants. He also questioned the timing of the legislature’s request to intervene, saying it came more than two months after the lawsuit was filed in May. “The General Assembly has offered no reason justifying this delay,” Economus wrote. Attorneys have asked the judge to reconsider, saying they have complied with the court’s schedule.
The U.S. Department of Justice made good today on its promise to intervene in Ohio elections, joining an existing lawsuit trying to restore more evening and weekend voting for Ohioans. The federal government filed a “statement of interest” in NAACP litigation against Secretary of State Jon Husted and Attorney General Mike DeWine. A separate filing today challenged changes in Wisconsin voting laws. “These filings are necessary to confront the pernicious measures in Wisconsin and Ohio that would impose significant barriers to the most basic right of our democracy,” said Attorney General Eric Holder in a release.
Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced today that his administration has restored the voting rights of more than 2,500 non-violent felons who have served their time.
“Virginians who have served their time deserve a second chance to become productive members of society again,” said McAuliffe said in a statement. “I am proud of the reforms my administration has undertaken to expand and expedite the rights restoration process and the work my team has done restoring Virginians’ voting rights so former offenders can lead successful, productive lives here in the commonwealth,” he said.
The Virginia Department of Elections has erroneously mailed notifications to about 125,000 registered Virginia voters raising uncertainty regarding their voting status. The letter, dated June 23 and signed by Secretary of the State Board of Elections Don Palmer, informs the recipients that records show they may also be registered to vote in another state and that state law requires them to update or cancel their voter registration when they change residences. “If you no longer consider the Virginia voter registration address printed below to be your address of residence, please help us keep the commonwealth’s voter registration rolls accurate by completing and returning the ‘request to cancel voter registration’ from at the bottom of this letter,” it says. In an email sent to Virginia registrars Tuesday, Matthew J. Davis, chief information officer with the Department of Elections, said that the letters mistakenly went to individuals who have not moved out of state. The letter that the Virginia Department of Elections mistakenly sent to 125,000 voters. Read the Letter
The Justice Department on Wednesday sided with challengers of voting laws in Wisconsin and Ohio, saying in court filings that measures in those states unfairly affect minority voters. The department criticized a Wisconsin law that requires voters to present photo identification at the polls and an Ohio law that limits when voters can cast an early ballot. The court papers from the federal government are aimed at persuading judges that the laws, which are being challenged in court, are discriminatory and block access to the ballot box. “These filings are necessary to confront the pernicious measures in Wisconsin and Ohio that would impose significant barriers to the most basic right of our democracy,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement. The Justice Department has warned of legal actions against states after the U.S. Supreme Court last year wiped out a major provision of the Voting Rights Act. That provision required select states with a history of discrimination in voting — mainly in the South — to receive Washington’s approval before changing the way they hold elections. Last year, the department sued Texas and North Carolina over measures in those states. But the government didn’t use that approach in either Ohio or Wisconsin, instead submitting court filings joining with challengers who want the measures declared invalid.
Wisconsin: Voting rights advocate on Supreme Court voter ID ruling: ‘We feel we have already won’ | The Cap Times
With the Wisconsin Supreme Court set to release decisions Thursday on cases challenging the state’s voter ID law that was filed nearly three years ago, the executive director of the Wisconsin League of Women Voters said, in many ways, “we feel we have already won.” The law that requires voters to show a picture ID prior to voting was passed in May of 2011. That October, the league became the first of four organizations to file a lawsuit. The law, which quickly became the most restrictive of its kind in the country when it passed, was in place for one election cycle in February 2012. It was subsequently blocked under a Dane County Circuit Court ruling issued by Judge Richard Niess in March of 2012. For the next seven elections, voters did not have to show their ID’s, said Andrea Kaminski, the league’s executive director.