A federal judge in Anchorage ruled Wednesday morning that the state elections division violated the U.S. Voting Rights Act by failing to provide ballot and candidate information in Native languages to Yup’ik and Gwich’in speakers in three rural regions of Alaska. In a big victory for Native rights advocates, U.S. District Judge Sharon Gleason rejected the state’s assertions that it had done enough in Southwest Alaska and the Interior by providing bilingual poll workers and “outreach” personnel. Gleason said the state’s effort failed to provide “substantially similar” information in Native languages as it does in English. While the plaintiffs — two Yup’ik-speaking elders and four federally recognized village tribes — had sought to have all election materials made available in Native languages, Gleason focused on the official election pamphlet sent to all residents of Alaska in English. The state didn’t do enough to help voters with limited English proficiency gain access to the information in the pamphlet, she said.
Despite filing papers with the Kansas secretary of State to withdraw from the Senate race late Wednesday, Democrat Chad Taylor could be stuck on the ballot this fall. Two election law statutes have raised questions about whether Taylor gave sufficient cause to remove himself from the ballot, and, if so, whether Democrats must ultimately choose a candidate to replace him. Kansas Republican Party Executive Director Clay Barker told The Hill that Taylor is now back on the secretary of State’s list of general election candidates while a legal team analyzes the statutes. One statute declares that, except under specific circumstances, “no person who has been nominated by any means for any national, state, county or township office may” withdraw their name from the ballot after Primary Day. Those circumstances include death and if a nominee “declares that they are incapable of fulfilling the duties of office if elected … by a request in writing.” While Taylor did submit a request in writing to the secretary of State’s office withdrawing his nomination and asking to be withdrawn from the ballot pursuant to that same statute, the letter makes no claim that the candidate would be unable to fulfill his duties if elected.
A federal judge in Baltimore ordered Maryland election officials to adopt an online absentee voting tool in time for this year’s general election, a move designed to make it easier for disabled voters to cast ballots. Opponents of the system — including computer security experts — have warned it could lead to voter fraud or privacy breaches. The tool, developed in house by the State Board of Elections, allows disabled people to receive their ballot over the internet and fill it out on a computer. The completed ballot must be printed and mailed to an elections board. Attorney Jessica Weber, who represents a group of voters as well as the National Federation of the Blind, said during the trial that her clients are currently “being denied meaningful access to voting.” In a 33-page ruling issued Thursday, Judge Richard D. Bennett agreed and ordered the state to adopt the system. “This Court finds that Plaintiffs have been denied meaningful access to the State’s absentee ballot voting program as mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act,” he wrote. The ruling applies only to this year’s election.
A federal judge on Thursday blocked Ohio’s cuts to early voting and ordered the state to establish additional polling days before November’s elections, saying the reductions would disproportionately harm the poor and members of minority groups. The preliminary injunction issued by Judge Peter C. Economus was a setback for Gov. John R. Kasich, a Republican and vocal proponent of the measures, and could affect the upcoming elections in Ohio, a closely contested swing state. Judge Economus’s ruling directed Ohio to restore early voting during evenings and on at least two Sundays, and to reinstate Golden Week, the first week of early voting in which many African-American churches organize congregants to register and vote on the same day. Mr. Kasich and his supporters have said the measures were needed to reduce fraud, save money and create uniformity of practice across the state, and that the four-week early voting period allowed sufficient time for people to cast ballots. A spokesman for the state attorney general, Mike DeWine, said the state would review the ruling before deciding whether to appeal.