The nation’s highest court on Monday granted an emergency plea from state officials to block a lower court’s order expanding statewide early voting days and times. The last-minute decision means early voting will not start Tuesday, but instead will be delayed one week. Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted and Attorney General Mike DeWine asked the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse or delay the district court order restoring Golden Week, a week-long window when people could both register to vote and cast a ballot in Ohio, forcing Husted to add more early voting hours to the statewide schedule and allowing county boards of election to set additional hours. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, who oversees the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals where the case was appealed, referred the case to the full court, which voted 5-4 to grant the stay. The court issued its order without an opinion or explanation, noting the court’s liberal Justices Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Kagan would not have granted the stay. Justices Samuel Alito, John G. Roberts, Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia and Anthony M. Kennedy voted to grant the stay.
The midterm election may be weeks away, but tens of thousands of ballots have already been cast in a reprise of an increasingly powerful political tool: early voting. In North Carolina, which has a pivotal U.S. Senate contest at the top of the ticket, voting began Sept. 5 when absentee ballots were mailed to voters. As of Friday about 15,000 voters — the majority of them Democrats — had requested ballots ahead of Nov. 4. On Thursday, Iowans, who will choose between Democratic U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley and Republican state Sen. Joni Ernst in a competitive race for an open Senate seat, began to vote both in person and through early absentee ballots. Already, more than 145,000 voters have requested absentee ballots, with Democrats outpacing Republicans by about 38,000 requests, according to the Iowa secretary of state’s office. In 2010, Democrats in the Hawkeye State cast 19,000 more early ballots than did Republicans.
An Alaska Superior Court judge Friday morning denied a complaint brought by a Republican Party official that could have unraveled the “unity” ticket of gubernatorial candidate Bill Walker and his running mate, Byron Mallott. Steve Strait, an Anchorage district chair of the Alaska Republican Party, said he will decide over the weekend whether to appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court. Judge John Suddock said the lieutenant governor and the Division of Elections acted appropriately when they issued an emergency regulation Sept. 2 allowing the merger of the “nonparty” ticket, though primary voters had previously chosen Mallott as the Democratic nominee for governor. In a lengthy explanation of his decision, Suddock said he was constrained by three decades of precedent, including a Supreme Court ruling, attorney general opinions, similar decisions by past lieutenant governors, and numerous Legislatures that had “OK’ed this kind of monkey business after the primary” by not creating a statute to address such situations.
A judge on Friday sided with the state of Alaska and ruled against a lawsuit that challenged the merged campaigns of two candidates in the governor’s race. Anchorage Superior Court Judge John Suddock ruled that an emergency order issued by Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell that allowed the merger was valid. The state argued that invalidating the order would leave the November election in shambles and disenfranchise voters, saying more than 2,400 overseas ballots have already been mailed out. “The people of the state of Alaska expect an election,” Suddock said after opposing sides had presented their oral arguments. “They expect to have a choice.” The lawsuit was filed last week by Steve Strait, an Alaska Republican Party district chair. Strait maintained Treadwell erred in his Sept. 2 order, which permitted candidates affected by the merger to officially withdraw from their respective races.
Arkansas’ highest court is set to take up a case this week that could decide whether the state’s voters will be required to show photo identification at the polls in the November election. The state Supreme Court on Thursday is scheduled to hear oral arguments in the lawsuit over Arkansas’ voter ID law, which took effect in January. With a U.S. Senate race that could determine which party controls that chamber, how the court rules could have national implications. … The Republican-led Legislature approved the voter ID law last year, overriding a veto by Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe. At the time, Beebe called the proposal an “expensive solution in search of a problem.”
Voting by mail surpassed 50 percent of votes cast in a general election in California for the first time in 2012. A new study shows that nearly 69,000 mailed ballots, or about 1 percent, were not counted, and why they were rejected. The top three reasons mail-in ballots were rejected: not arriving on time, not being signed or because signatures could not be verified, according to the study to be released Sept. 29 by the California Civic Engagement Project at the University of California, Davis, Center for Regional Change. “California has one of the highest mail ballot rejection rates in the country,” said study author Mindy Romero, director of the California Civic Engagement Project. “Although 1 percent may not seem very high, that’s tens of thousands of people whose votes were not counted. And these votes could make the difference in close elections.”
A year after far-reaching election reform, Florida’s election supervisors are deploying more early-voting sites but fewer total hours and days than in the last nonpresidential-year election, an analysis shows. Florida’s massive election-law rewrite happened last year in the wake of the chaos that ensued after the Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott reduced early voting in 2011. After Florida became a national punch line over its hours-long lines at the polls during the 2012 presidential contest, lawmakers scrambled to lengthen the days, hours and locations for early voting. But they also provided more flexibility for counties to reduce early voting if they wanted to do so. Election supervisors were allowed to have eight to 14 days of early voting spread over the final two weeks before an election. They were also authorized to hold 64 to 168 total hours of early voting.
Voting Blogs: Gerrymandered or Court Ordered: The Second Re-Drawing Is the Charm for Florida’s Fifth | State of Elections
After the first round of judicial wrangling over two allegedly gerrymandered congressional districts, a Florida judge ordered on July 10th 2014 that the Florida fifth and tenth districts be sent back to the drawing board. The dispute arose from the Florida House of Representative’s mandated redrawing of the state’s congressional districts under amendments to Florida’s constitution passed during the 2010 election cycle. The amendments were intended to ensure that legislative districts were drawn cohesively and without favoring any political party. The Republican controlled state legislature interpreted “cohesive” as a mandate to pack African American voters into one district. The first redrawing of Florida’s fifth district, seemingly drafted in the likeness of a Burmese Python, slithered from the northern tip of Orange County along the college town of Gainesville all the way to the Jacksonville city limits. African American Congresswoman, Corrine Brown (D), holds the congressional seat and the district contained a plurality of African American voters prior to redistricting.
A key contest in the fight for control of the Senate could turn on the outcome of an arcane legal argument Monday over whether Democrats must field a candidate against struggling Kansas Republican Sen. Pat Roberts. The case centers on whether a state election law requires Democrats to pick a new candidate after ex-nominee Chad Taylor withdrew earlier this month or whether the party can choose not to replace him. Some Democrats pushed Taylor out, viewing independent candidate Greg Orman as the stronger rival for Roberts and hoping to avoid a split in the anti-Roberts vote that would help the GOP incumbent stay in office.
Absentee voting opened Tuesday for the November general election, but local residents who want to vote early won’t get a real, official ballot Ñ at least not yet. That’s because all the ballots for the Missouri general election are being reprinted after an appeals court ordered a change to a proposed early voting amendment that will be decided in November. Ballots for most counties had been printed before the ruling was handed down, forcing county clerks order new, revised versions, said Bonnie Earl, Jasper County clerk. “We were pretty much blind-sided,” she said. Rep. Sue Entlicher, chairwoman of the House Elections Committee, said she will work on legislation aimed at preventing similar problems in the future. Under current law and court rulings, changes to ballot measures are allowed up to six weeks before the election Ð the same day that state law requires clerks to make absentee ballots available to the public.
Jon Husted, Ohio’s Republican secretary of state, is going to the mat to impose cuts to early voting, and he’s asking the U.S. Supreme Court to weigh in on his behalf. His office is framing its fight for the cuts – which already been found to discriminate against blacks and Hispanics – as a matter of “protecting states’ rights.” Late Thursday, Husted and Attorney General Mike DeWine filed documents asking the nation’s highest court for an emergency stay to reverse a ruling by a federal appeals court panel on Wednesday. The decision earlier in the week upheld an injunction blocking the cuts from taking effect during this fall’s elections. Earlier on Thursday, Husted and DeWine filed a separate appeal for a rehearing of the case by the full appeals court. The cuts are being challenged by a coalition of civil and voting rights groups led by the ACLU. A full trial on the cuts is scheduled for next year.
In reading the Sixth Circuit opinion in Ohio’s early voting case now before the Supreme Court, I get the sense that the Sixth Circuit believes that the exact same set of early voting opportunities would be constitutionally permissible in other states, just not in Ohio. Indeed, the Sixth Circuit went so far as to say “the same law may impose a significant burden in one state and only a minimal burden in another.” (Slip. op. at 25.) This view is perplexing. What is it about Ohio that makes its relatively generous provision of early voting opportunities unconstitutional, even though they would be constitutionally permissible elsewhere? In their Supreme Court brief, the civil rights plaintiffs stress Ohio’s horrible experience on Election Day in 2004. Because of the atrociously long lines at the polls on Election Day in Ohio in 2004, the plaintiffs assert that “the default Election Day-only system was no longer a constitutional option for Ohio.” (Page 32-33.)
A controversial voter ID law in Wisconsin, which critics fear will disenfranchise thousands of voters in the November midterm elections, must be implemented after a federal appeals court turned down a request to re-hear a legal challenge. The seventh circuit court of appeals in Chicago declined to take up the application to hear the challenge before its full panel of judges. On 12 September, three judges stayed an injunction issued by a district court that had prevented the law’s implementation. With less than six weeks to go until the 4 November midterms, voter-rights advocates fear chaos as people rush to get the required identification, and confusion at the polls as election workers and voters struggle with the new rules. Previous testimony in the case indicated that about 300,000 people who had previously been eligible to vote will have difficulty obtaining the identification now needed to cast their ballots. The plaintiffs in the voter ID cases include Ruthelle Frank, the League of United Latin American Citizens of Wisconsin, the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, and the Advancement Project.
Wisconsin: Federal appeals court rejects request to rehear challenge to voter ID case | Associated Press
The full 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Friday it will not rehear its decision allowing Wisconsin’s voter identification law to be implemented for the Nov. 4 election. The court said in a seven-sentence order that it was equally divided on whether to take up a request to reconsider a Sept. 12 decision allowing for the law to go forward while it considers the merits of the case. That means the 10-judge panel was one vote short of reconsidering the earlier decision, as requested by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Advancement Project. The groups argued that implementing voter ID so close to the election will create chaos at the polls, undermining election integrity and public confidence.
Downtown Hong Kong turned into a battlefield of tear gas and seething crowds on Sunday after the police moved against a student democracy protest, inciting public fury that brought tens of thousands of people onto the streets of a city long known as a stable financial center. Hours after the riot police sought late Sunday to break up the protest, large crowds of demonstrators remained nearby, sometimes confronting lines of officers and chanting for them to lay down their truncheons and shields. Police officers were also injured in skirmishes with protesters. The heavy-handed police measures, including the city’s first use of tear gas in years and the presence of officers with long-barreled guns, appeared to galvanize the public, drawing more people onto the streets. On Monday morning, protesters controlled major thoroughfares in at least three parts of the city. A few unions and the Hong Kong Federation of Students called for strikes, and the federation urged a boycott of classes.
Hong Kong police used tear gas Sunday evening to disperse peaceful protesters sitting downtown near government offices. The crowd of perhaps 50,000 quickly regrouped, even more determined to demand that Beijing withdraw a plan for sham democracy in 2017. More than 70 protesters have been arrested so far; police held banners threatening “military force” if the protests continue. The confrontation marks a turning point in the city’s quest for democracy. For years the people of Hong Kong avoided direct conflict with Beijing in the hope that Chinese authorities might be persuaded to grant them self-government. Now they realize that their only chance for democracy is to demand it.
Allies of President-elect Joko Widodo are working to overturn a new law that ends direct regional elections in Indonesia, a battle that will require a Constitutional Court decision to succeed soon. Lawmakers on Friday passed a law that ends the world’s third-largest democracy’s nine-year experiment with direct elections for mayors, governors and others. The law empowers elected regional councils to appoint these leaders instead. Indonesia’s presidency will still be chosen in direct elections by voters every five years. The legislative vote was won by a coalition of parties who opposed Mr. Widodo in Indonesia’s presidential election this year. The coalition was led by the party of Prabowo Subianto, a former army general in the era of authoritarian ruler Suharto who lost a hard-fought election against Mr. Widodo in July. Mr. Subianto’s allies argued that elections are too expensive in the sprawling nation of 250 million, among other things.
Canton Jura has voted to allow foreigners to hold seats in government, while canton Schaffhausen said no to a proposal that would have allowed some non-Swiss to vote. In the western canton of Jura, 54% of voters said yes to allowing foreigners to hold government office on the communal level, while in the eastern canton of Schaffhausen, 85% said no to the idea of foreigners voting after five years of having lived in the canton. That landslide “no” vote reflects longstanding attitudes, with canton Schaffhausen having voted down several proposals related to increasing foreigners’ political rights in the past several years. In this latest vote, both the city and cantonal parliaments advised against approving votes for foreigners.