A fight over the Michigan Republican-led Legislature’s attempted ban on straight-ticket voting can head to trial this spring, a federal judge ruled Friday, rejecting Secretary of State Ruth Johnson’s request for dismissal. In a 42-page opinion, U.S. District Court Judge Gershwin Drain denied Johnson’s request to toss a lawsuit alleging a 2015 law to eliminate straight-ticket voting would diminish the voice of African American voters.
Washington: State bills allowing same-day voter registration, local redistricting to empower minorities move ahead | Sequim Gazette
The state Senate passed several bills aimed at expanding access to voting and promoting minority representation in local governments through redistricting. On the evening of Jan. 17, in a reconvened Senate floor vote session, the body passed SB 6021, which would allow voters to register for elections in-person up until 8 p.m. on the day of an election and eight days before if registering online or by mail. The bill passed 29-20 and now goes to the House.
Secretary of State Brian Kemp said Saturday the elections server mishap at Kennesaw State University was caused by bad management at the school. Kemp, a candidate for governor making a campaign stop in Gainesville to talk to the Hall County Republican Party, said the decision to wipe a server critical to an elections-related lawsuit against the secretary of state and his office was made by the school and was “really incompetence on their part that we had no knowledge of.” Election reform advocates filed a suit against the secretary of state last July 3. Four days later, server managers at the Center for Elections Systems at Kennesaw State University wiped the server holding information critical to the lawsuit, which was filed over the state’s aging elections equipment.
A panel of federal judges has ordered North Carolina lawmakers to use maps created by a Stanford University law professor in the coming elections – in the second ruling this week on a state redistricting case. The ruling, released on Friday, comes less than a month before the filing period opens on Feb. 12 for candidates seeking office in the state Senate and House of Representatives. The ruling has an impact on districts in eight counties – Senate districts in Cumberland, Guilford and Hoke, and House districts in Bladen, Guilford, Mecklenburg, Sampson, Wake and Wayne counties. All other districts remain as adopted by lawmakers in late August.
Pennsylvania: Plaintiffs appeal gerrymandering case to Supreme Court after losing at trial | Philadelphia Inquirer
After federal judges rejected their contention that Pennsylvania’s congressional map was the product of unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering, plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit have filed a direct appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. In a 2-1 decision last week, a panel of federal judges sided with Republican lawmakers who drew Pennsylvania’s map in 2011. D. Brooks Smith, the chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, said that reform “must come from the political process itself, not the courts.”
Texas: U.S. Supreme Court dismisses Texas Democrats’ partisan gerrymandering appeal | The Texas Tribune
Texas, for now, will not join the list of states fighting in court over the limits of partisan gerrymandering. As it considers cases out of other states over whether extreme practices of partisan gerrymandering can be deemed unconstitutional, the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed the efforts of Texas Democrats and other plaintiffs to revive a related legal claim in the ongoing litigation over the state’s political boundaries. The high court’s dismissal comes just days after it agreed to hear a case over whether Texas’ congressional and House district boundaries discriminate against voters of color. In that case, the state appealed a three-judge panel’s ruling against the state that included findings of intentional discrimination by state lawmakers, unconstitutional racial gerrymandering and violations of the Voting Rights Act.
U.S. Territories: Seventh Circuit Rejects Bid to Extend Voting Rights to Territories | Courthouse News
Residents of Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands have no right to vote absentee in their former state of residence, the Seventh Circuit ruled Thursday, even though residents of the Northern Mariana Islands and some in American Samoa are granted that privilege. “Absent a constitutional amendment, only residents of the 50 states have the right to vote in federal elections,” U.S. Circuit Judge Daniel Manion wrote for a three-judge panel. “The plaintiffs have no special right simply because they used to live in a state.” American astronauts in space have a special procedure allowing them to vote, and American citizens living abroad can vote absentee, but 5 million residents of U.S. territories currently cannot vote for president and have no voting representation in Congress.
A proposal to allow the automatic restoration of non-violent ex-felons’ voting rights cleared a Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) committee on Thursday. The CRC’s Ethics and Elections Committee OK’d the measure (P7) by a 6-2 vote. “If successful, Smith and Joyner’s proposal would bring Florida in line with most of the states in the nation that already allow for automatic restoration of rights following completion of felons’ sentences and repayments of any outstanding fines,” a press release from the Florida Senate Democratic Office said. The proposal is backed by commission members Arthenia Joyner of Tampa and Chris Smith of Fort Lauderdale, both former Senate Democratic Leaders.
Illinois: Kane County clerk says his office can handle Aurora elections for less money | Daily Herald
Kane County Clerk Jack Cunningham told officials Thursday he can run Aurora elections for less than half the cost per vote than residents pay now. But at least one county board member — an Aurora Democrat — still has concerns about the county’s ability to take on Aurora’s voting needs without sacrificing quality or busting the county’s budget. Aurora voters will see a question on the March ballot asking if they want to abolish the Aurora Election Commission. Aurora residents who live in Kane County pay taxes to the commission as well as taxes to the county to fund elections. They use the election commission only on voting day.
A Kansas law requiring disabled voters to sign their advanced ballots must go after Sedgwick County officials threw out 23 votes last fall, state officials said Thursday. Current state law requires voters to sign their advance ballots even if they are elderly or disabled and need help filling out the ballot. Sedgwick County officials reluctantly threw out 23 such ballots this fall, according to the Wichita Eagle. Critics say that law discriminates against disabled people, and senators debated a bill to fix it. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s office also vowed to change its rules and regulations to solve the issue.