American Civil Liberties Union

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National: States push for voting rights for felons | Washington Examiner

Maryland state lawmakers have taken up legislation to allow felons to vote once they were released from prison. Currently, felons must wait for their parole or probation to run out. Jane Henderson, a longtime advocate for criminal justice reform and executive director of Communities United, was surprised to learn that the legislation was getting action. She had assumed it would have been difficult to get the legislature to address the matter, let alone pass legislation. Republican Gov. Larry Hogan vetoed it in May, but she is optimistic that the legislature will override him, and soon. “By state constitution, they have to take it up soon when the next session starts in January,” Henderson told the Washington Examiner. “In the Senate, we’re fine. The House voted 82 for it and we need 85 … We’re very close.” If Maryland does approve the bill, the state would be the latest in an accelerating trend. Since 2009, six states have rolled back laws limiting felon voting rights.

Full Article: States push for voting rights for felons | Washington Examiner.

Kansas: Kobach, public await actions by two courts on proof of citizenship law | Lawrence Journal World

Two separate courts are expected to act soon on lawsuits challenging a controversial state law requiring new voters to show proof of U.S. citizenship in order to register to vote. Since the law took effect in 2013, more than 32,000 Kansans have had their registrations placed “in suspense” because they failed to provide the required citizenship proof. And now, under a new regulation by Secretary of State Kris Kobach, state and county election officers are actively purging the suspense voter list of any applications that have been pending for more than 90 days. On Dec. 4, a federal judge in Kansas City, Kan., will hold a hearing in a case seeking to block election officials from doing that.

Full Article: Kobach, public await actions by two courts on proof of citizenship law /

New Jersey: Christie vetoes changes to voting laws | Philadelphia Inquirer

Gov. Christie on Monday vetoed legislation that would have brought sweeping changes to the state’s voting laws, panning the bill as “thinly veiled political gamesmanship.” … Christie’s veto was met with immediate criticism from Democrats and groups such as the state conference of the NAACP, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Latino Action Network, and New Jersey Working Families. Democrats said the bill was intended to boost voter participation. They had anticipated a veto, and a few months ago Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D., Gloucester) said he would consider asking voters to amend the constitution to implement the changes.

Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D., Hudson) reiterated that message Monday. To put the amendment on the ballot next year, three-fifths of both houses of the Legislature would have to support it.

The bill passed along party lines in the Democratic-controlled Legislature in June. It would establish automatic registration when eligible voters apply for a driver’s license or other form of state ID at the Motor Vehicle Commission; offer online registration; and create more opportunities for in-person early voting.

Read More Christie vetoes changes to N.J. voting laws.

Wisconsin: Judge declines to expand acceptable forms of voter ID | Associated Press

A federal judge on Monday denied a civil rights group’s request that voters be allowed to use more forms of photo identification at Wisconsin’s polls, marking another chapter in a string of legal decisions surrounding the politically-charged voter ID requirement. The American Civil Liberties Union asked U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman in March to declare that people can use technical college IDs, out-of-state driver licenses and veteran photo IDs to vote. The ACLU argued that the voter ID law allows four-year college IDs at the polls but it is unclear whether technical college IDs are acceptable. The group also argued that Wisconsin voters with out-of-state driver licenses must surrender the licenses, forfeiting the ability to drive, so they can get Wisconsin IDs, amounting to an unconstitutional poll tax. Finally, the group contended the law arbitrarily excludes the use of Veterans Administration IDs even though U.S. military IDs are acceptable. Adelman rejected all three arguments.

Full Article: Judge declines to expand acceptable forms of voter ID -

Indiana: ‘Ballot selfie law’ faces scrutiny from federal judge | Indianapolis Star

If you enter the voting booth this November and, as a proud voter, you snap a selfie with your ballot and share it on Facebook, you could be committing a felony. Indiana’s “ballot selfie law,” which was created by state lawmakers to prevent voter fraud, made it illegal to take such photos. Whether that law will remain in place in the upcoming municipal elections is now up to a federal judge to decide. The issue of ballot selfies reached the federal court in August when the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana filed a lawsuit that says the new law, which took effect in July, is unconstitutional because it violates free speech rights. The ACLU of Indiana is asking U.S. District Judge Sarah Evans Barker to issue an order that would prevent state officials from enforcing the law next month — and until the lawsuit reaches a resolution.

Full Article: 'Ballot selfie law' faces scrutiny from federal judge.

National: A.C.L.U.’s Own Arguments May Work Against It in Voting Rights Case | The New York Times

The American Civil Liberties Union weighed in last month on this term’s big Supreme Court voting rights case, the one that will decide the meaning of “one person, one vote.” It took the position embraced by most liberals: that states should be allowed to count everybody in drawing election districts, including unauthorized immigrants, rather than only people eligible to vote. But the group seemed to take the opposite position in a pair of recent lawsuits it filed in Rhode Island and Florida, in which it objected to counting prisoners when drawing voting districts. Counting prisoners in one district, the lawsuits said, “dilutes the voting strength and political influence” of eligible voters in other districts. There may be good reasons for treating prisoners differently from other people who cannot vote. But it is also true that counting prisoners, often housed in rural areas, tends to amplify the power of Republican voters. Counting unauthorized immigrants, who often live in urban areas, generally helps Democrats.

Full Article: A.C.L.U.’s Own Arguments May Work Against It in Voting Rights Case - The New York Times.

Voting Blogs: Online voter registration opens up access, but not always for all | electionlineWeekly

As of this week, 25 states and the District of Columbia have mechanisms in place to allow new voters to register to vote and existing voters to update their information all online — no printing, no stamps, no trek to the mailbox. By all accounts online voter registration has been wildly successful in the states where it has been introduced with statewide elections officials touting the large number of people registering and updating their information. While online voter registration has opened up access to the process to thousands — even hundreds of thousands — of people not previously engaged, one segment of the population is being left out of the online wave — voters with disabilities. A review by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Center for Accessible Technology (CAT) found that of the 20 OVR sites they visited in May 2014, only one — California’s — was completely accessible in the eyes of the review.

Full Article: electionlineWeekly.

Editorials: Restore the right to vote for all Iowa felons | Des Moines Register

A year ago the Iowa Supreme Court issued a splintered decision on Iowans’ constitutional voting rights that left an important question for a future case. Such a case appears headed to the court, and it could restore this fundamental right to thousands of Iowans. Iowa is one of just three states — including Kentucky and Florida — that permanently disenfranchise otherwise eligible voters with a record of a felony conviction. Convicted felons in Iowa must apply to the governor for restoration of voting rights after completing their sentences. Few go to the trouble, however, which is understandable given the intimidating bureaucratic process. As a result, these Iowans are forever denied a right that is fundamental in a free society even after they have paid their debt to that society. That is wrong, but a fix will not be easy.

Full Article: Editorial: Restore the right to vote for all Iowa felons.

Wisconsin: Opponents ask court to relax Wisconsin voter ID requirements | Associated Press

Opponents of Wisconsin’s voter identification law argued in federal court Monday that the legislation is improperly restrictive and should be expanded to allow people to use more forms of ID. The case represents the latest push from the American Civil Liberties Union against a law that has been the focus of a string of legal battles since it was passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature and signed by Gov. Scott Walker four years ago. Supporters of the legislation say its requirements help guard against election fraud, but opponents say its true intent is to make voting tougher for older, poor and minority voters who tend to support Democrats and are less likely to have the mandated forms of identification. Those include a Wisconsin driver’s license or state ID card, a U.S. passport, military ID card, college IDs meeting certain requirements, naturalization certificates or IDs issued by a Wisconsin-based American Indian tribe.

Full Article: Opponents ask court to relax Wisconsin voter ID requirements -

Kansas: Kobach issues 90-day time limit for voter registrations | The Kansas City Star

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach issued a rule Thursday that incomplete voter registrations will be canceled after 90 days. The decision came after voting rights groups lodged vigorous objections to the time limit. The rule takes effect Oct. 2. More than 35,000 voter registrations applications are currently “in suspense,” and about 30,000 are incomplete because registrants have yet to provide a passport or birth certificate. Such proof-of-citizenship documents have been required since January 2013, but no limit had been placed on how long county election officials had to keep the incomplete registrations. “It really violates the spirit of what our nation, our Constitution, was built on — the participation of all,” Marge Ahrens, co-president of the League of Women Voters of Kansas, said about Kobach’s decision. “It feels so disrespectful of Kansans,” she said.

Full Article: Kobach issues 90-day time limit for voter registrations | The Kansas City Star.

Kansas: Kris Kobach’s dual voter registration system is illegal and should be dumped, ACLU says | The Kansas City Star

An odd repercussion has arisen over Kansas’ proof-of-citizenship requirement for residents who register to vote. So odd that the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas has asked a state court to put an end to the two-tiered voter registration system that Secretary of State Kris Kobach has created, a system that critics call the law’s “unintended consequence” or, less kindly, “collateral damage.” Kansas now requires residents to produce citizenship documents, typically a birth certificate or passport, to register to vote. That law, championed by Kobach, took effect in 2013. But citizens have long been allowed to use a federal form to register. That form requires registrants to sign a statement, under penalty of perjury, that they are U.S. citizens. No documents needed. So what to do about Kansas residents who complete the federal form, which courts have said must be accepted by states?

Full Article: Kris Kobach’s dual voter registration system in Kansas is illegal and should be dumped, ACLU says | The Kansas City Star.

Kansas: Kobach, ACLU battle over proof-of-citizenship law | Lawrence Journal-World

Lawyers for Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s office and the American Civil Liberties Union continue to battle over a lawsuit that threatens to unravel a state law requiring voters to show proof of U.S. citizenship to register to vote. The latest action in the case came late Friday when the ACLU filed a motion for summary judgment, seeking to declare the so-called “dual registration” system illegal. Under that system, people who register using a federal form, which does not require proof of citizenship, may only vote in federal races. Voters may only cast ballots in state and local races if they register using the state form, which requires documentary proof of citizenship.

Full Article: Kobach, ACLU battle over proof-of-citizenship law /

Kansas: ACLU moves to strike down Kobach’s voter citizenship law | The Wichita Eagle

The American Civil Liberties Union and Secretary of State Kris Kobach jockeyed for legal advantage Friday in a court case challenging Kobach’s implementation of the state’s voter proof-of-citizenship law. Representing Kansas voters who can cast ballots in federal races, but not state and local elections, the ACLU filed a motion for summary judgment that would strike down Kobach’s two-tier voting system without a trial. Nearly simultaneously, Kobach filed a motion that would allow him to immediately appeal a judge’s ruling that he overstepped his authority by dividing voters into two voting camps, those who registered using a state form and those who registered using a federal form. The case is important because it could let people work around a state law – authored by Kobach – that requires prospective registrants to show documents proving their citizenship before they are granted voting privileges. The proof-of-citizenship requirement is separate from the requirement that voters have to show photo ID when they cast a ballot. While a driver’s license is sufficient for Election Day voter ID, the state’s voter-registration form requires a higher level of documentation. That can usually be met only with a birth certificate, passport, or special papers issued to foreign-born and tribal citizens.

Full Article: ACLU moves to strike down Kobach’s voter citizenship law | The Wichita Eagle.