Lost in the uproar last week over a written request by a White House commission for state voter registration lists was another letter sent that same day. It came from the civil rights division of the U.S. Justice Department (DOJ), and asked states for details on how they’re complying with a requirement in the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) — also known as the motor-voter law — that election officials keep their voting lists accurate and up to date. The timing and focus of the two letters — one from the commission and the other from DOJ — has made some voter advocacy groups nervous about what the Trump administration is up to, and whether its ultimate goal is to weaken or revamp the motor voter law. “It’s very concerning,” said Brenda Wright, vice president of policy and legal strategies at Demos, a liberal advocacy group that’s been fighting state efforts to purge voters from the rolls. Wright notes that the main purpose of the motor voter law is to expand opportunities to register to vote, but that millions of eligible Americans are still unregistered.Full Article: Advocates Worry Trump Administration Wants To Revamp Motor Voter Law : NPR.
National: Justice Department Request For State Voter Information Follows Similar Kobach Query | KCUR
Officials with the U.S. Department of Justice are asking states including Kansas for information related to the National Voter Registration Act — a move made the same day that the president’s commission on voter fraud sent a request for “publicly available voter roll data.” In a letter sent June 28, Justice Department officials requested data on how states purge registrations of people who have died or moved. The letter seeks information to confirm that states are complying with federal law and keeping voting lists updated. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach on the same day sent requests for voter registration information to all states in his role as vice chairman of President Donald Trump’s commission on voter fraud. Numerous states have said they will not provide some or all of the information that Kobach requested.Full Article: Justice Department Request For State Voter Information Follows Similar Kobach Query | KCUR.
National: This DOJ Letter May Be More Alarming Than Trump Commission’s Request For Voter Data | HuffPost
Former Department of Justice officials and voting advocates are seriously alarmed over a DOJ letter sent to states last week that they say could signal a forthcoming effort to kick people off voter rolls. This comes as national attention focuses on several states blocking a request for voter information from President Donald Trump’s commission to investigate voting fraud, which does occur, but is not a widespread problem. The DOJ sent the letter to 44 states last Wednesday, the same day the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity sent a letter controversially requesting personal voter information. The DOJ letter requests that election officials respond by detailing their compliance with a section of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA), which covers 44 states and was enacted to help people register to vote, but also specifies when voters may be kicked off the rolls. Several experts said it’s difficult not to see the DOJ letter in connection with the commission’s letter as part of a multipronged effort to restrict voting rights.Full Article: This DOJ Letter May Be More Alarming Than Trump Commission's Request For Voter Data | HuffPost.
Ever since it was announced that Donald J. Trump was going to be the 45th President of these United States of America, Democrats have been looking to attach themselves to any kind of competition to gain some kind of payback for their defeat (See: Super Bowl LI). Although it didn’t result in an explicit victory, this past Tuesday’s special election for Georgia’s House seat in its Sixth District offered Democrats their first viable taste of victory and vengeance. Wednesday’s special election resulted in Democrat Jon Ossoff narrowly missing out on the 50 percent of the vote that he needed to win the contest outright, thus making a run-off between Ossoff and top GOP vote-getter Karen Handel necessary. The details of the run-off, scheduled for June 20, have already become the subject of controversy and, now, a lawsuit.Full Article: State of Georgia Sued Over Alleged Voter Suppression.
Voting Blogs: 15 States File Amicus Brief Seeking Clarification on NVRA, Non-Voting and List Maintenance | Election Academy
Fifteen states have filed an amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) brief in the U.S. Supreme Court asking it to hear a case in order to clarify if and how states may use evidence of non-voting as a factor in removing voters from the rolls. The question stems from an Ohio case I wrote about last April. There, plaintiffs challenged the state’s “supplemental process” for list maintenance, which uses failure to vote over a two-year period as a trigger for mailings seeking confirmation that the voter still wishes to vote. The allegation is that the use of non-voting as a trigger violates the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), which expressly prohibits the removal of voters simply for failure to vote.Full Article: 15 States File Amicus Brief Seeking Clarification on NVRA, Non-Voting and List Maintenance | Election Academy.
National: Judge Sends Voter Registration Case Back to Election Assistance Commission | Courthouse News Service
A federal judge says it’s up to the Election Assistance Commission to decide whether its executive director exceeded his authority when he allowed three states to change a national mail voter registration form to include a requirement of proof of U.S. citizenship. U.S. District Judge Richard Leon, of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, held the case must be remanded to the commission “for the limited purpose of providing an interpretation of its internal directive which is necessary for resolution of the threshold issue of whether [Executive Director Brian] Newby acted within his subdelegated authority.” The dispute over the form involves Newby’s 2016 decision to allow Alabama, Georgia and Kansas to change the voter registration form. The three states had previously requested the modifications to reflect their respective state laws. Newby said that he considered their approval to be “ministerial.”Full Article: Judge Sends Voter Registration Case Back to Agency - Courthouse News Service.
Here’s the background of the Newby case. Kansas, Georgia and Alabama have been trying to make voting harder for voters through a series of restrictive voter ID laws. Another approach of these states has deployed is forcing voters to produce documentary evidence that they are American citizens when they register to vote. Asking for documentary proof of citizenship may sound reasonable enough, at first blush, but this runs afoul of the federal “motor voter” law which bars states from asking for additional information when voters register to vote using a standard federal form. The whole point of the motor voter law (whose formal name is National Voter Registration Act of 1993), was to make it easier for eligible Americans to register to vote when they were at the local DMV. While the legislators who pass these restrictive voting laws may think they are barring non-citizens from voting, instead these laws can disenfranchise regular Americans, especially those who were born at home instead of a hospital. These Americans may find it difficult, or well neigh impossible, to produce documentation of their birth proving that they are who they know they are: American citizens.Full Article: JURIST - What's the Matter with Kansas: The Voting Edition.
National: U. S. appeals court leaves proof-of-citizenship voting requirement to federal panel | The Washington Post
A U.S. appeals court panel that barred Kansas, Alabama and Georgia from adding a proof-of-citizenship requirement to a federal voter registration form wrote Monday that federal law leaves it to a federal elections agency — not the states — to determine whether such a change is necessary. The 2-to-1 written opinion follows a Sept. 9 order from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. The panel wrote that although the document requirement “unquestionably” hinders voter registration groups ahead of the November elections, there was “precious little” evidence of voter fraud by noncitizens, the problem the states said the measure is intended to fight. The Kansas secretary of state had told the court that “between 2003 and 2015 eighteen noncitizens had tried to or successfully registered to vote. Only one of them attempted to use the Federal Form,” the judges wrote.Full Article: U. S. appeals court leaves proof-of-citizenship voting requirement to federal panel - The Washington Post.
Thousands of prospective voters in Kansas who did not provide citizenship documents will be able to vote in the November election under a federal appeals court ruling late Friday that upheld a judge’s order. The decision from the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals affirms lower court’s May order forcing Kansas to register more than 20,000 voters, a number that is expected to swell to 50,000 by the time of the November elections. It noted that the preliminary injunction serves the public interest. The 10th Circuit ruled “no constitutional doubt arises” that federal law prohibits Kansas from requiring citizenship documents from people who register to vote at motor vehicle office. It added that its reasoning would be more fully explained in a forthcoming order.Full Article: Appeals court rules against Kansas in voting rights case | The Charlotte Observer.
High-ranking congressional Democrats are raising more serious concerns about a move by the director of a federal voting agency that made it easier for several red states to require documentary proof of citizenship from people registering to vote. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Rep. Robert A. Brady and Rep. James E. Clyburn urged the Election Assistance Commission in a letter sent Wednesday to formally rescind a change made in January to the instructions on the federal voter registration form for Kansas, Georgia and Alabama, which allowed those states to require citizenship proof. A federal court found this month that the move, which was carried out unilaterally by the agency’s executive director, Brian Newby, could disenfranchise large numbers of eligible voters. Ruling that the move may violate federal voting law, the court blocked it from being enforced pending a resolution of the case. The letter outlines what the lawmakers called “troubling findings” from their probe into the issue — among them, that Newby conducted no written analysis of the impact of the change, and that he himself may no longer be certain that it was legal.Full Article: Dems Seek Reversal on Voter Registration Hurdle - NBC News.
Voting rights advocates are accusing a Washington bureaucrat of helping Republican-led states enforce tight restrictions on voter registration, a move they say turned a federal voting agency into a de facto ally of state officials looking to make voting harder. A progressive group on Wednesday called on the federal Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to conduct an internal investigation into the actions taken by Brian Newby, the agency’s executive director. The group, Allied Progress, charged that Newby had improper private communications with his former boss, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, and perhaps other election officials, about their requests to change the federal voter registration form to require applicants to show proof of citizenship. Patricia Layfield, the inspector general of the EAC, said no decision had yet been made on whether to open an investigation into Newby’s actions. “I continue to consider the various options available,” Layfield told NBC. “I’m taking the concerns expressed in the letter very seriously.”Full Article: Voter Registration Flap Still Haunting Election Agency - NBC News.
Pennsylvania: In wake of lawsuit, voter registrations up at Pennsylvania’s county assistance sites | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Since 2012, when a lawsuit was settled over voter registration issues, county assistance offices have submitted voter registration applications or change of address updates for more than 160,000 Pennsylvanians, according to a tally of statistics from the state. The lawsuit alleged that spot-checks and interviews with those who sought benefits at county assistance offices and through the Women, Infants & Children nutrition program showed that the state was not properly offering clients voter registration applications. Additionally, the state’s own statistics showed that it was failing to do what the law required, the complaint said. From 1995 to 1996, the state’s public assistance offices registered 59,462 voters, but during 2009 and 2010, only 4,179 voters were registered. The state settled the lawsuit shortly after it was filed.Full Article: In wake of lawsuit, voter registrations up at Pennsylvania’s county assistance sites | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Kansas county election offices are sorting through thousands of records to identify voters affected by a recent federal court order, according to Secretary of State Kris Kobach. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit blocked Kansas and two other states from requiring proof of citizenship from people who register to vote using the federal form. Kobach said the state’s voter database does not differentiate between people who register with the federal form and the state form, so local election officers will have to physically go through paper records of people who tried to register since January to determine which voters were affected by the ruling. He estimated the number of people affected would be between 200 and 400 statewide. The state began requiring voters to provide proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate or passport, when they register to vote in 2013. Before this year, federal form registrants were allowed to cast ballots in federal elections regardless of whether they provided proof of citizenship.
A federal court has blocked Kansas and two other states from requiring voters to show proof of citizenship if they register using the federal form. The U.S. Election Assistance Commission approved a controversial rule in late January to allow Kansas, Georgia and Alabama to require proof of citizenship from voters who register using the federal form. The League of Women Voters brought a lawsuit against the rule, and the U.S. Circuit of Appeals for the District of Columbia granted a preliminary injunction Friday by a 2-1 decision. Under the order, Kansas can no longer require people to show proof of citizenship when they register using the federal form and must allow anyone who registered after Jan. 29 to vote regardless of whether they provided proof of citizenship.Full Article: Federal court blocks Kansas voting rule | The Wichita Eagle.
National: Appeals Court Blocks Proof-of-Citizenship Requirement for Voters in 3 States | Associated Press
A federal appeals court on Friday blocked Kansas, Georgia and Alabama from requiring residents to prove they are U.S. citizens when registering to vote using a national form. The 2-1 ruling is a victory for voting rights groups who said a U.S. election official illegally changed proof-of-citizenship requirements on the federal registration form at the behest of the three states. People registering to vote in other states are only required to swear that that they are citizens, not show documentary proof. The three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia acted swiftly in the case, issuing a two-page, unsigned ruling just a day after hearing oral arguments. A federal judge in July had refused to block the requirement while the case is considered on the merits. The League of Women Voters and civil rights groups argued that the requirements could lead to the “mass disenfranchisement” of thousands of potential voters — many of them poor, African-American and living in rural areas.Full Article: Appeals Court Blocks Proof-of-Citizenship Requirement for Voters in 3 States - NBC News.
National: U.S. appeals court to hear challenge to proof-of-citizenship voting requirement | The Washington Post
Civil rights groups are set to ask a federal appeals court panel in Washington on Thursday to block Kansas, Alabama and Georgia from enforcing proof-of-citizenship requirements for people using a federal form to register to vote. The League of Women Voters and its state chapters, the NAACP in Georgia and other groups said in court briefs that the U.S. Justice Department agrees with their February lawsuit. In them, they alleged Brian D. Newby, executive director of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, improperly and unilaterally granted requests by the three states to require proof of citizenship for new voters on the federal registration form, reflecting state registration requirements. U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon of Washington in June rejected a request to block the three states from enforcing the change, a decision the civil rights groups appealed.Full Article: U.S. appeals court to hear challenge to proof-of-citizenship voting requirement - The Washington Post.
A federal appeals court on Thursday seemed likely to side with voting rights groups seeking to block Kansas, Georgia and Alabama from requiring residents to prove they are U.S. citizens when registering to vote using a national form. Judges hearing arguments in the case considered whether to overturn a decision by a U.S. election official who changed the form’s proof-of-citizenship requirements at the behest of the three states, without public notice. The dispute is part of a slew of challenges this year that civil rights groups have brought against various state voting laws they claim are designed to dampen turnout among minority groups that tend to favor Democrats. Those challengers have already succeeded in stopping voter ID requirements in North Carolina and Texas and restrictions elsewhere. In the citizenship case, a coalition including the League of Women Voters and civil rights groups say the requirement to show proof undermines efforts to register new voters and deprives eligible voters of the right to vote in federal elections.Full Article: Appeals court sympathetic to challenge over voter rules | McClatchy DC.
Texas: Attorney General’s office questions state’s authority in maintaining voter lists | The Monitor
A representative from the Texas Attorney General’s office appeared her in court Monday to argue that the state should not be held responsible in the lawsuit by the American Civil Rights Union against the Starr County elections administrator. Assistant Attorney General Adam Bitter said the office was contacted by the ACRU about the case and proceeded to submit a brief arguing that, in this case, the state did not have the authority to ensure that Starr County maintain proper voter lists. However, U.S. District Judge Ricardo Hinojosa appeared confused as to why the attorney general’s office had gotten involved and said it was the Texas Secretary of State that should be held responsible. “I really don’t understand why you refuse to bring in the proper party,” Hinojosa told the attorneys representing the ACRU.Full Article: Texas AG’s office questions state’s authority in maintaining voter lists | Local News | themonitor.com.
The state and the U.S. Justice Department reached a settlement to resolve claims that Connecticut’s method of registering voters at the Department of Motor Vehicles was not in compliance with federal law. Under a program beginning next week, applications for driver’s licenses and identification cards will effectively serve as voter registration applications unless a customer specifically opts out. And when a customer changes the address on file at the DMV, that information will be reflected on the voter rolls unless they make a different request. “The motor voter provision of the [National Voter Registration Act of 1993] critically supports and enhances our citizens’ access to the democratic process,” U.S. attorney Deirdre M. Daly said in a statement. “Compliance with those requirements plays an important role in ensuring that all Conneticut citizens can more easily exercise their right to vote.”Full Article: Feds Sign Off On 'Motor Voter' Settlement - Hartford Courant.
A federal appeals court will hear oral arguments in September in an appeal that could affect the voting rights of thousands of voters in Kansas, Georgia and Alabama in upcoming elections. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia on Thursday set a Sept. 8 hearing date in the case of a U.S. election official who without public notice required documentary proof of citizenship on a national voter registration form used by residents of the three states.