Posts Tagged ‘brennan center’

Blocking the Vote

Posted on: February 28th, 2012 by Patrick Caldwell 3 Comments

Ruthelle Frank, an 84-year-old resident of a small town in Wisconsin, is suing her home state because, for the first time in her adult life, she might not be able to vote. In 2011, Wisconsin’s Republican-led Legislature enacted a new law that requires state-issued photo identification for all voters. Because Frank cannot drive, she has never held a license. Last November, Frank’s daughter drove her to their local Department of Motor Vehicles office to obtain a photo ID. (more…)

Florida ACLU, League of Women Voters sue over new voter registration rules

Posted on: December 15th, 2011 by The American Independent No Comments

The ACLU of Florida logo (Photo: savedade.org)

The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida announced today that “along with the Brennan Center for Justice and the law firms Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, and Coffey Burlington sued on behalf of the League of Women Voters, Rock the Vote, and Florida PIRG, challenging the state’s new restrictions on voter registration.”

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Sen. Nelson asks U.S. attorney general to look into new voting restrictions

Posted on: November 3rd, 2011 by The American Independent No Comments
Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., is taking on the state’s controversial new voting rules with full force. Days after requesting a congressional hearing on the law, Nelson has sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder requesting that the Justice Department launch an investigation into whether the “new state voting laws resulted from collusion or an orchestrated effort to limit voter turnout.” (more…)

Michigan remains notorious for secret campaign funding

Posted on: November 2nd, 2011 by The American Independent 1 Comment

If Michigan lawmakers are in the mood to offer reforms that could appease parts of the Occupy Wall St. movement — though there’s no indication that they are — beefing up the the state’s rules for campaign finance disclosure might make a good start.

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When DOJ asked for more information, Fla. modified process for elections bill approval

Posted on: August 10th, 2011 by The American Independent No Comments

Florida Secretary of State Kurt Browning announced Tuesday that the U.S. Department of Justice granted “pre-clearance” to 76 provisions of Florida’s controversial new elections law. A federal court will rule on the remaining four provisions, which the State Department recently withdrew from Justice Department consideration. # (more…)

Florida State Department says it acted quickly on elections overhaul to comply with law

Posted on: June 7th, 2011 by The American Independent No Comments

As House Bill 1355 made its way through the Legislature, critics railed against provisions that would impose new regulations on groups that register voters, reduce the number of days of early voting and require voters who move between counties to vote by provisional ballot. #


But after the bill was signed, new threads of controversy, as well as a pair of court challenges, have touched on the way elections officials have interpreted a less-contested procedural provision: its effective date, which for many of its sections (including some of the most controversial) was the moment it was signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott. #


The day after the measure was signed, the Florida Department of State issued an emergency rule, which took effect that day and requires groups that want to sign up new voters to register with the department. #


Under Florida statutes, emergency rules are temporary measures intended to stave off “an immediate danger to the public health, safety, or welfare.” In this case, according to statements accompanying the rule, the emergency was that supervisors of elections and third-party registration groups may have found themselves in violation of the law if the State Department had not acted right away. As department spokesman Chris Cate explained, “The emergency rule was necessary to meet election law requirements that went into effect when H.B. 1355 was signed.” #


The speedy implementation has spawned two lawsuits. The first, ultimately unsuccessful, challenge, by Miami-Dade County mayoral candidate Marcelo Llorente, sought to prevent the law from curtailing early voting in an election already underway. The second, filed Friday by the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, contends the law cannot be implemented until it has been approved by the Justice Department. #


Also last week, the Brennan Center for Justice sent Secretary of State Kurt Browning a letter warning that because the measure cannot take effect immediately in the five Florida counties subject to the Voting Rights Act, the state could be in violation of the statutory requirement that election laws be uniform across the state. #


“The issue really is: Should the law be foisted on everybody immediately?” said Jessica Lowe-Minor, executive director of the League of Women Voters, noting that previous laws regulating voter registration groups, which were successfully challenged in court, allowed a buffer period before the changes took effect, during which groups affected by the changes could voice their concerns and the federal government could analyze the changes. #


Browning’s explanation, or at least part of it, is that he’s trying to follow the new law as it’s worded and help supervisors of elections do the same, because, as the text of H.B. 1355 says, “Except as otherwise expressly provided in this act, this act shall take effect upon becoming a law.” See, for example, the explanations that accompany the emergency rule governing third-party voter registration groups: #

SUMMARY OF THE RULE: This emergency rule implements the statutory requirement for registration in an electronic format, adopts forms for use by organizations and supervisors of elections to account for an organization’s voter registration applications, and removes now outdated language from existing Rule 1S-2.042.   The emergency rule is necessary to ensure that third-party voter registration organizations and supervisors of elections are able to comply with a law that became effective on the Governor signing it into law. #


SPECIFIC REASONS FOR FINDING AN IMMEDIATE DANGER TO THE PUBLIC HEALTH, SAFETY AND WELFARE: Pursuant to section 120.54(4)(b), Florida Statutes, this emergency rule is a rule pertaining to the public health, safety, and welfare as it involves the interpretation and implementation of the requirements of chapters 97-102 and 105 of the Florida Election Code. #


REASONS FOR CONCLUDING THAT THE PROCEDURE IS FAIR UNDER THE CIRCUMSTANCES: The provisions of this emergency rule will ensure that organizations and supervisors of elections will be able to comply with the requirements of law. The Department of State has filed a notice of proposed rule development for Rule 1S-2.042 with the intent to incorporate the text of this emergency rule permanently. A workshop is scheduled for Rule 1S-2.042 on 28 June. #

Various groups are arguing on multiple fronts that the State Department’s effort to comply with the effective date of the new law could conflict with existing state and federal laws. How it all shakes out may ultimately be decided in court. #

Lawsuit against Scott, Browning asks court to block implementation of Florida election reforms

Posted on: June 6th, 2011 by The American Independent No Comments

The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida and Project Vote, a national voting rights group, filed suit in federal court Friday to challenge the implementation of Florida’s controversial new election law. #


The case is being brought on behalf of nine voters in the Florida counties covered under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, including two state lawmakers, against Gov. Rick Scott and Secretary of State Kurt Browning, the state’s top elections official. It asks a three-judge panel to block implementation of the law until it has been cleared by the U.S. Department of Justice. #


Browning is still preparing to submit the changes to the federal government. For the law to be approved, the state must show that the changes, which include new regulations on groups that register voters and on people who move to another county and try to change their address at the polls, will not discriminate against minorities. #


Estelle Rogers, an attorney with Project Vote, said the new requirements could make registration drives targeting minority communities “nearly impossible,” but that argument will wait until the Justice Department is ready to review the changes, which can take 60 days once they’re submitted. The current case simply argues that the law cannot be put into effect before it is approved. #


Democratic state Sen. Arthenia Joyner, who is a plaintiff in the case, said the law places “un-American” new restrictions on voting, and was enacted in haste and driven by a “rank partisan agenda.” #


Chris Cate, a spokesman for Browning, said that because the law took effect once it was signed by Scott, county supervisors of elections have to begin implementing the changes immediately in the 62 Florida counties not covered under Section 5, and that “the lawsuit wrongly suggests that it’s the secretary who is directing counties to implement the law. It is the law itself that is directing counties to implement the law.” #


Some provisions would take effect statewide, including one cited in the ACLU’s complaint (.pdf) that shortens the shelf-life of signatures gathered during ballot initiatives from four years to two. The Palm Beach Post notes that another provision limits the window for groups to challenge constitutional amendments proposed by the Legislature to 30 days after they’ve been received by the secretary of state, and that groups like the ACLU might be interested in challenging some of the seven constitutional amendments proposed by the Legislature this session. #


Cate also said that a 1998 legal memo issued by the Florida Division of Elections, which stated that new election rules could not take effect before they had been approved under the Voting Rights Act, does not apply to the new law because “the circumstances are different.” For one thing, in that case, Florida was in the middle of preparing for statewide elections. #


Still, as lawyers from the Brennan Center for Justice noted in a separate letter to Browning, the speedy implementation of an elections law that has not been approved by the Justice Department represents a departure from “longstanding Florida practice.” #


The question is whether the state can implement the law outside of the five counties covered under the Voting Rights Act, which ACLU lawyers said would violate a requirement in Florida law that election rules be uniform throughout the state. #


“We are confident that all 67 counties are correctly interpreting the law as it applies to them – with 5 counties awaiting preclearance and 62 counties already implementing the law,” Cate wrote in an email. #


Meanwhile, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports that U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, is looking to launch a congressional inquiry into a wave of new elections laws passed in Florida and other states. #