Showing posts with label Voting. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Voting. Show all posts

June 20, 2018

Kansas Sec Of State Kobach Looses Case on Requiring ID to Vote Judge Orders Him to Take Legal Classes

 Image result for kobacj to study judge orders

Kansas cannot require people to prove their U.S. citizenship before they can vote, a federal judge says, ruling that the state's election law is unconstitutional. The judge sharply criticized Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who has based much of his political career on worries about voter fraud.
Chief District Judge Julie A. Robinson sanctioned Kobach — who led President Trump's voter fraud commission — by ordering him to take a legal class on the rules of evidence or procedure. Kobach represented his office and was the lead attorney in the case.
The judge said Kobach failed to show there had been a "substantial number" of people who managed to register to vote in Kansas without being U.S. citizens.
Starting in 2013, people who wanted to vote in Kansas needed to produce documents proving their U.S. citizenship, such as a driver's license, birth certificate, naturalization papers, a passport.
Robinson said that law violated the National Voter Registration Act and the 14th Amendment, in a 118-page ruling that decided two consolidated cases.
Image result for kobacj to study judge ordersKansas had already required voters to be U.S. citizens — but before 2013, people were able to satisfy that rule by affirming their eligibility on their registration application.

Kobach was a driving force behind the change. The trial, which concluded in March, was his chance to show it was based on real concerns and would protect elections in Kansas from fraud. 
Heading into the trial, Kobach said that since 1999, his office had confirmed 127 cases of noncitizens who had either registered to vote or attempted to do so. Of that number, 43 had succeeded in registering and 11 had voted.
Those figures were just "the tip of the iceberg," Kobach had vowed. But after reviewing the state's evidence and hearing from its experts, Robinson concluded that "there is no iceberg; only an icicle, largely created by confusion and administrative error."
Robinson noted that Kansas is a state with some 1.8 million registered voters — and that the number of people in Kansas who aren't U.S. citizens who either registered to vote or tried to do so is 0.6 percent of the state's noncitizen population.
Based on the evidence, the judge ruled, Kansas' interests in preventing fraud, while legitimate, are "not strong enough to outweigh the tangible and quantifiable burden on eligible voter registration applicants in Kansas who were not registered to vote before January 1, 2013."
The new law also complicated the process for "motor voter" applicants, who might not have brought the proper citizenship documents when they applied for or renewed a drivers' license. Kansas drivers are required to provide proof of lawful presence when they apply for their first license.
As the judge wrote in her ruling, "Of the 30,732 applicants whose applications were, as of March 31, 2016, suspended or canceled due to failure to provide [documentation], approximately 75 percent were motor-voter applicants."
The American Civil Liberties Union led the legal challenge to the Kansas law.
"That law was based on a xenophobic lie that noncitizens are engaged in rampant election fraud," said Dale Ho, director of the ACLU's Voting Rights Project. "The court found that there is 'no credible evidence' for that falsehood, and correctly ruled that Kobach's documentary proof-of-citizenship requirement violates federal law and the U.S. Constitution."
During the trial, Kobach "denied allegations of voter suppression, and put experts on the stand to present polls and surveys that they say show almost all Kansans have easy access to documents like birth certificates," as Celia Llopis-Jepsen of the Kansas News Service reported for NPR.
The plaintiffs included the League of Women Voters of Kansas, which said it had struggled to help young voters register because of the new law. Some applicants were unable or unwilling to show their papers to a volunteer, the League said. Others balked at the time investment after the process went from taking less than five minutes to requiring a full hour.
The organization also said it was forced to halt nearly all of its operations so it could change its protocols. The main concern: that volunteers might somehow be found liable if they handled or copied applicants' citizenship documents and other records.
For instance, a voter registration drive at Washburn University yielded 400 voter applicants — but most were incomplete and, after weeks of effort, only around 75 voters were registered.
The evidence, Robinson wrote, backed up an expert's opinion that Kansas' law "disproportionately affects the young and those who are not politically affiliated."
Another issue: Before the League could help would-be voters to finish the registration process, it had to buy the "suspense list" from the secretary of state's office – something it did several times. It also purchased the full list of voters, to verify who was on it.
In sanctioning Kobach, the judge gave the secretary of state roughly one year to provide proof of the additional training, which would be part of the mandatory continuing legal education classes that many attorneys take to maintain their law licenses.
Robinson cited "a pattern and practice by [Kobach] of flaunting disclosure and discovery rules that are designed to prevent prejudice and surprise at trial. It's unclear, she said, whether he "repeatedly failed to meet his disclosure obligations intentionally or due to his unfamiliarity with the federal rules."
Kobach, we'll note, is a Harvard graduate who earned his law degree at Yale and was a law clerk at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit. He also taught constitutional law as a professor at the University of Missouri, Kansas City, according to his official biography.  
The ruling comes two months after the judge found Kobach in contempt of court for disobeying her order to allow some potentially ineligible voters to remain eligible to cast a ballot under a preliminary injunction.
Kobach is running for governor in Kansas' current election season, locked in a tight Republican primary race against incumbent Gov. Jeff Colyer — who rose to the office after former Gov. Sam Brownback won confirmation as the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom.


August 11, 2017

Australia's Gay Marriage Vote is Divisive and Some Ask if Civil Rights Should be Put to a Vote?

This Page is from the New York Times, posted as it appeared today:

A march in support of same-sex marriage in Sydney on Sunday. Polls show that the majority of Australians support legalization. CreditPeter Parks/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images 

SYDNEY, Australia — Polls show broad public support for same-sex marriage. Politicians say they’re determined to let the people have their say. So why are so many Australians who want the law changed unhappy with plans for a national vote on it?

The government this week called for an extraordinary mail-in vote on whether gay and lesbian couples should be allowed to marry, and now Australians will have 14 days to register for ballots. The voluntary postal vote, which is being challenged in the High Court, went forward after the Senate rejected opening the polls for a mandatory, in-person one, as is normally required for Australian elections.

Many supporters of same-sex marriage deride the postal vote as a costly, “irregular and unscientific” gauge of public opinion. It would not itself change the law, and it would not be binding on lawmakers. Parliament would still need to approve legalization, and there is nothing legally preventing lawmakers from doing so whenever they wish.

Advocates for same-sex marriage accuse Parliament, which is dominated by the right-leaning Liberal Party, of ducking its responsibility, exposing gays and lesbians to a potentially bruising political campaign for no good reason, and all at a cost of 122 million Australian dollars ($96 million).

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, under pressure from his Liberals’ right wing, insists that he is only following a pledge not to decide the issue without public comment. “We will not facilitate the introduction of a private members bill on this matter unless the Australian people have given their support through a ‘yes’ vote,” Mr. Turnbull said in Canberra on Thursday, referring to a proposal in Parliament that would legalize same-sex marriage. “We’re committed to every Australian having their say.” Ballots will be distributed to Australians who meet the registration deadline, Aug. 24.

Same-sex marriage is a highly politicized issue in the country, and experts said the postal vote was a highly unusual, perhaps unique, path for Australia to pursue. Prof. Paula Gerber, deputy director of the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law at Monash University in Melbourne, said she did not know of another country that had sought such an advisory vote.

Ireland, for example, became the first country to legalize same-sex marriage by popular vote in 2015, but that referendum was conducted in person and legally binding. The vote in Australia will be neither. Professor Gerber said she believed it showed how “out of step” the government was with the wishes of the Australian people, “because the public overwhelmingly in opinion polls support marriage equality.”

“Really, this plebiscite is no more than a glorified opinion poll — a 122-million-dollar opinion poll,” Professor Gerber said. 

The decision to let the Australian Bureau of Statistics handle the postal vote instead of the Australian Electoral Commission has also mystified some politicians, who say the bureau has never been asked to do anything like it.

When delegates gathered in Canberra in 1998 to debate whether Australia should refashion itself as a republic, some of those delegates were selected by mail. But a nationwide postal vote on an issue like this has no precedent, experts said, and that unfamiliarity is one reason supporters are wary.

It became clear on Thursday that proponents of change were starting to divide into two groups — one challenging the process, possibly boycotting it, and the other accepting the process and pushing for a “yes” vote.

“I think the less said about this irregular and unscientific polling, the better,” Michael Kirby, a former High Court judge, told Radio National, an arm of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. “I’m not going to take any part in it whatsoever. I think they should abandon it.”

Professor Gerber, at Monash, said the leader of the election campaign for same-sex marriage in Ireland came to Australia a few months ago and strongly discouraged holding a vote in Australia.

“He did talk about the damage that it did and the harm that was caused to the L.G.B.T.I. community through having such a public, vitriolic debate about whether they’re equal and worthy of being allowed to marry,” she said.

New York Times


August 10, 2017

Justice Dept. Wants to Purge Infrequent Voters off The Roles

This Administration is committed to going back to the 1940's in voting civil rights. If you want to know why they are doing this all you have to do is look at the voters it affects.

The Justice Department has thrown its weight behind Ohio in a high-profile legal fight over the state’s purging of infrequent voters from its election rolls, reversing the federal government’s position under the Obama administration that the practice was unlawful.

The move was the latest in a series of changes the department has made in how it enforces civil rights law under the Trump administration. The dispute centers on an aggressive practice used in Ohio, a crucial swing state in presidential elections, that removes voters who sit out three election cycles and fail to respond to a warning.

Last year, when the state sought to delete several hundred thousand registrations of infrequent voters ahead of the presidential election, civil-liberties groups filed a lawsuit against Ohio’s secretary of state, Jon Husted. After the Obama-era Justice Department filed a friend-of-the-court brief calling the purging practices unlawful, a federal appeals court ordered Ohio to let those people vote.

But, seeking to resume the practice in future elections, Ohio appealed to the Supreme Court. And late Monday, the Trump administration filed a brief arguing that the justices should reverse the appeals court and find that Ohio is within its rights to prune its voter rolls.

“After this court’s grant of review and the change in administrations, the department reconsidered the question” and has “now concluded” that Ohio’s purging practices are legal, the brief said. Justin Levitt, a professor at Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, who was a deputy in the Justice Department’s civil rights division under the Obama administration and worked on the Ohio case, said he disagreed with the new interpretation, while stressing that it was particularly extraordinary for “the solicitor general’s office to switch its own position on what the statute means” in the middle of the case.

“This is not merely a policy change,” he said. “It is a change by the office that has the role of the courts of deciding what the law says on behalf of the federal government. Every time the office of the solicitor general changes position, without an intervening change in the law, it damages its credibility a little bit.”

Lauren Ehrsam, a Justice Department spokeswoman, said the new position “was supported by the National Voter Registration Act’s text, context, and history,” and she stressed that a ruling allowing Ohio’s practice would not force other states to do likewise.

For years, Republicans have been trying to impose various new restrictions on voting and claiming that tighter limits on access to the ballot box are necessary to prevent voter fraud. Democrats — who note that there is no evidence of significant levels of voter impersonation fraud — maintain that the efforts are instead an attempt to suppress participation by groups of voters who may have disproportionate trouble complying with the hurdles.

After President Trump made his groundless claim that he lost the popular vote in the 2016 election to Hillary Clinton only because millions of illegal ballots were cast, the White House appointed a panel to investigate claims of fraud. In June, its vice chairman and day-to-day leader, Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state, asked officials in 50 states and the District of Columbia to voluntarily provide personal records about their voters but was met with a bipartisan rebuke and lawsuits.

The issue in the Ohio case centers on an ambiguous and convoluted set of statutory provisions created by the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 and the Help America Vote Act of 2002. They require states to keep voter rolls up to date by deleting the registrations of voters who move away but bar states from de-registering people simply because of voting inactivity. 

Under Ohio’s process, if registered voters have sat out elections for two years, the state mails warnings to their addresses. If the recipients then do not cast ballots in the next two federal elections or have some other contact with elections officials in that time, the state purges them from the rolls.

The Obama-era Justice Department argued that before sending the warning, the state should have “reliable evidence” that a voter may have moved — such as registering a forwarding address at the post office. It said starting the process simply because people failed to vote risked illegally purging voters “based purely on inactivity rather than actual ineligibility.”

But the Trump-era Justice Department argued that Congress wanted states to make sure voter registration rolls were up to date in order to curb the risk of fraud and that Ohio’s approach was a permissible means of doing that.

“Registrants are sent a notice because of that initial failure, but they are not removed unless they fail to respond and fail to vote for the additional period,” the new brief said.

Georgia uses a similar tactic for purging voter rolls, which is also the subject of litigation.

The new Supreme Court brief in the Ohio case was signed by Jeffrey B. Wall, the acting solicitor general, and John M. Gore, the acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s civil rights division. It was not signed by any career attorneys in the civil rights division, unlike last year’s brief with the appeals court.

Kristen Clarke, the president of the liberal Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, condemned the new position as an effort to obstruct voting rights that could open the door to “wide-scale unlawful purging.” She also called the reversal “just the latest example of an agency whose leadership has lost its moral compass.”

The civil rights division has been at the center of culture-war fighting in recent decades when Republican and Democratic administrations take over from each other. Under the Trump administration, it has taken steps this year that push the agency in a more conservative direction.

This year, the department switched its position in a lawsuit challenging Texas’ strict voter identification law, dropping the claim that the law was intentionally discriminatory and later declaring that the law had been fixed.

It has backed off using consent decrees to impose reforms on troubled police departments. It has urged an appeals court not to interpret the ban on sex-based discrimination in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as covering sexual orientation.

And it is now asking division lawyers to volunteer for a special project taking on affirmative action practices in college and university admissions that try to maintain diversity in student bodies. The department has said that project is looking at a complaint filed in 2015 by Harvard University on behalf of Asian-American applicants. 

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