Elections

CSG Midwest
Parts of a two-year-old Iowa law that require voters to show identification at the polls were upheld by a state District Court judge in September. Opponents of the 2017 law (HF 516) argued that the ID requirement suppressed voting by certain groups of citizens. Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate has said the law aims to “make it easy to vote, but hard to cheat.”

Chapter 6 of The Book of the States 2019 contains the following tables:

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is a group of United States federal laws specifying the annual budget and expenditures of the U.S. Department of Defense and was first passed in 1961. Currently, the government is going through its process to finalize the NDAA for 2020. In reviewing the current draft documents that make up the 2020 NDAA, The Council of State Governments (CSG) and its Overseas Voting Initiative (OVI), a collaboration between CSG and the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP), feels there is a missed opportunity to aid the nation’s military voters in casting their ballots while they are stationed away from their homes. Currently, there is no specific mention of the OVI Military Ballot Tracking Pilot in the NDAA documents. While the act is in conference committee, there is still a chance to ensure that the NDAA serves our overseas military citizens by implementing the Military Ballot Tracking Pilot program.

On May 1, 2019, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock signed Senate Bill 124 into law.  The bill allows military and overseas citizens with a Common Access Card, or CAC, to digitally sign their Federal Post Card Application for voter registration, to request an absentee ballot, or return a voted ballot.  A CAC is only issued after a thorough vetting by the U.S. Department of Defense and is only issued to members of the armed services, civilian employees of the DOD and DOD contractors.

On May 1, 2019, Gov. Steve Bullock signed Senate Bill 124 into law. Introduced by Sen. Dee Brown, SB 124 allows Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voter Act, or UOCAVA, voters to use a digital signature via Common Access Card, or CAC, during the registration and voting process. This bill will become effective on Oct. 1, 2019.

In Rucho v. Common Cause the Supreme Court held 5-4 that partisan gerrymandering claims are non-justiciable—meaning that a federal court cannot decide them.

Partisan gerrymandering is the practice of drawing legislative districts to benefit one political party. In Davis v. Bandemer (1986) a majority of the Supreme Court held that partisan gerrymandering cases are justiciable. In that case and since then the Court has been unable to lay out a standard for when partisan dominance “is too much.” In Rucho v. Common Cause the Supreme Court announced it will stop trying.

Chief Justice Roberts wrote the majority opinion which his conservative colleagues joined (Justices Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh). Unsurprisingly, the Court emphasized the role of state legislatures in districting:  “The Framers were aware of electoral districting problems and considered what to do about them. They settled on a characteristic approach, assigning the issue to the state legislatures, expressly checked and balanced by the Federal Congress.”

Chief Justice Roberts joined his more liberal colleagues (Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan) concluding the reasons Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross gave for adding the citizenship question to the 2020 census were pretextual in violation of the Administrative Procedures Act (APA).

Presumably, Secretary Ross will now be able to offer different reasons for why he wanted to add the citizenship question. If he chooses to do so those reasons may also be challenged in court as pretextual or discriminatory. If he chooses to offer no different reasons, presumably, the 2020 census for won’t contain a citizenship question.    

Does one branch of a state legislature have “standing” to litigate a redistricting case? Not unless state law says so the Supreme Court ruled.    

More technically, in Virginia House of Delegates v. Golden Bethune-Hill, the Supreme Court held 5-4 that the Virginia House of Delegates lacks standing to appeal a ruling striking down Virginia’s redistricting plan because Virginia law does not allow it to displace the Attorney General and it is only a single chamber of a bicameral legislature.

CSG Midwest

Turnout rates among younger voters jumped in 2018, though they still lag other age cohorts. States, meanwhile, have a mix of new laws and programs to encourage voting among young people and to remove potential obstacles. 

The U.S. Department of Defense’s Federal Voting Assistance Program, or FVAP, recently released a research note with in-depth analysis on election data collected from the states using a data standard crafted in conjunction with The Council of State Governments’ Overseas Voting Initiative working group. CSG and FVAP originally entered into a cooperative agreement, the Overseas Voting Initiative, or OVI, in 2013 that led to the current iteration of the agreement running through 2022. The initiative targeted data standardization as a primary focus to assist states in better reporting of military and overseas voters’ ballot transmissions.

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