Elections

CSG Midwest
Illinois schools must now grant a two-hour excused absence for students seeking to cast a ballot. Signed into law in January, SB 1970 is for “any student entitled to vote” in a primary or general election (either on Election Day or during the state’s early-voting period). The school can specify the hours that it will allow a student to be absent.

Presidential electors from Colorado and Washington State refused to vote for Hillary Clinton in 2016 even though she won the popular vote in their states. The question in Colorado Department of State v. Baca and Chiafalo v. Washington and is whether state law can make them. 

Colorado, Washington, and 46 other states and the District...

CSG Midwest
A new Ohio law is taking aim at what state election officials and legislators say is a growing threat — cyber attacks. Under SB 52, signed into law in October, an Ohio Cyber Reserve will be created as a division of the state National Guard. It will consist of cyber-security experts who can help deter and mitigate attacks. This force will work with local governments and businesses.

The state of Washington launched a new and modernized voter registration system this summer to enable citizens to register to vote, update their voter profile and review customized election information in a centralized system, while also supporting the needs of Washington’s local election officials. The system, known as VoteWA, is a one-stop-shop for all things election-related.

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.”

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