Election law

  • August 1, 2014
    Guest Post

    by Estelle H. Rogers, Legislative Director, Project Vote

    Not long ago in these virtual “pages,” I opined that judges were beginning to “get it” -- to understand that the enticing but superficial reasonableness of requiring photo ID to vote is far from the whole story. Yesterday, we encountered several judges who don’t get it at all, and Wisconsin’s voters are the worse for it.

    League of Women Voters v. Walker and Milwaukee Branch of the NAACP v. Walker were split decisions in which majorities of the Wisconsin Supreme Court held the state’s strict photo ID law (”Act 23”) constitutional under the Wisconsin constitution, the same state constitution whose explicit right to vote provision led to contrary rulings by the trial courts in both cases.

    It is tempting at this point simply to quote extensively from the dissenters, among whom Shirley Abrahamson, the octogenarian Chief Justice of the court, stands out in her steadfast refusal to follow the majority’s tortured logic -- or rather, tortured conclusion.  It cannot really be called logic.

    In NAACP, for example, the court construed a state regulation – not even properly before it – that explicitly required certain documentary proof in order to receive the free ID.  Recognizing that obtaining those underlying documents may involve a fee, the court “saved” the regulation, and thus Act 23, by declaring that the need for underlying documents may be excused (though granting such an excuse rests in the discretion of state bureaucrats).  Therefore requiring photo ID does not constitute an undue burden.  Therefore it must be analyzed under a rational basis test.  Therefore as long as it is rationally related to a legitimate government interest, it is constitutional. 

    What is the legitimate government interest?  Prevention of fraud, of course.  Never mind that the one example of fraud advanced by the state in both cases was allegedly committed by a supporter of Governor Walker in his recall election, who has now been indicted on 13 felony counts of voter fraud for, inter alia, registering more than once, voting multiple times, voting where he didn’t live, and lying to election officials.  None of these offenses would have been prevented by the strict photo voter ID law at issue in the case, and indeed, all of them were discovered without such a law in effect.

  • May 20, 2014
     
    Amid some calls to step down from the bench, Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer have remained adamant that retirement is not in their near future. L.J. Zigerell at The Monkey Cage explains why Court watchers should not hold their breath.
     
    Yesterday, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a case involving the unfair firing of Robert J. MacLean, an air marshal for the Transportation Security Administration who was dismissed after releasing sensitive information to the media. Robert Barnes at The Washington Post  discusses the possible implications of the case.
     
    At the Brennan Center for Justice, Ciara Torres-Spelliscy follows the recent history of money and politics in New York as the state gets closer to meaningful campaign finance reform.
     
    Jason Mazzone at Balkinization notes his visit to the UK Supreme Court and describes the casually civilized courtroom environment.
     
    Writing for Demos, Devin Fergus examines racial inequality 60 years after the Supreme Court’s landmark decision Brown v. Board of Education.
  • April 22, 2014
    Today, the Supreme Court “upheld a Michigan voter initiative that banned racial preferences in admissions to the state’s public universities.” In a dissenting opinion, Justice Sonia Sotomayor stated that “the Constitution does not protect racial minorities from political defeat…but neither does it give the majority free rein to erect selective barriers against racial minorities.” Adam Liptak at The New York Times has the story.
     
    Earlier this morning, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus. The case deals with the issue of whether it can be a crime to falsify information about a candidate in a political campaign.  NPR’s Katie Barlow and Nina Totenberg break down this issue of free speech.
     
    Writing for The American Prospect, Virginia Eubanks explains why “Big Data might have disproportionate impacts on the poor, women, or racial and religious minorities.”
     
    David Gans at Balkinization responds to George Will’s column for The Washington Post , defending progressive’s constitutional interpretation which “does not force us to choose between liberty and democracy.”  
     
    At The Brennan Center for Justice, Walter Shapiro “[demystifies] the power of money in politics.” 
  • April 7, 2014
    As voters prepare to head to the polls this election season, many are concerned with how last year’s Supreme Court decision in Shelby County v. Holder will affect voter turnout. Carrie Johnson at NPR reports on an ACS-sponsored voting rights training in Atlanta that is working to prevent voter disenfranchisement. 
     
    Writing for The Daily Beast, Geoffrey R. Stone—former ACS Board Chair and current Co-Chair of the Board of Advisors for the ACS Chicago Lawyer Chapter as well as Co-Faculty Advisor for the University of Chicago Law School ACS Student Chapter—explains why the Supreme Court’s ruling in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission presents a  “dangerous misunderstanding of the First Amendment and why it exists.”
     
    When did the Supreme Court’s stance on campaign finance reform begin to change? For Kenneth Jost at Jost on Justice, the court began to “open its door to more money in politics” as soon as Justice Sandra Day O’Connor closed the door on her career in 2005.  In his analysis, Jost breaks down McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission and explains why it’s “no mere coincidence that O’Connor’s departure marks the court’s turning point on issues of campaign finance regulation.”
     
    Attorneys have filed a lawsuit to stop Texas’ expansive restrictions on abortion. Irin Carmon at MSNBC reports on the new challenge from abortion rights activists.
  • April 4, 2014

    Many believe that the Supreme Court’s decision in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission will further enable corruption through the use of “dark money.” Writing for The Washington Post, Heather K. Gerken, Wade Gibson and Webb Lyons discuss how the virtues of “disclosure and disclaimer provisions” could “direct campaign finance reform toward greater transparency.” In a related op-ed, Zephyr Teachout promotes “public-funding systems” and argues why “our candidates don’t have to be beggars at the feet of oligarchs.”
     
    Yesterday, the Senate Intelligence Committee voted to declassify a report examining the Central Intelligence Agency’s interrogation programs during the Bush administration. Burgess Everett and Josh Gerstein at Politico break down the report expected to reveal that “CIA interrogators went well beyond the highly permissive guidelines the Justice Department issued permitting tactics many view as torture.”
     
    Today marks the forty-sixth anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. At The Root, Peniel E. Joseph comments on Dr. King’s “last crusade against the poverty, racism and militarism that he saw as the triple threat to humanity.”
     
    Justice Sonia Sotomayor spoke with Der Spiegel about her legal career, women’s role within the court and her personal motto. You can see Justice Sotomayor and civil rights leader Theodore Shaw in conversation at the 2014 ACS National Convention.
     
    At The Life of the Law, Elizabeth Joh shares “what artists are showing us about surveillance and the law.”