From ON THE DOCKET:
MICHIGAN: Court Keeps Michigan’s GOTV Restrictions on the Books
Priorities USA v. Nessel –
After several years of litigation, two of Michigan’s terrible, disenfranchising laws still stand. This week, a federal judge ruled that two Michigan voting restrictions do not violate federal law or the U.S. Constitution, a decision that stems from a lawsuit filed in November 2019.
- Michigan has a voter transportation ban that makes it a misdemeanor offense to “hire a motor vehicle” to transport voters to the polls unless they are “physically unable to walk.” Michigan is the only state in the country with a strict law that criminalizes transportation of voters, which often hinders get-out-the-vote campaigns. For example, in 2018, Uber and Lyft provided promotions to help voters in every other state to get to the polls, but Michiganders could not take part.
- The second challenged law similarly criminalizes efforts to help voters return their absentee ballot applications.
In today’s decision, the judge ruled that both the transportation and absentee ballot organizing and assistance bans do not violate the First Amendment, 14th Amendment or Section 208 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). Even though the plaintiffs asserted that there is no evidence that there has ever been widespread voter fraud or coercion in Michigan, the judge concluded that “the State’s interests in preserving the integrity of its elections” is more compelling than ensuring residents are not criminally prosecuted for helping individuals exercise their right to vote.
DELAWARE: “ New No-Excuse Mail-in Voting Law Struck Down
On Wednesday, a Delaware state court struck down a law that allowed any voter to request a mail-in ballot without an excuse and upheld the state’s same-day voter registration law. This decision comes out of two separate GOP lawsuits.
The Delaware Constitution is quite explicit in requiring voters to provide a justification to receive an absentee ballot. The judge seemed to recognize that fact in the face of the common-sense law that allowed anyone to vote by mail without an excuse. In the opinion, the judge noted that, if he was not bound to prior court decisions that determined the state constitution’s list of absentee reasons is exhaustive, he would have likely reached a different conclusion.
The law, Senate Bill 320, had made Delaware the 36th state to adopt no-excuse mail-in voting or hold all-mail elections. Now, voters are limited to certain excuses if they wish to vote absentee, though the judge acknowledged that, if this decision is appealed, the Delaware Supreme Court may be inclined to revisit past decisions regarding mail-in voting.”
FLORIDA: Omnibus Voter Suppression Law
On Thursday, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard an oral argument on Florida’s omnibus voter suppression law, Senate Bill 90. Back in March, a federal district court judge blocked three parts of S.B. 90 — the line-warming ban, drop box restrictions and a warning requirement for third-party voter registration organizations. The judge ruled that these provisions “specifically target Black voters” in violation of the VRA and 14th and 15th Amendments. In yesterday’s oral argument, the state’s Republican officials, along with the Republican National Committee and National Republican Senatatorial Committee, argued that the previously blocked provisions of S.B. 90 aren’t “intentionally discriminatory” in the hopes to keep the provisions alive. Find all of the court filings here and learn about the different challenged provisions here.
MISSOURI: Another Omnibus Election Law
September 16, a hearing will be held regarding a motion to expedite two lawsuits challenging Missouri’s new omnibus election law. Next week, a hearing will take place on whether to block the challenged provisions before the November election. Missouri’s new law flies under the radar compared to Florida’s, but the sweeping election overhaul reads like a fantasy novel for right-wing election conspiracists. Read a breakdown of the new law and the accompanying lawsuits here.
WISCONSIN: Elections Commission Woes
This week, the Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) withdrew its guidance that permitted clerks to add missing address information on absentee ballot witness certificates. The guidance change came a few months after Republicans filed a lawsuit arguing that the guidance violated state election law.
This may seem like a small detail, but the impact is big. According to a post-2020 state election review of a random, representative sample of absentee ballot certificates in 29 Wisconsin municipalities, 6.9% of the reviewed certificates had partial witness addresses, missing something like a municipality, state abbreviation or zip code. In a state with over three million voters, if around 7% of voters are disenfranchised without an opportunity to correct such a tiny mistake, it could be consequential.
Since clerks cannot fill in missing technical details now, it’s unclear what is considered an incomplete address on a witness certificate that would cause the ballot to be thrown out. If a certificate lacks a zip code or a street suffix, will the ballot be tossed?
The WEC is the body that manages elections in Wisconsin. The commission created pro-voting guidance in 2020 in the face of a global pandemic and rapidly changing election environment. In the year since, it has faced nonstop legal challenges from Republicans, the latest of which was filed Sept 15 by the Wisconsin Institute For Law and Liberty (WILL). The conservative group argues that WEC’s approval of a federal voter registration form provided by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission violates state law. This year alone, WILL has sued to end the use of a mobile voting van in Racine and successfully eradicated the use of drop boxes in the state.
ARIZONA: Breaking Down the Six Lawsuits Against Arizona’s H.B. 2492
For background on Arizona’s latest problematic law: The National Voter Registration Act of 1993 requires states to “accept and use” a uniform federal form to register voters for federal elections. The forms ask registrants to affirm, but not provide proof, that they are U.S. citizens. In 2004, Arizona voters approved a ballot measure that required election officials to reject any voter registration application not accompanied by proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate, passport or tribal ID. And in 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court held that Arizona’s proof of citizenship requirement did not apply to federal voter registration forms.
This brings us to March 2022, when Arizona Republicans passed House Bill 2492, requiring all voters to submit documentary proof of citizenship to vote in all elections. H.B. 2492 now requires election officials to verify the citizenship of voters who, since the 2013 ruling, have registered using federal forms without needing to provide documentary proof of citizenship or registered before 2004. Up to 200,000 Arizonans could have their voting rights stripped away, especially since it can be quite difficult to prove citizenship and millions of Americans lack the kind of proof the law requires.
Six lawsuits, including one by the U.S. Department of Justice, have been filed against the new law. Find them all here:
⚖️Mi Familia Vota v. Hobbs
⚖️Living United for Change in Arizona v. Hobbs
⚖️Poder Latinx v. Hobbs
⚖️United States v. Arizona
⚖️Democratic National Committee v. Hobbs
⚖️Arizona AANHPI for Equity Coalition v. Hobbs