A large number of interesting pieces on yesterday’s Supreme Court decision on Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Here’s a few interesting ones: Washington Post The Hill NYTimes Washington Times While the majority of the Supreme Court did not rule on the constitutionality of Section 5, it did open the door to more political entities having the ability to seek to opt out of the preclearance review. Right now, in Florida, all government entities in Collier, Hardee, Hendry, Hillsborough, and Monroe Counties are subject to having any election procedure changes precleared by the Justice Dept. or the courts, including such things as polling site changes. This also causes all statewide election procedure changes to need preclearance as well. The practical effect of this ruling, however, is probably small as the cost and political ramifications of filing such an action in federal court in D.C. to request an opt out is probably beyond most local governments. In his dissent, Justice Thomas argued that this preclearance requirement has succeeded and therefore now lacks a constitutional basis for its continued existence. The rest of the Court were not willing to go down that path yet, but it will interesting to see if any changes to the VRA are looked at in Congress over the next year to deal with the concerns the Court raised.
The U.S. Supreme Court has released its much awaited opinion regarding Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, apparently side-stepping the question of whether Section 5 is constitutional. I’m still looking at it, but wanted to make the link available.
- Expressly providing that the Florida Election Code preempts any local provision regarding elections unless otherwise specifically provided by law.
- A substantial revision to third party voter registration organization requirements.
- The removal of retirement center identification and neighborhood association identification from the list of identifications that may be used at the polls or by certain first time voters.
- Prohibiting persons or groups from soliciting voters within 100 feet of the line in which voters are standing to enter a polling place or early voting site. Authorizing leadership funds.
- Requiring marksense ballots to be printed by precinct.
- Allowing an overseas voter to request, receive, or return an absentee ballot or ballot materials by electronic transmission, including e-mail or fax, if the Department of State can establish the security of the transmission.
- Revising the times when the Election Canvassing Commission must meet to certify an election to 9 a.m. on the 9th day after a primary election and 9 a.m. on the 14th day after a general election. Requiring supervisors of elections to be elected on a non-partisan basis.
- Provisions regulating paid petition circulators, including registration and the invalidation of petitions not in compliance with the act as well as offering a voter another opportunity to sign a petition to replace the one that is invalidated.
Whatever you think of the other proposed changes (and there are many articles regarding that, including a potential veto), the preemption of local authority to the state jumps out as an issue not mentioned in most articles. The past election cycle included several disputes between state and county officials regarding election law interpretation and this proposal appears to be an attempt to move away from local control. I’ve also not seen any discussion of whether the U.S. Dept. of Justice would preclear these kind of changes – although preclearance under the Voting Rights Act is itself presently under review by the U.S. Supreme Court.
I contributed a chapter to the American Bar Association to the America Votes! Supplement – just published today.