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If New Mexico Secretary of State Restores Straight-Ticket Without Legislative Authorization, Republican Party Plans to Sue
(from: Ballot Access News @ March 24, 2018, 12:25 PM)

This Albuquerque Journal has the latest on the New Mexico straight-ticket device controversy. There is no authorization in the New Mexico election code for a straight-ticket device. But the Democratic Secretary of State, Maggie Toulouse Oliver, insists she has the power to bring it back anyway. The article says she won’t do it without holding hearings first, and the article also quotes Republican Party officials as saying they will sue if the does authorize it. The article also quotes Rick Lass, who points out, correctly, that the device injures minor party and especially independent candidates.

West Virginia Governor Signs Two Significant Election Law Bills
(from: Ballot Access News @ March 24, 2018, 12:15 PM)

On March 21, West Virginia Governor Jim Justice signed HB 4002. It abolishes multi-member House of Delegates districts, starting with the redistricting that will take place after the 2020 census. Under the current districts, there are 20 districts that elect multiple members, including one district that elects five.

On March 22, he signed HB 4434. It bans members of qualified parties from petitioning as independent candidates. It would not apply to presidential or vice-presidential candidates unless they lived in West Virginia.

Wisconsin Legislative Leaders Plan to Reconvene Legislature to Change Laws on Special Elections
(from: Ballot Access News @ March 23, 2018, 09:13 PM)

Last week a Wisconsin state trial court ruled that Governor Scott Walker must schedule two special legislative elections soon. The two seats have been vacant since December 2017. On March 23, Republican leaders of the legislature said they will call the legislature back into session so as to revise the law concerning special elections, so as to avoid having such special elections. See this story.

Voting Rights Roundup: Washington Democrats pass broad expansion of voting rights
(from: Swing State Project @ March 23, 2018, 04:54 PM)

Leading Off

? Washington: On Monday, the state of Washington took great strides toward making voting easier, more accessible, and more equitable when Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee signed several bills into law to expand voting rights. These measures will take effect in 2019 and include automatic voter registration; allowing voters to register and cast a ballot on the same day, including on Election Day; letting 16- and 17-year-olds "pre-register" so that they?ll be automatically added to the voter rolls once they turn 18; and a bill known as the Washington Voting Rights Act, which is aimed at increasing Latino representation in local elections.?

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?Importantly, the automatic registration measure isn't just limited to those who obtain a driver's license or state ID card at the state Department of Licensing. Instead, it will also direct other state agencies to assess their ability to automatically register voters, and provide the state with a justification if they can?t. Assuming other agencies do start to provide automatic registration, that will greatly enhance the program?s reach.

Meanwhile, the Washington Voting Rights Act has long been a goal of civil rights activists. Following in the footsteps of California, this measure empowers county and municipal governments to switch from electing all of their officials at-large to electing them using individual districts. The law will also make it easier for cities to avoid costly federal voting rights lawsuits, while also allowing citizens to formally notify local governments about potential discriminatory election systems without having to resort to the courts.

Switching to districts-based elections will empower Latino voters especially, since many localities in agriculture-heavy eastern Washington in particular have large Latino minorities who can't elect their preferred candidates in at-large races where the white majority opposes them. A federal lawsuit forced the city Yakima to adopt districts a few years ago, leading to the election of its first-ever Latina city council member in 2015, and this sort of change could soon become widespread. Indeed, in the 10 counties in the state with the highest Latino populations, there are no Latino county commissioners at all.

Finally, the pre-registration law goes beyond offering it as an option for eligible teenagers. It requires high school social studies classes to establish voter registration events, and the state's chief education official will be required to disseminate registration materials for eligible students. These provisions are important because actively encouraging students to pre-register instead of just passively giving them the choice to do so will likely lead to increased participation.

These new laws were only possible because Democrats retook the majority in the state Senate in a pivotal 2017 special election, giving the party unified control over state government for the first time since Inslee became governor in 2013. Voting rights shouldn't be a partisan issue, but Republicans had blocked these measures from even getting a vote. Consequently, Washington's expansion of voting rights should serve as an example for what Democrats should pursue, both in the state governments they currently control and in any states where they gain power this November, since there's so much more that could be done to protect and expand the right to vote.

Raleigh Daily Newspaper Carries Libertarian Op-Ed Commenting on Partisan Makeup of State Elections Board
(from: Ballot Access News @ March 23, 2018, 03:32 PM)

The Raleigh News and Observer, the daily newspaper for North Carolina’s capital, has this commentary by Susan Hogarth, chair of the state Libertarian Party. It congratulates the Governor for having appointed the first member of the State Board of Elections in history who is neither a Republican nor a Democrat. But is says that more reform of the make-up of the board is needed.

After judge orders Scott Walker to hold special elections, GOP pushes law to overturn the ruling
(from: Swing State Project @ March 23, 2018, 02:47 PM)

On Thursday, a state court judge in Wisconsin ordered Republican Gov. Scott Walker to promptly call special elections for two legislative seats that he'd let lie vacant since December, which would've deprived those voters of representation for nearly a year. But those special elections still might not take place: Even though the judge in question, Dane County Circuit Judge Josann Reynolds, was a Walker appointee, Republicans in the legislature reacted to her decision with terrifying anti-democratic furor the following day, with state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald saying he?ll advance legislation to overturn Reynolds?s ruling.

Fitzgerald did not stop there. He demanded that the chief justice of the state Supreme Court discipline Reynolds for ?politicizing? her ruling and called Reynolds?s judicial district, which is anchored by the state capital of Madison, a ?laughingstock.? In a final Orwellian twist, Fitzgerald declared, ?Nobody?s trying to slow down or halt anything related to an election,? which is exactly what he?s trying to do.

That?s because Wisconsin Republicans are fearful of more special election losses, after an upset Democratic victory in January for a heavily Republican state Senate seat. Walker had refused to call special elections for these two vacant seats (one in the Senate and one in the Assembly) for no other reason. That reduced Walker to making patently ridiculous arguments in court, and Reynolds took him to task for blatantly ignoring the law.

But, it seems, if Republicans don't like the law, they?ll simply change it. Absurdly, Fitzgerald is arguing that Reynolds?s ruling would lead to ?chaos,? even though officials had no trouble at all administering that January special election. Instead, Fitzgerald would prefer to leave these two districts without representatives?in the very same legislature he presides over?until November. And this is part of a broader GOP pattern. After last year?s special election for the U.S. Senate didn?t go their way, Alabama Republicans decided the best idea was to stop holding special elections altogether. Now Wisconsin Republicans want to do the same thing.

South Dakota Governor Signs Bill that Improves Ballot Access for Small Qualified Parties
(from: Ballot Access News @ March 23, 2018, 02:20 PM)

On March 23, South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard signed HB 1286. It permits qualified parties that have registration under 2.5% of the state total to nominate all their candidates in conventions in the summer. It also reduces the petition requirement for newly-qualifying parties from 2.5% of the last gubernatorial vote, to 1%. And it moves the deadline for such a petition from March to July.

This bill represents the most significant improvement in any state’s ballot access laws since 2017, when North Carolina made a huge improvement. Thanks to Aaron Aylward for the news of the bill’s signing.

Zell Miller, the father of Georgia's HOPE scholarship and a loud critic of Democrats, dies at 86
(from: Swing State Project @ March 23, 2018, 02:11 PM)

Zell Miller, a Democrat and former governor and senator of Georgia who helped create the state's HOPE scholarship and spent the final years of his life as a loud advocate for Republicans, died Friday at the age of 86.

Miller, who grew up in the small community of Young Harris in rural northeast Georgia, became mayor in 1959 at the age of 27 after a stint in the Marines. Miller, who was also working as a professor at Young Harris College, won a seat in the state Senate the next year as a Democrat. He notably did oppose a school segregation bill from the floor of the chamber during his first year in office, but he was far from a supporter of civil rights at that early point in his career.

Miller challenged six-term Rep. Phillip Landrum in the primary in 1964 for a seat in the northeast corner of the state. While Landrum was a staunch segregationist, Miller argued during that campaign that President Lyndon Johnson was "a Southerner who sold his birthright for a mess of dark pottage," comments he would later disavow. Miller lost 52-43, and he lost his 1966 rematch to Landrum 54-40.

Miller soon landed on his feet and rose to become chief of staff to Gov. Lester Maddox. While the governor was a notorious segregationist, observers credited Miller for being a moderating influence on him. Jimmy Carter, Maddox's successor and longtime rival, also appointed Miller to the state Pardons and Paroles board. Miller ran for lieutenant governor in 1974 and defeated, among many others, his future Senate colleague Max Cleland in the primary. Miller would go on to spend 16 years in the office, the longest anyone ever held that post.

However, Miller tried to leave it in 1980 when he challenged four-term Sen. Herman Talmadge in the primary. Talmadge, a longtime Georgia institution and the chair of the powerful Agriculture Committee, was facing a number of ethics problems (he had been denounced by the Senate for "gross neglect of his duty"), he had also gone through a messy divorce, and there were reports of widespread drinking. Polls initially showed Talmadge trailing Miller by as much as 17 points, and the incumbent only took 42 percent of the vote to Miller's 24 in the first round. Miller, who had the support of prominent black politicians as well as organized labor, argued the incumbent was dishonest and an embarrassment.

Washington State Asks Ninth Circuit to Overturn Rocky De La Fuente Win on Petition Procedure
(from: Ballot Access News @ March 23, 2018, 01:44 PM)

Last month a U.S. District Court invalidated a Washington state law that requires independent and minor party presidential candidates to run a notice in newspapers at least a week before beginning to petition. The newspaper notices must say where the petitioning will be carried out.

The state has filed a notice of appeal to the Ninth Circuit. De La Fuente v Wyman, 18-35208.

Michigan Governor Files Final Brief in Case Over Special Election to Fill Congressional Vacancy
(from: Ballot Access News @ March 23, 2018, 01:38 PM)

The Michigan U.S. House seat, 13th district, has been vacant since December 2017, when Congressman John Conyers resigned. A federal lawsuit is underway over whether the Constitution requires a special election before November 6, 2018. The final round of briefs has just been filed. Here is the eight-page brief from the state government. It says the voters of the 13th district would be harmed if a special election were held earlier than November.

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