Catching Up: Updates on Some Recent Stories

catching-up

[Image via 1000awesomethings]

For someone who almost always closes his posts with “stay tuned,” I’m not as good as I’d like to be on followup.

To that end, there have been items in the news lately that update or close some recent storylines – and each of them, I think, deserves more than the usual “BLOG FOLLOWUP” on Twitter. Check them out:

Ohio gets OVR! Back in May, I wrote about how the Ohio House was finally poised to enact online voter registration, granting SoS Jon Husted a victory in his lengthy campaign for the law  – albeit not until 2017. Yesterday, that bill reached Gov. John Kasich’s desk – and he signed it. Vindy.com has the story:

Eligible voters will be able to complete their registrations online starting next year, under legislation signed into law by Gov. John Kasich today.

The governor added his signature to SB 63 without comment during a private ceremony at the Statehouse. Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted, an advocate of the move, and Sen. Frank LaRose (R-Copley), who sponsored the legislation, were among the invited guests on hand.

“Today is a great day for voters as we can now move forward with implementing one of the most valuable new tools we have in our efforts to make it easier to vote and harder to cheat,” Husted said in a released statement afterward. “Online voter registration is easy for voters, effective in fighting voter fraud and less costly than paper registrations alone.”

The legislation requires Husted’s office to establish and launch the secure, online registration system in January 2017.

Under the terms of the bill, applicants will have to provide their names, addresses, birth dates, the last four digits of their Social Security numbers and their driver’s license or state identification card number to complete the process.

Eligible residents already can update their voter registration information online. Voters could still opt to register using existing paper applications.

Republican and Democratic lawmakers have pursued online voter registration in recent sessions; the final version of the legislation postpones the effective date until after the November presidential election.

It’ll be interesting to see how quickly Ohio implements OVR; unlike other states, I suspect the state is as close to a turnkey OVR operation as you can be – with the only delay being the need to convince a skittish legislature it was OK to actually, you know, turn the key.

Kansas’ proof-of-citizenship law loses in court again but the state will appeal – again. The fight over Kansas’ requirement for voters to show proof-of-citizenship to register is at the federal 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, which last Friday denied SoS Kris Kobach’s request to stay a lower court order blocking the law. The AP has more:

Kansas cannot prevent thousands of eligible voters from casting ballots in the November federal election because they didn’t prove they were U.S. citizens when registering to vote at motor vehicle offices, a federal appeals court ruled Friday.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling temporarily upholds a court order that required Kansas to allow those individuals to vote in federal elections even though they didn’t provide citizenship documentation when applying or renewing their driver’s licenses, as required under Kansas law. The state has said as many as 50,000 people could be affected.

The appeals court judges said Kansas had not made the necessary showing for a stay pending appeal, but agreed to hear the appeal quickly.

The initial court order was made last month by U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson, who said enforcement of Kansas’ proof-of-citizenship law has disenfranchised more than 18,000 otherwise eligible voters. That amounts to about 8 percent of all voter registration applications, “not an insignificant amount,” she wrote in her ruling.

Robinson ordered the state to comply with her ruling by Tuesday.

The decision means that Robinson’s preliminary injunction will go into effect, and that means “tens of thousands of citizens who have had their voting rights denied would be put on the voter rolls,” said Micah Kubic, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas. “In any other state they would be on the voter rolls.”

Yesterday, the appeals court set expedited arguments in the case, with oral arguments set for late August. This one will almost certainly go down to the wire. [In other news, still no word from a federal court in DC on the case seeking to block the Election Assistance Commission’s changes to a federal form that listed Kansas’ challenged requirements, among others.]

Wicomico County backs down on using the library to store election equipment. A few weeks ago, I wrote about the looming battle in Maryland’s Wicomico County over plans to house election equipment at the county library. The plan was generating fierce opposition from friends of the library – and now the county executive is seeking different space. DelmarvaNow.com:

Wicomico County officials are actively seeking an alternate storage space for voting machines, in hopes of preventing a showdown with the county’s library trustees over an issue that has been brewing for months.

County Executive Bob Culver said he has made an offer for another space instead of using the lower level space at the Wicomico Public Library, and hopes to have an answer soon.

“I’m trying to accommodate the library,” he said. “That’s all I can say at this point”…

Library officials have refused to budge.

“My board has instructed me not to turn over keys or give access codes,” Berstler said.

Last month, Richard Keenan, chairman of the Library Board of Trustees, told  Culver that state law and library bylaws specify the library board has control of the library system.

Moral of the story: as tough as it is for election officials to get cooperation from schools, it would appear that you mess with librarians at your peril.

All three of these stories illuminate how conflicts between different players in the election administration process – executive vs. legislature, officials vs. advocates, different agencies of local government – can affect and shape election policy. They might move slowly (like my spirit animal up there) but they move nonetheless.

That’s why you can count on me to continue to … wait for it … stay tuned:)

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