The Volokh Conspiracy
Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent
This past Friday, three separate federal courts released significant election law decisions. As is usual for this sort of thing, Rick Hasen was quick with details and analysis at the Election Law Blog. Here's a quick rundown:
First, and perhaps most significantly, a partially divided panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit invalidated a 2013 North Carolina law that required voter ID and limited early voting, based on evidence that the law was designed to reduce African American voter turnout. The finding of racially discriminatory intent (as opposed to partisan intent that has a disproportionate impact on identifiable racial groups) makes it hard to defend reforms that might otherwise have been upheld. Here are the opinion and Hasen's analysis. Here's a response from GOP leaders in North Carolina pledging to challenge the decision all the way to the Supreme Court, and here's Hasen's explanation of why that's unlikely to succeed.
Second, a federal district court held that similar voting reforms in Wisconsin were unconstitutional. Among other things, this law would have prohibited the use of university student IDs as valid identification for voting. Here are the opinion and Hasen's analysis. As Hasen notes, there's another Wisconsin voter ID case that's already before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, leading to the possibility the two cases could be consolidated.
If that weren't enough to keep election-law types busy on a Friday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit rejected the Libertarian Party's challenge to Ohio's ballot access rules for a second time. Here's the opinion.
But wait, there's more!
A state court in Kansas struck down a state law requiring proof of citizenship to vote in state and local elections, but not in federal elections. This measure was deemed to create an unlawful "dual voting system."
Finally, in a non-election-law case with implications for politics, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit rejected former senator Bob Menendez's challenge to his indictment. Menendez had argued that prosecution was barred under the Speech and Debate clause, but the 3rd Circuit wasn't buying it. Here are the opinion and Hasen's brief analysis. (He seemed to be busy with a few other things on Friday.)