States Continue to Restrict and Expand Opportunities to Vote

States Continue to Restrict and Expand Opportunities to Vote

AZ SWITCHING TO TWO-TRACK VOTING SYSTEM: Arizona could have a dual-track voting system requiring the use of two different ballots in next year's elections, as a result of an opinion issued last week by the state's attorney general, Tom Horne.

Under the new system, only those voters who registered using state forms and showed proof of U.S. citizenship would be allowed to vote in federal, state and local elections, while those who registered using federal forms, which do not require proof of citizenship, would only be allowed to vote in federal contests. The change would potentially affect 900 people and cost an additional $250,000 in Maricopa County alone.

Horne issued his opinion in response to questions posed by Secretary of State Ken Bennett following the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in June striking down parts of an Arizona voter registration law demanding proof of citizenship from people who register using the federal form but upholding the state's 2004 voter mandate requiring proof of citizenship from those using the state form.

"Arizona law does not preclude using one form of ballots for federal offices only and another form for all state offices and measures," Horne's opinion states.

Critics said the opinion was politically motivated.

"It's part of the war on voters," said Sam Wercinski, executive director of the Arizona Advocacy Network. "They're trying to roll this back because of our Supreme Court victory in June."

But Bennett said it was the only way to satisfy both the voter mandate and federal law.

"It's not the preferential way to do this," but it's the best solution elections officials came up with, he said. (AZCENTRAL.COM)

POLITICS IN BRIEF: The names of thousands of VIRGINIA voters believed to have moved to other states have been stricken from the state's voter rolls 10 weeks ahead of the Nov. 5 election for governor, the House of Delegates and city offices. The state Democratic Party has filed a lawsuit alleging that list is full of errors (VIRGINIAN-PILOT [NORFOLK]). • MASSACHUSSETTS lawmakers assembled in a brief constitutional convention proposed an amendment that would allow registered voters to cast ballots at polling places in the 10 days leading up to an election and allow any voter to request an absentee ballot (BOSTON GLOBE).

— Compiled by KOREY CLARK

BROWN SIGNS CONTROVERSIAL ABORTION BILL: California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) has signed off on a controversial measure that allows certain non-physician medical personnel to perform early trimester abortions. The measure, AB 154, allows nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives and physician assistants with specific training to perform what are known as aspiration abortions during a woman's first trimester of pregnancy. The Golden State becomes the fifth, after Oregon, Montana, Vermont and New Hampshire, to allow those medical professionals to perform the procedure.

The measure drew strong opposition from conservative lawmakers and the Catholic Church. In a statement, the California Catholic Conference said the bill would create a two-tiered health system that relegated poor women to lesser quality care than wealthier women would receive.

"The often repeated mantra of those supporting (abortion) rights is that abortions ought to be safe, legal and rare," said Conference president Rev. Gerald Wilkerson. "With this change in California's law, abortions are merely legal — no longer safe and rare. We pray for the day when abortion is no longer legal."

But the bill's author, Assemblyman Tom Atkins (D), disagreed. In a statement of his own, Atkins said the measure would ensure greater access to care for all women, particularly in rural or other medically underserved areas.

"Timely access to reproductive health services is critical to women's health," he said. "AB 154 will ensure that no woman has to travel excessively long distances or wait for long periods in order to obtain an early abortion."

The measure was one of many related to women's health Brown signed last week. Others include: AB 1308, which allows licensed midwives to handle normal childbirth cases without the supervision of a physician, and AB 980, which orders state building regulators to change rules that treat primary care clinics differently depending on whether the clinics provide abortion services.

Brown also signed a number of bills addressing the state's tricky water issues, including AB 118, which allows funding to repair water systems in severely disadvantaged areas to come as a state grant rather than a loan, and SB 322, which requires the state by 2017 to investigate the feasibility of developing uniform standards to recycle sewage wastewater into drinking water.

Brown also signed 10 immigration-related bills, including a highly-charged measure (AB 60) to allow undocumented immigrants to obtain California driver's licenses. He also endorsed AB 131, which allows undocumented students to apply for government-subsidized college loans and grants; AB 1024, which allows unauthorized immigrants who pass the bar exam to practice law in the Golden State; SB 666, which allows the state to suspend or revoke an employer's business license for retaliation against employees and others on the basis of citizenship and immigration status; and AB 4, which prohibits police from detaining someone on the basis of a United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) hold after they become eligible for release from custody. The law does allow detention under certain conditions, such as when the person in question has been convicted of a felony crime.

Note — Brown had until Sunday Oct. 13 to sign or veto hundreds of bills. SNCJ will report on the key remaining measures in our Oct. 21 issue. (CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR'S OFICE, STATE NET, SACRAMENTO BEE, ASSOCIATED PRESS, SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE, CALIFORNIA CATHOLIC CONFERENCE)

CORBETT WANTS OUT OF GAY MARRIAGE SUIT: Just days after Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R) apologized for comparing same-sex marriage to incest, his legal team has asked for him to be removed as a defendant in a lawsuit seeking to overturn the state's law barring same-sex nuptials. In a legal brief filed last week, his attorneys asked that Corbett and Health Secretary Michael Wolf be dropped from the case, saying the U.S. Constitution provides state officials immunity from being sued in federal court without their consent. The governor's legal team also cited a 1972 Supreme Court ruling that says the federal courts lack jurisdiction over state marriage laws.

State Attorney General Kathleen Kane (D), who is also named as a defendant, filed a separate request for relief, arguing that she should not be a defendant because she is not enforcing the law. Because of her refusal, Gov. Corbett is using a private legal team to litigate the case.

Two county officials are also named in the suit, which was filed in July on behalf of 10 same-sex couples, two children and a single woman. The Keystone State is one of 19 states where gay rights activists are suing to legalize same-sex marriage. (WASHINGTON TIMES, WISCONSIN GAZETTE [MILWAUKEE], PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, PATRIOT-NEWS [HARRISBURG])

POTPOURRI: A federal court strikes down an ARIZONA law that makes street begging illegal in the Grand Canyon State. U.S. District Judge Neil Wake said the law violates the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment (ARIZONA DAILY STAR [TUCSON]).

— Compiled by RICH EHISEN

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