State Net Capitol Journal Constitutional Rights Updates: Voting Law Challenges Create Uncertainty Ahead Of Midterms

State Net Capitol Journal Constitutional Rights Updates: Voting Law Challenges Create Uncertainty Ahead Of Midterms

Just months ahead of the midterm elections in November, court challenges to tough new voting laws in several states have thrown the electoral process into legal limbo. Nearly all of the laws — imposing strict photo ID requirements and restricting early voting — were passed since 2011 in Republican-dominated states.

The court rulings in the challenges to those laws have gone both ways. Laws have been upheld in Arizona, Kansas and Tennessee, for example. But elsewhere courts have rejected the new voting restrictions, most recently in Ohio, where a federal judge ordered the state's elections chief to restore early voting hours on the three days leading up to Election Day.

Laws are still awaiting legal action in seven states, including North Carolina and Texas. But some of the courts considering those laws have indicated they may issue rulings before Election Day.

Opponents of the laws are hopeful, after the decisions that have gone their way over the past six months in Arkansas, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, as well as Ohio, which legal experts attribute largely to the fact that the states defending the laws haven't been able to show proof of widespread in-person voter fraud.

"I think there has been an education process both for the public and in the courts," said Dale Ho, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Voting Rights Project, which is involved in the voting law cases in 11 states.

Richard L. Hasen, an election law expert at the University of California, Irvine, however, says the jury is still out on how all the voting rights cases will ultimately go.

"There have been a string of victories, but as to the ultimate balance, it's too early to tell," he said. "But at the moment the courts have been leaning more toward striking down some of these laws." (NEW YORK TIMES)

MO VOTERS TO WEIGH FIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS IN AUGUST: Five measures aimed at amending Missouri's Constitution will appear on the ballot in the state's primary election in August, according to Secretary of State Jason Kander (D). Among the more notable of those proposals is Amendment 1 — the "right to farm" amendment — which reads: Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to ensure that the right of Missouri citizens to engage in agricultural production and ranching practices shall not be infringed? Voters will also consider a local variation of the U.S. Constitution's 2nd Amendment. That proposal, Amendment 5, reads: Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to include a declaration that the right to keep and bear arms is an unalienable right and that the state government is obligated to uphold that right? (KANSAS CITY STAR)

POLITICS IN BRIEF: In MARYLAND, over 46,500 voters — 1.4 percent of the electorate — cast ballots in the first three days of early voting in the state's June 24 primary (BALTIMORE SUN). • The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati has agreed to hear five challenges to same-sex marriage laws from four states — KENTUCKY, OHIO, MICHIGAN and TENNESSEE — simultaneously in August. The court's consolidation order is unusual but not unheard of. The landmark 1954 U.S. Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education, for example, was a consolidation of five segregation cases (COURIER-JOURNAL [LOUISVILLE]).

— Compiled by KOREY CLARK

SOCIAL POLICY: The Obama administration announces the president will sign an executive order that would prohibit federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. The White House did not give a definite date for the order to be issued, saying it is still being drafted (POLITICO). • FLORIDA Gov. Rick Scott (R) signs HB 1047, which bans a doctor from performing an abortion once a fetus is considered viable, typically at 23 weeks of gestation (TAMPA BAY TIMES).

POTPOURRI: The United States Supreme Court rules that the federal government may strictly enforce a law that prohibits straw purchases of guns intended for someone else (NORTHJERSEY.COM).

— Compiled by RICH EHISEN

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