Court hearing on ‘top two primary’ today

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

This is a Howard Fischer report, so take it for what it is worth. State judge not buying arguments by foes of open primary ballot measure:

A state judge on Friday questioned efforts of foes of an open primary system to keep it from ever going to voters.

The opponents contend that the proposed constitutional amendment illegally deals with too many disparate subjects. Attorney Mike Liburdi said that makes putting it on the November ballot improper.

Click here to find out more!

But during a hearing Friday, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Mark Brain suggested he was not buying all of Liburdi's arguments that the measure, if approved, would change too many unrelated things.

Brain also was skeptical of Liburdi's contention that a 100-word description of the measure, included on each petition, did not comply with legal requirements that it be solely a factual description of what would change if approved.

The attorney argued that proponents improperly used the description to convince people to sign. But Brain told Liburdi that under his interpretation of the law, there is no way anyone could accurately describe a ballot measure within 100 words.

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The measure initially was fought largely by Republicans who currently dominate Arizona politics. But on Friday, Brain agreed to a request to add two Democratic officials to the legal challenge.

Rep. Steve Gallardo of Phoenix said his concern is that the change could result in fewer Hispanics being elected.

Gallardo lives in a heavily Democratic and largely Hispanic district. And he said most Hispanics are registered as Democrats.

He said that pretty much ensures that the Democratic nominees will be either Hispanic or at least candidates that Hispanics think represent their interests. And given the Democratic registration edge in the district, that makes the Republican nominees pretty much irrelevant by the time the general election comes around.

Under this proposal, he said a single non-Hispanic candidate might face off in the primary against four Hispanics. Gallardo said if the Hispanics split the ethnic vote, that means only one might survive to reach the general election.

All that, however, is legally irrelevant to the court fight over whether the issue gets on the ballot in the first place.

The law according to Howard Fischer? Have you got a source besides your own opinion, Howie?

Update: Tea-Publican tyranny in Michigan – state Supreme Court orders emergency manager referendum on the ballot

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

It looks like asking the U.S. Department of Justice to intervene lit a fire under the Michigan Supreme Court. The court in a closely divided 4-3 decision ruled today that the petition drive met the requirements and should be certified for the November election ballot. Supreme Court: Emergency manager repeal must go on November ballot:

The Michigan Supreme ended a dispute over font size today when it ruled in a 4-3 opinion that the proposed repeal of the state’s emergency manager must be placed on the Nov. 6 ballot.

Justice Mary Beth Kelly, a nominee of the Republican Party, wrote the majority opinion. Her opinion strikes down an earlier opinion that found “substantial compliance” with petition details such as the size of the font used on the petition should not keep an otherwise valid voter petition off the ballot. Kelly’s opinion said the petition must fully comply with requirements such as font size, which are spelled out in Michigan law.

But in breaking with her fellow Republican nominees, Chief Justice Robert Young Jr. and Justices Stephen Markman and Brian Zahra, Kelly ruled that the Stand up for Democracy petition did comply fully, because type printed in a 14-point style will produce letters that measure smaller than 14-point.

“It is clear that the point size of all the required text refers to the size of the type and not the individual letters,” Kelly said in writing the majority opinion.

Three justices nominated by the Democrats, Michael Cavanagh, Marilyn Kelly and Diane Hathaway, did not agree with all of Justice Mary Beth Kelly’s reasoning, but voted with her to get the contentious question on the ballot.

The opinion ends a long legal fight and is a victory for opponents of the law toughened by Gov. Rick Snyder and the GOP-controlled Legislature in 2011.

The GOP war on voting: Jim Crow on trial in Pennsylvania

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

Closing arguments in the case of Jim Crow on trial in Pennsylvania began on Wednedsday. Lawyer: Pa. agrees, no evidence of fraud:

A lawyer for plaintiffs said the state's new voter identification law should be blocked from taking effect because as many as one million people lack proper identification and could be prevented from voting on Election Day, while a Commonwealth attorney said the law should stand because it places no special burdens on any class of people.

Vic Walczak, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, said not only will the law disenfranchise the petitioners that he represents, but the Commonwealth has agreed there is no evidence of in person voter fraud – the very basis on which the law was approved.

"There are registered voters who will be unable to vote under this law," said Walczak in his closing arguments on the final day of the weeklong hearing. "The Commonwealth has not assured us that every one of the petitioners can vote and that's the tip of the iceberg."

In testimony at trial, Witnesses say state isn't ready for voter ID rule:

PennDot offices throughout the state seem ill-equipped to handle the expected demands of voters seeking state-issued identification cards, according to witnesses Tuesday in Commonwealth Court.

In recent visits, the witnesses said they found long lines, short hours and misinformed clerks, all of which made obtaining voter identification cumbersome, and in some cases impossible, for those that don't have supporting documentation.

* * *

"There is a burden associated with this law and a burden on a fundamental right is unconstitutional," said Marian Schneider, a lawyer with the Advancement Project, a civil rights group.

Four other witnesses from across the state – all of whom already have PennDot issued licenses – went to driver's license centers at the behest of voters' rights groups seeking to determine the difficulty in obtaining IDs.

All reported roadblocks such as limited or no public transportation to PennDot offices; limited hours when authorized employees were available; and clerks who said there was a $13.50 charge for the IDs, which, in fact, are to be issued free.

Lawyers are seeking an injunction ahead of the Nov. 6 election when the law passed by the Republican-controlled legislature is to take effect.

Commonwealth Court Judge Robert E. Simpson said he would issue his ruling the week of Aug. 13. Both sides have said they will appeal the ruling to the state Supreme Court.

UPDATE: Closing arguments in the trial over Pennsylvania’s voter ID law wrapped up Thursday.

9th Circuit Court enjoins Arizona abortion law from taking effect today

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

A 9th Circuit Court of Appeals panel has issued an injunction against implementation of Arizona’s precedent-challenging “fetal pain” abortion ban, that was scheduled to take effect today. Appeals court blocks Arizona's 20-week abortion ban:

With the injunction in place, the restrictions in the Mother's Health and Safety Act (sic) cannot be enforced until the San Francisco-based appeals court hears the case, likely in late October or early November, and issues a ruling. A court decision could take weeks, if not months.

The law, which would make abortions illegal 20 weeks after a woman's last menstruation, is based on the concept of fetal pain. Arizona lawmakers this spring justified the abortion ban by citing evidence that they say proves fetuses feel pain at the 20th week after gestation.

The bill passed with strong Republican support, and Gov. Jan Brewer signed it into law, saying it "recognizes the precious life of the pre-born baby."

But the Center for Reproductive Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union sued on behalf of three abortion doctors in federal court, arguing the law is unconstitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court, they argued, has established that abortions are illegal at the point a fetus becomes viable. That is generally between the 22nd and 24th weeks of pregnancy, according to medical experts and abortion clinics.

On Monday, conservative activist U.S. District Court Judge James Teilborg upheld the law, triggering the request for a preliminary injunction. For those of you unfamiliar with Judge Teilborg, Molly Redden at The New Republic explains in Angry at the Arizona Abortion Ruling? Blame Democrats Too.:

At first blush, the players who facilitated the ruling—the uncompromising, rightwing governor who signed the bill; the ultra-conservative general assembly members who shepherded it to passage; and the recalcitrant judge, who was moved by his personal passions to defy well-established abortion law—exhibit a familiar scenario: Conservative dominance of the courts has, once again, thwarted a cherished Democratic objective.