On May 26, U.S. District Court Judge Gary Klausner (Los Angeles) revoked one of his own earlier rulings, on whether recall petitions need to be in languages other than English. Back on January 17, 2006, he had invalidated recall petitions in the city of Rosemead, California, because they had been printed only in English. 418 F Supp 2d 1174. But on May 26, he changed his mind and allowed the recall to go forward. His changed stance is due to the fact that an earlier 9th circuit opinion, also requiring other languages on recall petitions, is being reheard, and most observers expect that original ruling to be reversed as well.
On May 25, the California Supreme Court unanimously upheld the validity of Proposition 60, passed by the voters in November 2004. Proposition 60 added a single sentence to the California Constitution, and that single sentence appears to make it easier for small qualified parties to nominate candidates by write-in vote at their own primaries. The single sentence of Prop. 60 is “A political party that participated in a primary election for a partisan office has the right to participate in the general election for that office and shall not be denied the ability to place on the general election ballot the candidate who received, at the primary election, the highest vote among that party’s candidates.”
This constitutional provision seems to invalidate sec. 8605 of the California elections code, which won’t let any party nominate by write-in vote at its own primary unless the write-in candidate receives a number of write-ins equal to 1% of the vote for that office at the last general election. This law has kept all parties, other than the Democratic and Republican Parties, from nominating any candidates by write-in at its own primary, ever since 1968. The qualified minor parties simply don’t have enough members to meet the threshold, which is approximately 100,000 write-ins for statewide office, and 2,000 for U.S. House.
On May 25, the National Popular Vote organization had its bill concerning presidential electors introduced in New York. It is AB 11563. Similar bills will probably receive votes in the lower houses of the California and Louisiana legislatures during the first week in June. The National Popular Vote organization (www.nationalpopularvote.com) is coordinating these bills around the U.S. They would provide that states join a compact. When states containing a majority of electoral votes had joined, the compact would go into effect. Member states would only appoint presidential electors who are pledged to the presidential candidate who got the most popular votes nationwide.
On May 16, Lenora Fulani and her political allies filed a federal lawsuit against the state leaders of the New York Independence Party. Fulani v MacKay, s.d., 06-cv-3747. New York city is under the Pre-Clearance Requirements of the federal Voting Rights Act. The lawsuit justifiably claims that when the state Independence Party dissolved 3 county units of that party, that the action amounts to a change in a voting procedure that should have been submitted to the Justice Department before it was implemented. It is true that political party rules changes, in covered jurisdictions, are subject to the Voting Rights Act. A US Supreme Court case, Morse v Virginia Republican Party, 517 US 186, established that in 1996.
The Fulani lawsuit had one preliminary hearing on May 24 and will have a more substantive hearing on June 1. The case is before U.S. District Court Judge George Daniels, a Clinton appointee.
On May 23, the 4th circuit heard the Republican Party’s appeal in Miller v Brown. The issue is whether the party can exclude non-members from voting in Republican primaries. This is not easy, since Virginia doesn’t have registration by parties. The hearing went well for the Republican Party, on the procedural issue of whether the case is ripe for adjudication. Since the Republican Party’s rule won’t be applied until the 2007 state elections, the lower court had dismissed it on the grounds that it had been filed too early. The 4th circuit is likely to send it back to the U.S. District Court, with instructions to decide the main issue without further delay.
On May 24, the US Senate voted 49-48 to keep an amendment in the Immigration bill. The amendment would require the states to require photo ID for voting at the polls. However, shortly afterwards, the Senate invoked closure on the bill itself, 73-26. That later vote automatically defeated the voter photo ID amendment, and all other such “non-germane” amendments.