California Legislature Passes Bill Moving Primaries to March

On early Saturday morning, September 16, the Senate concurred in the Assembly amendments to SB 568, the bill that moves all primaries from June to March. The bill now goes to Governor Jerry Brown, who has until October 15 to sign or veto it.

The final votes were: September 16 vote in the Senate, 26-10. September 15 vote in the Assembly, 55-21.

The only other time that a midterm California primary was earlier than June was 2002, when it was in early March. The 2002 California primary had the lowest turnout of any California primary in history, up until that point. Only 34.6% of the registered voters cast a ballot. The 2002 primary was a semi-closed primary.

Afterwards, though, California midterm primary declined even more. It was only 25.2% in 2014, the first and only midterm year under the top-two system.

Seventh Circuit Hears Arguments in Case on Whether U.S. Citizens who Formerly Lived in Illinois, and Moved to a U.S. Territory, Should be Allowed to Vote

Federal law provides that U.S. citizens who leave the United States for a foreign country are permitted to continue voting absentee. But, if they move to Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, or Guam, they lose their right to vote.

Oddly enough, though, if such U.S. citzens move to the Northern Mariana Islands, which is also a U.S. possession, they may continue to vote.

On September 15, the Seventh Circuit heard arguments in Segovia v USA, 16-4240. The plaintiffs are U.S. citizens who formerly lived in Illinois and then moved to either Puerto Rico, Guam, or the U.S. Virgin Islands. They challenge their inability to vote. They argue that because similarly-situated persons who move to the Northern Marianas are permitted to vote, they are being denied equal protection. See this story about the hearing. The three judges are Daniel Manion (a Reagan appointee), Ilana Rovner (a Bush Sr. appointee), and David Hamilton (an Obama appointee).

Here is a link to the oral argument.

U.S. District Court Hears Arguments in Philadelphia Special Election Case Filed by Green and Republican Parties

On September 13, U.S. District Court Judge Joel Slomsky heard arguments in Little v Vasquez, the case filed by the Green and Republican Party nominees for State House in the special election in the 197th district in February 2017. See this story, describing the hearing. This is the special election in Philadelphia in which the only candidate on the ballot was the Republican, Lucinda Little. The Green Party nominee, Cheri Honkala, and the Democratic nominee were both write-in candidates. The Democrat won, but the other two candidates then filed this lawsuit in April, alleging that the election should be overturned because so many illegal acts occurred on election day. Polling place officials allegedly actively pushed voters to cast a write-in for the Democratic nominee.

UPDATE: see this story also. The judge will decide in six weeks whether the case can move to a trial.

California Assembly Passes Bill Changing Primary Date in All Years from June to March

On the evening of September 15, the California Assembly passed SB 568, which moves the primary date from June to March. The bill applies to all primaries, midterm and presidential alike, starting after 2018.

The bill still must get a vote in the Senate, because the versions in the two houses aren’t identical. That is expected later in the evening of September 15.

Lawrence Lessig Plans Lawsuit Against Electoral College, but Courts Have Repeatedly Rejected Such Lawsuits in the Past

Law Professor Lawrence Lessig is raising money for a proposed lawsuit against the electoral college system for electing the president. He writes “In a democracy, all votes should count equally. In our democracy, when voting for the president, they do not.” Here is an article he wrote for Daily Beast. His goal is to raise $250,000.

Federal and state courts have faced somewhat similar lawsuits in the past, and they have always lost, even in the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1966, the state of Delaware filed a request directly with the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the system, but the Court refused to hear it. Delaware v New York, 385 U.S. 895.

In 1967, some Mississippi voters sued to overturn Mississippi’s practice of choosing all presidential electors at-large, but they lost in a 3-judge U.S. District Court. Penton v Humphrey, 264 F.Supp.250.

In 1968, some Virginia voters challenged Virginia’s law that provides all the state’s electors should be elected at-large. Williams v Virginia State Board of Elections, 288 F.Supp.622 (1968). The three-judge court upheld the system. The U.S. Supreme Court then summarily affirmed that decision, 393 U.S. 320 (1969).

In 1978, some Alabama voters filed a similar challenge, but they lost in U.S. District Court and the Fifth Circuit, and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case. Hitson v Baggett, 446 F.Supp. 674; 580 F.2d 1051; 439 U.S. 1129.

In 1980, some Louisiana voters filed a similar challenge in state court, but lost. Lowe v Treen, La.App., 393 So. 2d 459 (1980).

The problem faced by such lawsuits is Article II, section one, which says, “Each state shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress.” That provision is very specific, and thus it overrides the general language in the Fourteenth Amendment for equal protection.