Florida felon voting rights expansion put on hold
The on-again, off-again political rights of people released from prison in the nation's biggest purple state has been one of the most prominent democracy reform stories of the past two years. For now, they're off again.
A federal appeals court has put on hold a lower court's ruling that had opened up registration and voting to upwards of a million Florida felons.
The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday granted a request from Gov. Ron DeSantis to stay the trial judge's decision — which for a month stood as the year's biggest victory for voting rights — and have the entire appeals panel hear the case in August, bypassing the usual practice of starting with just three judges.
The partisan fight over how to maintain voter registration lists has delivered one victory for each side this week — both in Midwestern states central to the November election.
The top court in Wisconsin decided against fast-tracking a decision about removing from the rolls more than 100,000 people with potentially out of date registrations — a delay that benefits the cause of voting rights advocates. But in neighboring Michigan, a conservative group claimed victory and dropped its lawsuit against Detroit after the city took a group of dead people and duplicate names off the rolls.
The cases capture a debate that pitches those (mostly Democrats) who believe aggressive attempts to remove, or "purge," names from voter rolls are an attempt at voter suppression against those (mostly Republicans) who believe poorly maintained voter lists clogged with the names of the mortally or physically departed provide an opportunity for fraud.
At a time when the hard-to-find intersection of mailed ballots and election fraud has become one of President Trump's obsessions, 202 envelopes in a town clerk's vault in central Massachusetts may get an unexpected amount of attention.
The ballots were from a local election last week in Grafton, where the people appeared to decide — by just 98 votes — to raise municipal taxes by $4 million to improve schools and local services.
The potential consequences of what's inside the envelopes are as mathematically apparent as the recent presidential polling in many swing states. (Tax hike opponents would have to account for three of every four uncounted votes, a deficit tough but not impossible to reverse.) The reason the votes weren't counted are much less clear, providing only minimal support for a presidential outburst on Twitter.
Michigan's primary is a month away but more than 1.3 million people have already asked for mail-in ballots, three-and-a-half times the number four years ago. A million Michiganders already have their ballots in hand.
The numbers were detailed Wednesday by the office of Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. They suggest her decision to send absentee ballot applications to all registered voters statewide will assure solid turnout in the nominating contests, no matter the intensity of the coronavirus pandemic in August.
That could increase the likelihood everyone in the state is invited to vote remotely again come November, producing even more significant participation in the presidential election — when Michigan's 16 electoral votes are central to the strategies of both candidates.
Cracking down on the financial and personal transgressions of lawmakers is often labeled a prerequisite to making Capitol Hill, and with it all of democracy, work better. The cause got set back at the federal courthouse this week.
People may not be prosecuted for lying to the Office of Congressional Ethics, which the House created a dozen years ago to do much of the heavy lifting in policing member behavior, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals decided Tuesday.
The ruling is a setback that could hobble the pace of inquiries that often increase in election years, when political opponents and the media are paying heightened attention to what House members are doing away from the office. But the judges said the situation could be fixed by adding a few words to the federal law against obstruction of justice.
"If he perceives President Trump as a threat to fundamental democratic institutions, does Chief Justice John Roberts use the Supreme Court's power to protect those institutions? Or does he defer?" asks author Lawrence Goldstone.
John Chiang, former California treasurer and fall 2020 fellow at the USC Dornsife Center for the Political Future, joins co-directors Bob Shrum and Mike Murphy to discuss the pandemic's lasting economic impact on California and its implications for the November election and beyond.