News. Debate. Community. Levers for a better democracy.

Suit to preserve voting by N.H. college students moves ahead

Allegations that New Hampshire's new voter registration law discriminates against out-of-state college students has survived the first round in federal court.

And the judge signaled he'll push toward a final ruling before the state's first-in-the-nation Democratic presidential primary in February, when turnout by young people could prove decisive.

The lawsuit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of two Dartmouth students, one from Louisiana and one from California, who want to keep their home state driver's licenses but vote on campus next year.

Under a state law that took effect last month, however, such students must pay to get New Hampshire licenses and register their cars in the state at least two months before they can go to the polls. Its Republican authors say their aim is to prevent fraud. But the plaintiffs, now including the state Democratic Party, describe the requirement as a de facto poll tax created to disenfranchise thousands of liberally-leaning younger votes in a tossup state.

U.S District Judge Joseph LaPlante signaled he was inclined to buy that argument. "What does this law really do except make some people discouraged from voting?" he asked rhetorically at a hearing this week.

An attorney for the state told the judge as many as 5,000 people would be subject to the new requirements. Hillary Clinton carried the state three years ago by 2,700 votes, the second-narrowest presidential margin in the country. And the state's most recent Senate race, also in 2016, was the tightest in the country that year; Democrat Maggie Hassan won by 1,017 votes.

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Open Government
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FEC Chairwoman Ellen Weintraub

The struggle is real: FEC stalled on regulations for online political ads

The Federal Election Commission has once again punted on establishing rules for identifying who is sponsoring online political advertisements. Thursday marked the fourth consecutive meeting in which the topic fell to the wayside without a clear path forward.

FEC Chairwoman Ellen Weintraub revived debate on the topic in June when she introduced a proposal on how to regulate online political ads. In her proposal, she said the growing threat of misinformation meant that requiring transparency for political ads was "a small but necessary step."

Vice Chairman Matthew Petersen and Commissioner Caroline Hunter put forth their own proposal soon after Weintraub, but the commissioners have failed to find any middle ground. At Thursday's meeting, a decision on the agenda item was pushed off to a later date.

Weintraub's proposal says the funding source should be clearly visible on the face of the ad, with some allowance for abbreviations. But Petersen and Hunter want to allow more flexibility for tiny ads that cannot accommodate these disclaimers due to space.

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Open Government
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California's Supreme Court is expediting President Trump's challenge to a new state law that would require him to release five years of tax returns in order to get on the state ballot for the 2020 election.

California court expedites Trump challenge to new tax returns requirement

The California Supreme Court is fast-tracking its review of a challenge to a new law that would require President Trump to make public his tax returns in order to get on the state's ballot for the 2020 election.

A lawsuit seeking to block implementation of the law was filed August 6 by the California Republican Party against Secretary of State Alex Padilla. It claims the law violates California's constitution.

Two other challenges, one filed by Trump's personal lawyers, are pending in federal court.

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