Tag Archives: vote

Filibuster Changes

I heard about this vote a while back and it will be interesting to see how it plays out.  You hear about this all the time.  The majority party (regardless of whether they are Democrat or Republican) wants to change filibuster rules.

This year the number of bills passed has been the lowest since Congress was formed.  NBC calls it “Do-Nothing” Congress. USA Today describes the 2011-12 period as the “least productive year on record” and 2013 as being on track as the “least productive single year in modern history.”

The question is then, do we need filibuster reform?  The answer is yes.  To what extent?  This is heavily contested.

The Senate approved the most fundamental alteration of its rules by ending the minority’s party ability to filibuster most presidential nominees in response to the partisan gridlock that has plagued Congress.  (NY Times article).

Under the change, the Senate will be able to cut off debate on executive and judicial branch nominees with a simple majority rather than rounding up a supermajority of 60 votes.  This does not apply to all nominees, such as Supreme Court nominees.

via In Landmark Vote, Senate Limits Use of the Filibuster – NYTimes.com.

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The Voting Rights Act

The Supreme Court ruled on Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District No. 1 NAMUDNO v. Holder, No. 08-322 (2013), answering the question of the whether a district (not the state) could seek the bailout provision under the Voting Rights Act.

The decision of the Supreme Court is important here because it did not rule on the issue of whether the Voting Rights Act was constitutional.

Instead, the Supreme Court ruled that the district could use the “bailout” provision under the Voting Rights Act, even if the state could not.  In holding this, the Supreme Court explained that the district fell under the definition of a “State of political subdivision,” and thereby could use the “bailout” provision.

Generally, the Voting Rights Act requires certain states to get pre-clearance before making any changes to elections.  One of these states includes Texas.  However, there is a provision (“bailout”) that states that the state can seek a declaratory judgment from a three-judge panel District Court in Washington, D.C.  42 USC 1973(b)(a)(1), 1973c(a).  The bailout provision requires:

  • The state has not used any forbidden voting test for the last 10 years;
  • The state has not been subject to a valid objection under the Voting Rights Act section 5;
  • The state has not been found liable for other rights act violations; and
  • The state has engaged in constructive efforts to eliminate intimidation and harassment of voters.

The Voting Rights Act only authorizes a bailout suit by a State or political subdivision.  42 USC 19873b(a)(1)(A).

Here, the government argued that under the statutory definition of the bailout provision, a district could not seek a bailout provision.  The Act provided that a “‘political subdivision’ shall mean any county or parish, except that where registration for voting is not conducted under the supervision of a county or parish, the term shall include any other subdivision of a State which conducts registration for voting.” Section 14(c)(2).  The government argued that because the district was not a county or parish and did not conduct its own voter registration, the district was not covered under the Act.

However, the Supreme Court disagreed.  Citing previous Supreme Court cases, the Supreme Court stated the definition of a “political subdivision” must be broad and not limited to the statutory definition.  The Supreme Court explained,

Our decisions have already established that the statutory definition in [section] 14(c)(2) does not apply to every use of the term “political subdivision” in the Act.  We have, for example, concluded that the definition does not apply to the pre clearance obligation of [section] 5.

There, we expressly rejected the suggestion that the city of Sheffield was beyond the ambit of [section] 5 because it did not itself register voters and hence was not a political subdivision as the term is defined in [section] 14(c)(2) of the Act… [O]nce a State has been designed for coverage, [section] 14(c)(2)’s definition of political subdivision has no operative significance in determining the reach of [section] 5.

(markings in original).  Taking a broad approach, the Supreme Court ruled that a district was a political subdivision.

In addition, the Supreme Court noted that the 1982 amendments provided that even if the state could not bailout, a political subdivision might be able to assuming it met the bailout requirements.

via We gave you a chance: Today’s Shelby County decision in Plain English : SCOTUSblog.

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No citizenship proof for voters

The Supreme Court decided Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, where the Supreme Court ruled that federal law preempted Arizona’s law.  In other words, it held that Arizona’s requirement of proof of citizenship was in conflict with the National Voter Registration Act.  Thereby, that requirement was rejected.

Arizona’s law required registered voters to show proof of citizenship.  Under Arizona’s law, a person must be a citizen to be eligible to vote.  This case concerned only how Arizona was trying to enforce that qualification.  In 2004, Arizona voters passed Proposition 200, which provided that voters must “present proof of citizenship when they register to vote and to present identification when they vote on election day.”  If an individual does not provide “satisfactory” proof of citizenship, then the application must be rejected.

The issue here is how this citizenship-proof law and the National Voting Registration Act work together.  The Voter Registration Act required that states must “accept and use” the Federal Form.  The Voter Registration Act provided that a state shall “ensure that any eligible applicant is registered to vote in an election… if the valid voter registration form of the applicant is post-marked.” (italics in original).

Although the Voter Registration Act provides that states can create their own state-specific voter-registration forms, the Voting Registration Act also places a backstop.  The Supreme Court explained that,

No matter what procedural hurdles a State’s own form imposes, the Federal Form guarantees that a simple means of registering to vote in federal elections will be available.

Based on this language, the Supreme Court rejected Arizona’s arguments.  If Arizona, or any other state, could demand Federal Form applicants additional pieces of information, “the Federal Form ceases to perform any meaningful function, and would be a feeble means of ‘increas[ing] the number of eligible citizens who register to vote in elections for Federal Office.” (quotations and marks in original).

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NBA Union Executive Director Dismissed

The last couple of days, I have been reading about the possible ousting of NBA Union Executive Director.  Yesterday (Saturday), the union representatives voted unanimously to dismiss him.

After a 469-page audit report conducted a law firm, the report charged former executive director Billy Hunter with nepotism, poor management, and abuse of union resources.  The audit did not find any criminal wrongdoing.  Nevertheless, the report concluded that Hunter had put his own interests ahead of the union’s and recommended that the players reconsider his employment.

The move to dismiss the former NBA union Executive Director Billy Hunter was announced by the union president Derek Fisher.  Hunter’s business practices had drawn the scrutiny of three government agencies.

In his blog, Hunter announced, “During the days and weeks ahead, my legal team and I will begin carefully reviewing the actions taken and statements made against me in the meeting room in my absence.”

via N.B.A. Players Dismiss Union Leader – NYTimes.com.

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Union Decertification Case Law

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, in SFO Goodnite Inn v. NLRB, ____F.3d____ (D.C. Cir. Nov. 20, 2012), enforced  a National Labor Relations Board order finding a California hotel improperly withdrew recognition from a UNITE HERE local, rejecting the hotel’s argument that it lawfully relied on anti-union petitions signed by a majority of its employees.

In the decision, the court approved the NLRB’s interpretation of Hearst.

[T]he Board has now articulated a clear line for applying the Hearst presumption of taint in “the narrow circumstance where an employer unlawfully instigates or propels a decertification campaign, and then invokes the results of that campaign to justify its unilateral withdrawal of recognition from its employee’s representative.”

The Board explained that the Hearst presumption applies where the employer is directly involved in advancing a decertification petition, whereas the Master Slack test applies where the employer committed unfair labor practices unrelated to the petition that may have contributed to the erosion of support for the union.

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Pennsylvania Voter ID Law

From ABA Journal News:

A Pennsylvania judge has enjoined enforcement of the state’s voter ID law, allowing state voters to cast ballots in the upcoming presidential election without obtaining photo identification.

Judge Robert Simpson issued his decision on Tuesday, report the Philadelphia InquirerReutersForbesand the Associated Press.

According to the Inquirer and Forbes, Simpson found fault with a section of the law requiring voters without IDs to cast provisional ballots and then to produce photo identification within six days. Simpson said the time period was not sufficient.

Simpson ruled (PDF) after hearing testimony about state efforts to make it easier to obtain a valid photo ID. The state supreme court had directed Simpson to consider whether photo IDs were actually available and whether voter disenfranchisement would result.

via Judge Halts Enforcement of Pennsylvania Voter ID Law – News – ABA Journal.

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Independent Party

The Independence Party of Minnesota will not formally back a U.S. candidate in 2012, and will instead focus its efforts on a handful of legislative candidates.

Party Chairman Mark Jenkins said he cannot prohibit someone from running under the IP banner, but he said the party has no plans to recruit, endorse or provide financial support to a candidate. Jenkins said he thinks the Independence Party is poised to win some legislative seats for the first time, and that’s his priority as chairman. He said the party doesn’t have the resources right now to also run a U.S. Senate candidate.

“My hope is that in 2014 then maybe we have the resources to support both a statewide governors race and a slew of state legislative races,” Jenkins said. “But I mean it’s no secret that there are some areas of the state where we’re a little thin, and we need to built that up. I want that to be our focus.”

Incumbent Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar is running for a second term next year. So far, two Republican challengers have stepped forward.

via Capitol View | Minnesota Public Radio.

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