- Three-Judge Court Halts South Carolina Voter ID Law for 2012
- Lawsuit Forces Partial Settlement for Harris County, Texas Voters: 9,000 Affected Voters Will Be Advised That Their Right to Vote Will Not Be Challenged
- Illinois’ Contribution Limits Upheld by 7th Circuit Court of Appeals
- FEC Issues Advisory Opinion Rejecting Tea Party Leadership Fund Request for Non-Enforcement of Six Month Requirement for Multicandidate PAC Status
- Policy Director Joins Panel at American University
- Legal Center President Featured in Washington College Lecture Series
- Election Observers Meet with Legal Center Staff
- Senior Counsel Speaks at Toledo Law Review Symposium
- Campaign Legal Center Meets with Legislative Fellows from the Middle East
- Executive Director Addresses Audiences at Yale Law School
- Updated Summary of Litigation Distributed by Legal Center
- Legal Center Releases Guide to the Current Rules for Federal Elections
Three-Judge Court Halts South Carolina Voter ID Law for 2012
On October 10, a three-judge panel in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia stopped the implementation of South Carolina’s controversial voter photo ID law for the 2012 election. The Legal Center served as co-counsel in this case with the ACLU for a group of Intervenors who would have been harmed if the law had been approved as enacted.
“The state was ill-prepared to implement its photo voter ID law for the 2012 election and it was forced to continually change the law during the course of the trial in order to safeguard voting rights,” said Executive Director J. Gerald Hebert. “Ultimately the law that the court has approved for 2013 and beyond is a huge departure from the bill enacted by the South Carolina legislature. This decision is a victory for the voters of South Carolina over their own elected officials.”
South Carolina sued after the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) concluded that the law as originally passed by the legislature failed to meet the requirements of the Voting Rights Act. South Carolina, with a long history of voter discrimination, is subject to special requirements under the Voting Rights Act, which requires it to secure DOJ or DC Court approval for changes in its election laws. DOJ determined that the state’s voter ID law would violate the Voting Rights Act.
The Campaign Legal Center will monitor the implementation of the law in 2013 and beyond to ensure that voting rights are protected.
To read the opinion, click here.
To read the Defendant-Intervenors' proposed findings and conclusions, click here.
To read the Defendant-Intervenors' reply to South Carolina's response to its proposed findings and conclusions, click here.
To read other filings in the case, click here.
Lawsuit Forces Partial Settlement for Harris County, Texas Voters: 9,000 Affected Voters Will Be Advised That Their Right to Vote Will Not Be Challenged
On October 19, a partial agreement was reached in response to the lawsuit filed by the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and a number of Houston residents challenging discriminatory voter registration and voter purge practices. Harris County agreed to send a written notice letter to each of the more than 9,000 voters advising them that, contrary to a letter that the County had sent in September, the voters would not be removed from the rolls and may vote in the upcoming general election.
“The right to vote is a precious and fundamental right for all Americans,” said J. Gerald Hebert, Executive Director of the Legal Center which represented LULAC and local residents. “While it is unfortunate that a lawsuit had to be brought against Harris County to achieve this result, Harris County has done the right thing by informing over 9,000 voters that they have not been removed from the rolls and can vote in the upcoming election.”
Among other things, LULAC filed the suit on October 11 in an attempt to stop the discriminatory purging of registered Latino and black voters in Harris County. This purging was based on faulty death matches that disproportionately rejected a higher percentage of minority voters. LULAC asserted Harris County acted with racially discriminatory intent. The lawsuit also asserts claims that Harris County election officials have engaged in other voting procedures without obtaining the necessary approval (preclearance) under the Voting Rights Act and the National Voter Registration Act of 1993. These remaining claims against Harris County relating to un-precleared changes in voter registration procedures remain pending in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas. LULAC and the residents are represented by attorneys from the Campaign Legal Center, Project Vote, and Houston attorney Chad Dunn of Brazil & Dunn.
To read the settlement documents from Harris County, click here.
To read the letter that will be sent to impacted voters, click here.
To read the complaint, click here.
Illinois’ Contribution Limits Upheld by 7th Circuit Court of Appeals
On October 24, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit refused to enjoin Illinois’ state contribution limits and affirmed a recent district court decision denying such an injunction in Illinois Liberty PAC (ILP) v. Madigan. The Legal Center, Chicago Appleseed and the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform filed an amici curiae brief in the Seventh Circuit defending the state’s contribution limits with the assistance of local counsel David R. Melton and Thomas Rosenwein. On October 5, 2012, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois denied Illinois Liberty PAC’s motion for preliminary injunction. The Legal Center previously filed a brief in the district court as well.
“The Court’s order makes clear the flimsiness of Illinois Liberty PAC’s challenge to Illinois’ contribution limits—limits that are equal to, and in some instances far greater than, federal and state law limits that have been upheld by the Supreme Court,” said Paul S. Ryan, Legal Center Senior Counsel. “The Supreme Court has long held that contribution limits serve the government’s compelling interest in preventing corruption. Recent scandals and jail sentences for sitting Governors have shown that Illinois has a very compelling interest indeed in preventing corruption.”
Illinois Liberty PAC challenged the state’s $50,000 limit on PAC contributions to candidates, its $5,000 limit on contributions from individuals to candidates, and its $10,000 limit on contributions from individuals to a PAC, claiming these limits violate their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights to free speech and freedom of association. Under federal law, PACs may contribute only $5,000 to candidates, a mere tenth of the challenged Illinois cap. And while Illinois law permits individuals to contribute up to $5,000 to candidates and $10,000 to PACs, the Supreme Court has upheld much lower state contribution limits ranging from $275 to $1,075.
To read the Court of Appeals’ order, click here.
To read the Campaign Legal Center’s brief, click here.
To read the U.S. District Court’s memorandum opinion and order, click here.
FEC Issues Advisory Opinion Rejecting Tea Party Leadership Fund Request for Non-Enforcement of Six Month Requirement for Multicandidate PAC Status
On October 10, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) issued an advisory opinion (AO 2012-32) rejecting the Tea Party Leadership Fund’s (TPLF) request that the Commission cease enforcement of the statutory requirement that a committee be in existence at least six months in order to attain multicandidate political committee status and become eligible to make larger contributions to candidates. TPLF has already given multiple candidates $2,500, the maximum contribution allowed from standard political committees to candidates, but asked the FEC to waive the “six months in existence” requirement for multicandidate committee status, which would enable TPLF to contribute an additional $2,500 to each candidate. The FEC’s opinion rejecting this request is consistent with comments filed by the Campaign Legal Center, together with Democracy 21, earlier this month in response to the advisory opinion request.
To read the advisory opinion issued by the FEC, click here.
To read the comments filed by the Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21, click here.
Policy Director Joins Panel at American University
On October 10, Campaign Legal Center Policy Director Meredith McGehee participated in the American University (AU) Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies “Table Talk Series.” The panel was titled, “What can money buy in the 2012 election? The Role of Super PACs and other outside groups.” The panel included Harold Ickes, former Bill Clinton’s Deputy Chief of Staff and President of the Priorities USA, and R. Sam Garrett of the Congressional Research Service and an adjunct professor at AU.
Legal Center President Featured in Washington College Lecture Series
On October 16, Legal Center President Trevor Potter was a featured speaker in a four-part series “The Anatomy of an Election,” hosted by Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland. In his appearance, Mr. Potter addressed campaign finance issues relating to the 2012 and previous elections.
Election Observers Meet with Legal Center Staff
On October 18, the Legal Center’s Tara Malloy, Meredith McGehee, Paul Ryan, and David Vance met with leaders from a team of election observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The Limited Election Observation Mission (LEOM) team of 13 experts and 44 long-term observers stationed throughout the United States between October and November will monitor the administration of elections, and other campaign activities, to evaluate their adherence to international and national standards for democratic elections. The observers requested the briefing addressing the 2012 election implications of campaign finance laws and policies.
Senior Counsel Speaks at Toledo Law Review Symposium
On October 19, Legal Center Senior Counsel Paul S. Ryan spoke at the University of Toledo Law Center symposium “Votes and Voices in 2012—Issues Surrounding the November Election and Beyond,” hosted by the Toledo Law Review. Mr. Ryan spoke on a panel entitled “Citizens United and Its Impact,” together with Michael Boos (General Counsel, Citizens United), Greg Coleridge (Steering Committee Member, Move to Amend) and Allen Dickerson (Legal Director, Center for Competitive Politics), moderated by Mr. Fritz Byers.
Campaign Legal Center Meets with Legislative Fellows from the Middle East
On October 24, the Legal Center’s Tara Malloy, Paul Ryan, and David Vance met with members of the Legislative Fellows Program (Middle East North Africa) sponsored by Legacy International. The members of the delegation from Oman, Kuwait, Morocco, Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, are engaged in civil society development, electoral reform, and political party development in their respective counties. Several were very involved in Arab Spring movements and are researching effective democracy and political systems as they begin to form their own democracies. Legal Center staff discussed the U.S. electoral and campaign finance system with the future Middle Eastern leaders, including the importance of campaign finance and voting laws to the integrity of the democratic process.
Executive Director Addresses Audiences at Yale Law School
On October 24, Executive Director J. Gerald Hebert addressed audiences at the Yale Law School. Hebert discussed redistricting reform with the board of the Yale Law & Policy Review, and later addressed the school’s American Constitution Society chapter in a talk entitled, “2012: Our Voting Rights Under Assault”.
Updated Summary of Litigation Distributed by Legal Center
The rush of litigation challenging campaign finance and disclosure laws has continued unabated more than two years after the Supreme Court’s controversial Citizens United decision, and a new wave of litigation has arisen over state voter purges and controversial voter photo identification laws. On October 10, the Legal Center distributed an updated summary document of recent cases of interest at the federal, state and municipal level. The summary provides a brief description of pending and recently decided cases, and the Legal Center’s involvement in those cases.
The most recent summary of litigation produced by the Legal Center is always available on our Court Cases of Interest page directly beneath the “Active Court Cases of Interest.”
To view a PDF of the summary, click here.
To view the Court Case of Interest page, click here.
Legal Center Releases Guide to the Current Rules for Federal Elections
On October 25, the Legal Center released an overview of the rules governing how money is raised and spent in federal elections. Those rules have changed dramatically in the last several years and 2012 will see more money spent by more groups on elections than at any other time in history. The Campaign Legal Center produced this primer to detail the changes in laws and regulations that have facilitated an election cycle expected to cost over $6 billion.
The guide first outlines three major developments in campaign finance law in recent years: namely, the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. FEC, the failure of the current regime of disclosure laws, and the growing power of “Super PACs.” This is followed by brief summaries of current campaign finance law and the federal tax laws that influence election spending. Finally, there is a section explaining how different nonprofit groups operate and to what extent they are able to be involved in political campaigns.
To view the guide, click here.
To view a chart defining the types of outside groups, click here.