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Election Law @ Moritz

Election Law @ Moritz


Litigation

Abramson v. Florida Elections Canvassing Commision

Case Information

Date Filed / Ended: September 8, 2008 / January 6, 2009
State: Florida
Issues: Election Contest, Recount Resources
Courts that Heard this Case: Leon County Circuit Court (Case 2008 CA 002944 ); Florida 1st District Court of Appeals (Case 1D08-5638 )

Issue:

Whether the court has the authority to order a recount of election results after the statutorily prescribed recount procedures have been exhausted and the Elections Canvassing Commission has certified that it is unable to determine the true vote under Florida law.

Status:

Judgment entered by Circuit Court on 10/20/08.  Notice of appeal filed 11/17/08.  Initial brief on the merits filed in Court of Appeals on 11/21/08.  Response filed on 11/21/08.  Appellee answer briefs filed 12/05/08.  Appellant's reply brief filed 12/09/08.  Court denied motion to review denial of stay pending appeal on 12/19/08. Circuit Court mandate entered 1/6/09.

District Court of Appeals Documents

  • Notice of Appeal (filed 11/17/08)
  • Motion To Expedite (as amended) (filed 11/18/08)
  • Motion To Expedite (second amended) (filed 11/20/08)
  • Initial Brief on Merits PDF (filed 11/21/08)
  • RESPONSE (filed 11/21/08)
  • Grant Expediting (entered 11/24/08) Appellee's second amended motion to expedite filed November 20, 2008, is granted. This proceeding is hereby expedited. No request for extensions of time will be granted absent a showing of emergency circumstances. The court notes that the initial brief has been filed. The answer brief shall be filed no later than December 5, 2008. The reply brief shall be filed no later than December 9, 2008. In lieu of a record on appeal, the case shall proceed on an appendix filed by appellant.
  • Answer Brief of State Appellees PDF (filed 12/5/08)
    • Appendix
  • Answer Brief of Appellee William "Bill" Abramson PDF (filed 12/5/08)
    • Appendix
  • Appellee's Answer Brief (att'y Ronald A. Labasky)(filed 12/5/08)
  • Appellant's Reply Brief PDF (filed 12/9/08)
  • Motion for review of denial of stay pending appeal (filed 12/17/08)
  • Denial of Motion (entered 12/19/08)
  • Court/Agency Mandate Cover Letter (filed 1/06/09)
  • Circuit Court Mandate (entered 1/06/09)
  • Case Permanent (entered 2/16/09)

Circuit Court Documents

Related EL@M Stories

Commentary

David  Stebenne

Reshaping the Rules for Voting: How Two Different Eras Compare

David Stebenne

Fifty years ago, an eight – year period of innovation in voting rules began with ratification of the 24th Amendment to the Constitution. Formally adopted on January 23, 1964, it put an end to the practice (in several of the Southern and Border States) of requiring payment in order to vote in federal elections. Two years later, a U.S. Supreme Court ruling known as Harper v. Virginia Board of Elections interpreted the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause so as to apply the ban to state elections as well. In 1965, Congress passed and President Lyndon Johnson signed into law a Civil Rights Act known less formally as the Voting Rights Act. It established federal registrars in Southern states where local registrars had long denied the right to vote to black residents. That measure was followed by Congress’s passage and the states’ ratification of the 26th Amendment to the Constitution. This amendment prohibited denying the right to vote to citizens who had reached age eighteen. Part of a trend to establish that age as the mark of adulthood, rather than the older standard of twenty-one years, the 26th Amendment was formally adopted on June 30, 1971. And, of course, during that same eight – year time period, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down landmark reapportionment rulings that required state legislative bodies to reapportion themselves (and U.S. House districts) promptly after each federal census, and to do so in accordance with the principle of one person, one vote. By the end of 1972, that reapportionment process was complete, and had produced some far reaching changes for voters at the ballot box. For example, in Maryland, where I mostly grew up, representation of the rural and conservative Eastern Shore counties greatly diminished in the Maryland General Assembly (and in Maryland’s U.S. House delegation), while that of the Baltimore metropolitan area greatly increased.

From the vantage point of more than four decades later, what all of those changes meant for the American electorate has become clear. The impact of the poll tax ban and introduction of federal registrars into the South substantially increased the number of black women voters. (The rise in felony disfranchisement among black men nationally over the past forty years meant that gains among black men voting in the South were offset by losses among black men voting elsewhere.) Voters between the ages of eighteen and twenty seldom turned out in large numbers, and so giving them the right to vote didn’t change much in terms of who voted with any regularity. Thus, the one major gain in terms of participation came among black women. At the same time, the propensity of people in the middle three fifths of the income distribution living outside the South to vote fell substantially over those forty years, among whites especially, a shift that was most pronounced from 1972 to 1996. (The decline of labor unions was the single most important reason for that.)

Those changes in who voted regularly had significant implications for national politics. Black women tend to be among the most strongly liberal voters in the country, in the contemporary sense of that word. Most self – described moderates are middle class white people. Substantially more voting by black women has tended to push the more liberal of the two major parties leftward, while substantially less participation by middle class whites has tended to push both major parties away from the moderate middle.

With this history in mind, consider the new eight – year period of reshaping voting rules that began around 2006 and has continued through the present. The major changes have been in the direction of making voting somewhat harder to do, thanks to new requirements to provide identification, restrict early voting, eliminating same – day registration, and barring votes cast in the wrong precinct from being counted at all, to give only four examples. North Carolina has recently been a leader in that regard, but those same kinds of changes have played out in many other states as well. Those changes in voting rules appear likely to reduce voter participation by the one group that gained a lot from the changes of the earlier era, i.e., black women, and the poorer of them especially. (Felony disfranchisement continues to keep voting by black men low irrespective of these changes in voting laws.) At the same time, interest in voting among middle class whites has increased substantially over what it was in the 1970’s, ‘80’s, and ‘90’s. They appear much better able to navigate the current system of voting requirements because middle class whites are significantly more likely to have the forms of identification, flexible schedules, literacy skills and familiarity with local governance needed to do so.

What this suggests is that whatever the intent of recent changes in voting rules, one of its most important consequences will be to strengthen the political power of the center, by discouraging voting somewhat among black women (and the majority among them with low incomes especially), who tend to be strongly liberal, while voting by middle class whites, who tend to be moderate, increases. Strengthening the center, in and of itself, is not so troubling in a country that seems excessively polarized. What is troubling is a way of revitalizing the center that follows, however unintentionally, from reducing access to voting by eligible citizens.  

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In the News

Daniel P. Tokaji

Wasserman Schultz says state's ID law struck down by Supreme Court

Professor Dan Tokaji was quoted in a Politifact article on judicial rulings in Wisconsin and Texas on voter identification laws. Several Democratic candidates labeled the decision as "striking down" the laws, something Politifact called into question.

"It’s not accurate to say it was ‘struck down,’ but it’s understandable" given the New York Times headline and other media coverage, said Daniel P. Tokaji, an Ohio State University law professor and expert on election law.

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Info & Analysis

New Complaint Filed in Ohio Provisional, Absentee Ballots Case

The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless, the Columbus Coalition for the Homeless, and the Ohio Democratic Party yesterday filed a new complaint against the state, alleging that provisions of new Ohio laws regarding absentee and provisional ballots violate the Voting Rights Act and the Constitution. The case is NEOCH v. Husted.

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