Category Archives: US Supreme Court

SCOTUS Rules; Calif. Recall Scheduled

Current US Supreme Court

By Jim Ellis

July 6, 2021 — On their last day of the year’s early session last week, a Thursday, the Supreme Court of the United States issued rulings on the Arizona voting rights case and the California non-profit organization disclosure lawsuit.

In the Democratic National Committee v. Brnovich, the Supreme Court with Justice Samuel Alito writing for the 6-3 majority, ruled that the state of Arizona did not infringe upon minority voting rights or violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act in both prohibiting ballot harvesting with certain exceptions, and not counting provisional ballots cast from voters who do not reside in the particular precinct that the polling place covers.

The high court agreed with Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s (R) arguments that the laws are not racially motivated, nor do they intentionally discriminate against certain segments of the voting population, thus overturning the full 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling.

Originally in 2016, Brnovich won at the district court level and on the first appeal to a three-judge panel from the 9th Circuit. The DNC requested an en banc review of the original appellate ruling that agreed with Brnovich, and the entire 9th Circuit membership overturned the decision, siding with the plaintiff. At that point, AG Brnovich petitioned the Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the case. (Hearing cases en banc allows the full circuit court to overturn a decision reached by a three–judge panel. Due to the decreasing probability of U.S. Supreme Court intervention, the circuit court is often the court of last resort in the ordinary life of a case, thereby amplifying the importance of en banc review.)

In his ruling, Justice Alito stated that “every voting rule imposes a burden of some sort,” and that “mere inconvenience cannot be enough to demonstrate a violation of Section 2.” He also cautioned that, “what are at bottom very small differences should not be artificially magnified.”

While agreeing that holding free and open elections is a “valid and important state interest,” he also addressed the voter fraud argument, clearly stating that attempting to prevent such abuses is also a “strong and entirely legitimate state interest.”

In her article discussing these rulings, Supreme Court expert Amy Howe, in her Howe on the Court article that was published on the SCOTUS blog, offered that the Brnovich ruling “will make it more difficult to contest election regulations under the Voting Rights Act,” and thus likely means fewer voting rights cases coming through the courts. She further categorized this decision as a “major ruling.”

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Colorado Elector’s Case
Stirs the Electoral College Pot

By Jim Ellis

Colorado Elector Michael Baca / 9NEWS

Aug. 26, 2019 — Reports came out late last week that the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals sitting in Denver ruled in favor of a former Colorado Elector, Michael Baca, who filed a constitutional lawsuit against the state. In the 2016 Electoral College vote, the Colorado Secretary of State removed Baca from the delegation after he informed state authorities that he would not vote for Hillary Clinton when the Electoral College met.

Thirty states, including Colorado, have a statutory requirement that the official electors, in Colorado’s case nine individuals, cast their vote for the presidential candidate who carried the state. In the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton carried the Centennial State over Donald Trump, 48-43 percent.

Baca was coalescing with other electors around the country, the so-called “Hamilton Electors,” who thought they could convince enough members in Trump states to vote for another candidate in order to force him below the 270 minimum electoral vote threshold. In the election, Trump’s victory states awarded him 306 electoral votes. Places like Colorado, however, that went for Clinton, would do Trump no damage if its electors did not carry through with the voters’ expressed desire, illustrating one of several ways that the “Hamilton” strategy was fundamentally flawed.

After Baca’s removal, he quickly filed his lawsuit arguing that his constitutional rights were violated because the state has no authority to bind its electors. Baca lost at the federal district level but now has won a 2-1 appellate decision before a three-judge panel.

What happens now? The 10th Circuit is in conflict with a previous Washington state Supreme Court ruling that came to the opposite conclusion. Thus, it is likely that the US Supreme Court will be petitioned though the Washington ruling, because it comes from a state court, is a lesser factor in the federal domain.

The Colorado elector legal action, like the Compact Coalition that is attempting to convince states holding a majority of electoral votes to agree to have their electors vote for the national popular vote winner regardless of how the individual state voted, is designed to eliminate the Electoral College’s power and change the US voting system to a straight popular vote.

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Forecasting the Results – Part II

By Jim Ellis

2018-democrat-house-majority-breakdown-text-graphicOct. 8, 2018 — The Democrats need to convert a net 24 seats to secure a one-seat majority in the US House on Election Day, Nov. 6. Many reports quote the number 23 as what is necessary to win control, but the new Pennsylvania map will yield one seat coming back to the Republicans — the new open 14th District — thus pushing the total up to 24.

As stated Friday, our forecasts listed below are based upon a series of factors, including current polling numbers, voter history, candidate personal and job approval favorability, fundraising, other races on the state ballot that could drive turnout, and outside issues such as the confirmation vote to for Judge Brett Kavanaugh to become a Supreme Court Justice, which could change the turnout model, etc.

According to our new analysis, the Democrats are on the cusp of converting the requisite number of Republican seats to take a bare majority and seeing their caucus become significantly larger. At this point, the Democratic gain range appears to reach 23 on the low side and 35 at the apex.

Looking at the country by state and region, it appears the Democrats will do well in the Midwest, in particular. The Great Lakes region that delivered President Trump his surprise victory appears to be snapping back to the Democrats in the midterm House races. Michigan looks particularly good for them at both the statewide and district levels.

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