State says no deal on voter ID claims in federal actions

Voter-ID-signParties in the federal voting rights cases are back in court this morning to discuss what to do about the pending voter ID claims that U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder had carved out of the July trial, in light of a last minute amendment to the voting law adopted in late June.

That amendment allows voters lacking an acceptable photo ID to still cast a ballot after signing an affidavit indicating that they had a reasonable impediment to obtaining one.

The state has argued that the change mooted any challenge to voter ID, citing similar provisions elsewhere that had been upheld in court, and asked Schroeder to dismiss the ID claims.

But the law’s challengers argued that even with the amendment the right to vote is still burdened, in part because of uncertainty over how election officials statewide will implement the reasonable impediment provision — particularly in light of a possible March 2016 election. They pointed to a lack of any plan to educate poll workers and other election officials on how the amendment will work and also to lawmaker statements indicating an intent to repeal the reasonable impediment provision as soon as possible.

The parties made the same arguments in the state court voter ID case in August, with the judge there in September rejecting the state’s arguments on mootness and ordering the case to trial.

In federal court filings, the groups and citizens challenging Voter ID, along with the Justice Department, advised Schroeder that they believed a resolution of those claims could be reached between the parties without a need for his ruling on the mootness issue.

Despite losing on their mootness argument in Superior Court, though, the state has rejected any settlement, pushing the federal judge instead to rule on their motion to dismiss ahead of the March 2016 primary elections.

As the challengers advised Schroeder last week:

Plaintiffs have provided Defendants with a written, detailed proposal that could form the basis of discussions to resolve the voter photo ID claims. In response, Defendants have declined to discuss settlement further while their motion to dismiss the voter photo ID claims on mootness grounds is pending. Although Plaintiffs believe that further discussions could be fruitful, it appears that Defendants will not move forward if this Court does not rule on their pending motion to dismiss.

The parties are already awaiting a decision on the remaining federal claims tried in July.

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