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Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Lawsuits on Keeping Polls Open Late

One story of election law tonight will be requests to courts to keep the polls open late because of some mishap today.  We already have one lawsuit filed in Durham, NC, and another one is brewing in Colorado.  I've written an Op-Ed for CNN suggesting that courts, in general, should grant these requests.  Here is the intro:

Long lines are a routine part of Election Day in many places. So too are requests that courts order polls to stay open late. When in doubt, judges should grant these requests.

Florida Democrats already won an order to keep polls open late in one Miami polling site during early voting on Sunday night due to road closures earlier in the day. The judge wrote that extending the polling hours was necessary "to avoid abuse and to protect and preserve the Constitutional and statutory voting rights of Miami-Dade County citizens."
 
In previous elections, however, some courts have not been so welcoming of requests to keep the polls open past the statutory closing time. During the 2000 election, a Missouri court of appeals reversed a trial court decision that had ordered the polls open late in some St. Louis precincts. The court wrote that "commendable zeal to protect voting rights must be tempered by the corresponding duty to protect the integrity of the voting process."
 
Similarly, in 2002, the Arkansas Supreme Court reversed a lower court decision that had extended the closing time for an hour and a half in one county because that county did not have enough voting booths or supplies. The state supreme court ruled that the closing hour under the state's election law was "clear," failing to recognize that the decision would have a tangible effect in disenfranchising some people who had come to the polls earlier but had not been able to cast a ballot.
 
This formulation is backward.
 
Read the full piece here.

Posted by Josh Douglas on November 8, 2016 at 06:03 PM in Constitutional thoughts, Law and Politics | Permalink

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