Showing posts with label in-person voting. Show all posts
Showing posts with label in-person voting. Show all posts

Saturday, April 15, 2023

From FHQ Plus: The Blurred Lines Between State and Party on the Caucuses in Iowa

The following is a cross-posted excerpt from FHQ Plus, FHQ's new subscription service. Come check the rest out and consider a paid subscription to support our work. 


I dealt with part of the new bill to change the parameters of the caucus process in the Hawkeye state over at FHQ earlier today. But that bill — HSB 245 — moved past its first obstacle today and out of the Study Bill Subcommittee of the Iowa House Ways and Means Committee on a 3-2 vote, and it looks like it will face a full committee vote on Thursday. [NOTE: HSB 245 passed Ways and Means on a party line vote on Thursday, April 13.]

As some have noted the effort to require in-person participation at a caucus — to ban a proposed plan by Iowa Democrats to shift to a vote-by-mail process — is a move that would immediately be on shaky legal ground. Parties have wide latitude in setting the rules of their internal processes under Supreme Court precedent. And the caucuses are a party affair. The parties pay for them. The parties set the rules. The parties run them.

But the Iowa caucus operations have often blurred the line between state and party on the matter. The parties and the state government, regardless of partisan affiliation across either, have tended to work together to protect that first-in-the-nation status the caucuses have enjoyed over the last half century. There is a state law in Iowa, as in New Hampshire, but both 2008 and 2012 demonstrated that it is fairly toothless. The caucuses in neither case were eight days ahead of the next contest, as called for in state law, and neither party was hit with sanctions for the move.

Moreover, the state/party line has been blurred by the encroachment of same-day party registration at caucus sites in recent years. The state’s tentacles stretch into the caucuses, but that still does not change the fact that the precinct caucuses are a party affair, a party-funded and run operation. And that is kind of the ironic thing about the proposed 70 day buffer required between registration with a party and the caucuses in this bill moving through the Iowa legislature. It retracts those state tentacles to some degree, drawing a sharper line again between state and party domain.

In the end, the fate of this bill beyond the committee is uncertain. But one thing this episode demonstrates is the deterioration of the relationship between Iowa Democrats and Republicans on the one thing that has united them in the past: protecting the status of the caucuses. Republicans unilaterally introducing this measure without consulting the Democratic Party at all on the matter says a lot. And in the long run that will likely hurt Iowa’s efforts to retain its status in the future. 


Monday, April 6, 2020

UPDATED: US Supreme Court Decision Returns April 7 Absentee Deadline to Wisconsin Primary

Update (4/6/20 -- 7:30pm):
The US Supreme Court brought the Wisconsin presidential primary and spring election nearly back to square one on Monday evening, April 6. On the eve of the primary, the Court in a 5-4 decision reversed a US appeals court decision to uphold last week's district court ruling extending both the absentee request window and ballot deadline. The request window extension is now the only action taken not to be reversed. The deadline now, following the Supreme Court decision, will revert to tomorrow, Tuesday, April 7, the original primary day and deadline for absentee ballots to be due.

Update (4/6/20 -- 7pm):

Originally updated under the title: "UPDATED: Wisconsin Supreme Court Reverses Evers's Executive Order to Suspend In-Person Voting"

The Wisconsin Supreme Court on Monday, April 6 reversed Governor Evers's executive order from earlier in the day. That order would have suspended in-person voting in the April 7 presidential primary and spring election and delayed it until June 9. But a challenge was nearly immediately brought by Republican leaders in the state legislature to the state Supreme Court. And the court in a vote along ideological lines decided 4-2 to reinstate in-person voting in an election that will affect membership on the court itself.

This reverts the process to one with in-person voting on April 7 in a limited number of locations with a limited number of poll workers (but with help from the national guard) and absentee voting that will end on Monday, April 13.

Originally written under the title: "Governor Evers Executive Order Suspends In-Person Voting in Wisconsin Until June 9"

Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers (D) on Monday, April 6, issued executive order 74, suspending in-person voting on the eve of the presidential primary and spring election in the Badger state.

This is another step in the back and forth among not only the executive and legislative branches in the state of Wisconsin but the federal judiciary as well. Just within the last few days, Evers called a special session of the state legislature to shift to an all-mail vote (in which ballots would be due on May 19), the Republican-controlled state legislature respond by gaveling the Saturday session in and almost immediately out (rejecting those changes), a federal district court judge extend the absentee request window and deadline and an appeals court rejected challenges to that.

The order from Evers also calls another special session of the legislature for primary day, April 7 to consider the shift to June 9. Not only is in-person voting moved to June 9, but absentee ballot requests are allowed to continue as they customarily do in Wisconsin until the Thursday before the election date; Thursday, June 4 in this case.

Now, there are a couple of different avenues that this winding tale can take from here in the Badger state. The most immediate option is the one already signaled by Republican leaders in the legislature: challenge the executive order in state court. This brings in the state-level judiciary. If that challenge ultimately reverses the April 6 executive order, then the election will proceed as planned tomorrow with in-person voting under the threat of the coronavirus pandemic.

However, if that challenge is rejected by the state supreme court, then the next twist will likely be either in the federal courts or with the state legislature in an April 7 special session. While Evers's order pushes the primary back to June 9, the state legislature still retains the ability to alter that. But at that point, Republicans in control -- when the special session commences at 2pm on Tuesday -- would no longer have April 7 as an option. And they would additionally have to consider an Evers veto of any date that does not provide Wisconsin voters and poll workers enough cover from the coronavirus threat.

For Democrats in the Badger state, this move does potentially introduce a time crunch into the delegate selection process. April county conventions and subsequent April and May district conventions (at which district delegates to the national convention were to have been chosen) have already been cancelled. The state convention on June 12-13 is still in the works, but that comes just a few days after a hypothetical June 9 primary conclusion. District delegates, as a back up, could be chosen at a state convention divided into district caucuses. Fortunately for Wisconsin Democrats, their delegate selection plan called for the Party Administrative Committee to select at-large and PLEO delegates on June 12, rather than the state convention itself. That can still occur, but would, again, fall just a few days after a June 9 primary. Of course, Wisconsin Democrats could shift that committee meeting to a slightly later date if necessary and that would likely be easier than moving an entire state convention -- either to a different date or to a remote format -- would be.

But the bottom line is that as long as the primary date remains uncertain, so too, does the path by which the delegate selection process will be completed.

Governor Evers's executive order suspending April 7 in-person voting is archived here.

Related Posts:
4/3/20: Federal Judge Pushes Absentee Deadline Back to April 13 for Wisconsin Primary