ACLU on Government Reform



Disallow checking citizenship papers to register to vote

A federal judge has struck down a Kansas voter citizenship law and ordered a halt to the state's requirement that people provide proof of citizenship in order to register to vote.

The ruling is the culmination of a federal lawsuit filed in 2016. At a bench trial earlier this year, the American Civil Liberties Union represented voters who said they had been impeded from registering by the law.

"This decision is a stinging rebuke of Kris Kobach, and the centerpiece of his voter suppression efforts: a show-me-your-papers law that has disenfranchised tens of thousands of Kansans. That law was based on a xenophobic lie that noncitizens are engaged in rampant elections fraud," said the director of the ACLU's Voting Rights Project.

Under the ruling, Kobach must instruct all state and county election officers that voter registration applicants do not need to provide proof of citizenship in order to register to vote.

Source: Wichita Eagle on 2018 Kansas gubernatorial race , Jun 18, 2018

Enforce voter registration despite Kansas contempt

US District Judge Julie Robinson ruled Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach was in contempt of court for failing to comply with her orders in an ACLU lawsuit over the state's voter registration law.

ACLU attorneys complained Kobach routinely defied a temporary injunction issued by Robinson in 2016 to block enforcement of the state's proof of citizenship law. Kobach's office refused to update language on its website suggesting that new voter applicants may not be able to vote. Kobach also failed to follow through on a promise to Robinson that counties would send postcards notifying voters they could participate in elections.

"The judge found that Kris Kobach disobeyed the court's orders by failing to provide registered voters with consistent information, that he willfully failed to ensure that county elections officials were properly trained and that he has a 'history of noncompliance and disrespect for the court's decisions,' " said an ACLU attorney.

Source: Topeka Capital-Journal on 2018 Kansas gubernatorial race , Apr 12, 2018

Sue states for arbitrary voter registration deadlines

Massachusetts law requires residents to register to vote at least 20 days before an election. But the ACLU disagrees with that deadline, and is taking the state to court to change it.

Q: What is the issue with the current law?

A: The concern is that the 20-day deadline is completely arbitrary, and disenfranchises thousands of voters every election. There's a particular concern for communities that are disproportionately impacted by this deadline: low-income people, elderly people, students, younger people, and people of color.

Q: How does MA compare to other states?

A: We're behind, given the technological advancements that have been made to facilitate election-day registration. There are a wide range of registration cutoffs, but there are several states that have election-day registration, including NH and WI, states of comparable size and population.

Q: How would changing the deadline affect MA?

A: It would increase voter turnout. More people would have access to the polls.

Source: Boston Metro interview with ACLU on MA registration deadline , Jul 7, 2017

Censoring Citizens United would allow censoring a lot more

The Obama administration was asked at an oral argument [in the Citizens United case] if it could prohibit a company from using its general treasury funds to publish a book that discusses the American political system for 500 pages and then, at the end, says "Vote for X." President Obama's lawyer said, flat out, "Yes."

These radical claims for the authority to ban books and movies led me to dub the amendment's proponents the "Fahrenheit 451 Democrats," after Ray Bradbury's dystopian classic about book-burning government power run amok. And their positions were so radical that they lost one of their usual allies--the ACLU. To its credit, the ACLU blasted the proposed constitutional amendment: "Even proponents of the amendment have acknowledged that his authority could extend to books, television shows, or movies, such as Hillary Clinton's Hard Choice or a show like the West Wing, which depicted a heroic Democratic presidential administration during the crucial election years of 2000 and 2004.

Source: A Time for Truth, by Ted Cruz, p.314-5 , Jun 30, 2015

Congressional term limits are unconstitutional

In U.S. Term Limits v. Thornton (May 22, 1995), the Court effectively ended the movement to enact term limits for Congress on a state-by-state basis. In a lengthy majority opinion written by Justice Stevens, the Court held that the qualifications for Congress established in the Constitution itself were "fixed" and could not be amended by the states without a constitutional amendment. The Court's opinion rested heavily on history and the Court's concept of federalism. (The dissent had a very different view of federalism and the result it commanded in this case.) In a critical passage, Justice Stevens wrote that the notion of congressional term limits violates the "fundamental principle of our representative democracy 'that the people should chose whom they please to govern them.'" The ACLU submitted an amicus brief arguing that congressional term limits were unconstitutional under the Qualifications Clause.
Source: ACLU 2015-16 voting recommendation on US Term Limits , Nov 7, 2014

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Page last updated: Sep 10, 2018