Hispanic voting rights advocates, Democrats, seeking federal injunction of Schwarzenegger's compressed election schedule...
By Brad Friedman on 5/6/2010, 2:41pm PT  

It's not just the troops and the election officials who are now acting on concerns of disenfranchisement. Now the Hispanic community and Democrats are charging the Governator's special election dates will "thwart voter turnout within minorities communities".

On the heels of The BRAD BLOG's coverage yesterday reporting on worries that thousands of overseas and military voters could be disenfranchised by CA Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's order for an early special election schedule in the state, and that election officials were "outraged" by the timing and concerned about the costs, minority groups and the Democratic Party are now filing suit to halt the impending election, charging the compressed dates are in violation of federal law.

A nine-page complaint [PDF] was filed in the Northern California U.S. District Court today by three Hispanic plaintiffs seeking "a temporary restraining order, a preliminary injunction and a permanent injunction" to halt the impending June 22nd special primary election date to fill a vacancy in Senate District 15 following the appointment of Abel Maldonado as Lt. Governor. The lawsuit is being funded by the state Democratic Party.

The suit charges that the short time-line for the special election schedule did not leave time for the required preclearance of the election dates under Section 5 of the federal Voting Rights Act. Monterey County, one of five included in SD 15, is covered by Section 5, a provision which requires the Dept. of Justice to pre-approve changes to voting laws in jurisdictions around the country where minorities have been historically disenfranchised.

Yesterday, retired twenty-year armed services veteran and Monterey talk-radio host Scott Dick detailed how the expedited special election schedule meant that ballots could not possibly be printed and sent to military family and personnel serving overseas prior to the 45-day minimum requirement of the federal Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act. He charged that there will not be enough time for those voters to receive and return their ballots in time to be counted in the special election.

State election officials, The BRAD BLOG has learned, share similar worries...

Gail Pellerin, Vice-President of the CA Assoc. of Clerks and Election Officials (CACEO) and County Clerk/Registrar of Voters for Santa Cruz County, told The BRAD BLOG that election officials in the five counties were "outraged by the Governor's decision" to call special election dates, rather than consolidating them with existing scheduled elections this year. The extra elections could, she says, cost the cash-strapped state as much as $6 million dollars, "money counties do not have." Earlier this week, the CACEO sent a letter [PDF] to Schwarzenegger detailing their concerns. The election officials' association has also posted a bullet-point document [PDF] describing eight "barriers to conducting a June 22 special vacancy primary two weeks after the statewide primary."

Calling it "the worst of worse case scenarios", Pellerin told us she concurred with Dick's charges about overseas troops being unable to receive and return their ballots in time to be counted, since even under the best case scenario, the currently-mandated time-line would not allow counties to mail out ballots prior to the 45-day deadline of federal law.

"Military voters are definitely disenfranchised," Pellerin said.

Though a special state election for state Senate does not fall under the federal jurisdiction of the MOVE Act, Schwarzenegger is "most certainly violating it in spirit," Dick wrote.

Federal law, however, does come into play in the case of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) and the alleged violation of Section 5 in Monterey.

In a statement [PDF] released by plaintiffs' attorneys accompanying the complaint filed earlier today, attorney Joaquin Avila said "The Governor's decision on calling this election will disenfranchise Latino voters in Monterey County." Avila called for Schwarzenegger to consolidate the election with the existing general election schedule to permit "the United States Attorney General to review the impact of this election date change on minority voting strength within the statutory 60 day time period specified by Section 5."

"Our right to vote is sacred and the decision to hold a special election for a senate district seat will thwart voter turnout within minority communities," the voting rights attorney said, describing the Governor's current proclamation as "unacceptable".

Commenting on today's lawsuit, Pellerin told The BRAD BLOG: "I support this lawsuit and hope they are successful. Minority voter disenfranchisement is one of many injustices caused by the Governor calling for two separate elections, rather than consolidate the election with the November 2, 2010 General."

Schwarzenegger may voluntarily change the date of the election, though it is believed he would have to do so by the end of this week to stay within state statutes. Comment may be left with his office via phone at 916-445-2841 or via email at this page.

Previously related at The BRAD BLOG:
Schwarzenegger May Disenfranchise Thousands of Overseas Troops with Early Special Election Date

UPDATE 5/13/10: Federal judge orders state to 'Show Cause' as to why special primary should not be postponed without pre-clearance under the Voting Rights Act from the Dept. of Justice. Details, court order, now here...

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