Posts tagged with "Unconstitutional"

16 states file suit in California to block Trump’s national emergency declaration

February 20, 2019

A coalition of 16 states—led by California—filed suit on February 18 to block President Donald Trump’s ploy to fund a southern border wall by declaring a national emergency.

In addition to California, the other states that joined the lawsuit are Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon and Virginia.

The plaintiffs called Trump’s declaration—which side-stepped a firm “no” to his request for $5 billion in funding for the wall from Congress— a “flagrant disregard of fundamental separation of powers principles,” Politico reported.

The complaint (State of California et. al. v. Trump et. al.)—which requested injunctive relief from the U.S. District Court for Northern California under proceeding #3:19-cv-00872—is the third in a string of legal challenges already launched against Trump’s use of emergency powers since he announced the move during a meandering White House news conference on January 15, the political news outlet said.

Public Citizen, a liberal advocacy group, along with Frontera Audobon Society of South Texas, also filed a suit (Case No. 19-ev-404) late Friday—this one, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia— on behalf of three Texas landowners who would be impacted by the construction of a wall along the border.

“Rather than responding to an emergency requiring immediate action, the Declaration seeks to address a long-running disagreement between the President and Congress about whether to build a wall along the southwestern border and Congress’s refusal to appropriate funds for that purpose,” the complaint said.

“However,:” it continued, “under our Constitution, built on the principle of separation of powers, a disagreement between the President and Congress about how to spend money does not constitute an emergency authorizing unilateral executive action. The Declaration and the planned expenditure of Department of Defense funds for construction of the wall exceed President Trump’s authority under the National Emergencies Act, other statutes invoked by the President as authority to fund the wall, and the Constitution. The invocation of emergency powers and exercise of those powers, and the diversion of funds to build a wall, are thus contrary to law.”

And Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics—a nonprofit organization based in Washington, DC— has filed a motion against the Department of Justice demanding that the agency provide documents pertaining to the legal justification of the president’s emergency declaration.

Americans deserve to know the true basis for President Trump’s unprecedented decision to enact emergency powers to pay for a border wall,” said CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder, in a release from the group, adding, “We’re suing because the government has so far failed to produce the requested documents or provide an explanation for their delay.”

The states that filed against the president on February 18 argued that Trump engaged in an “unlawful scheme” when he “used the pretext of a manufactured ‘crisis’ of unlawful immigration to declare a national emergency and redirect federal dollars appropriated for drug interdiction, military construction, and law enforcement initiatives toward building a wall on the United States-Mexico border,” according to a copy of the complaint obtained by Politico.

“It’s kind of awkward to say that on Presidents’ Day we’re going to be suing the president of the United States, but sometimes that’s what you have to do,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said during a Monday appearance on CNN, after telegraphing for weeks that he was prepared to take swift legal action if Trump followed through on his repeated vows to invoke an immigration emergency to justify diverting wall funding.

Becerra, who is leading the states coalition, alleges that Trump “has veered the country toward a constitutional crisis of his own making” despite a refusal by Congress refusing to allocate the funds needed to start construction. It cites his remarks in the Friday news conference that he “didn’t need to do this” as evidence his emergency declaration was without merit.

A White House spokesperson declined to comment.

Research contact: @priscialva 

Florida recount: Judge defeats efforts to ‘throw shade’ at 4,000 Sunshine State voters

November 16, 2018

Efforts in The Sunshine State to “throw some shade” on voters who sent their ballots through the mail—many of them, members of the military—or who cast their ballots provisionally, or with questionable signatures, were defeated by Judge Mark Walker of the U.S. District Court of Tallahassee on November 15, the Washington Post reported.

Deprive The decision to provide two more days to count at least 4,000 more ballots came hours ahead of the Thursday afternoon deadline for elections officials to complete a machine recount—against which President Donald Trump and Florida’s Republican candidates already had been chafing.

Indeed, Trump tweeted early on November 12 that the races should be called immediately: “The Florida Election should be called in favor of Rick Scott [running against Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson for the U.S. Senate] and Ron DeSantis [running against Tallahassee Democratic Mayor Andrew Gillum for Florida governor] in that large numbers of new ballots showed up out of nowhere, and many ballots are missing or forged. An honest vote count is no longer possible—ballots massively infected. Must go with Election Night!”

It was not clear how the judge’s decision would affect the timing of the recount, which was expected to move to a manual canvass today in the too-close-to-call Senate race, in which Scott leads Nelson by fewer than 13,000 votes (0.15 percentage points).

Unofficial results in the gubernatorial race showed Republican former Congressman Ron DeSantis leading Andrew Gillum by nearly 34,000 votes—or roughly 0.4 percentage points.

According to the Post, while the ruling gave Nelson an opportunity to close the numbers gap, it fell short of the more sweeping decision his lawyers sought. In a blow to the campaign, Judge Walker declined Nelson’s request to count all ballots with mismatched signatures, sight unseen.

But, in his ruling, Judge Walker was very clear about the “irreparable injury” that had been inflicted on the constitutional rights of citizens “to cast their ballots and have them counted.”

He noted, “the precise issue in this case is whether Florida’s law that allows county election officials to reject vote-by-mail and provisional ballots for mismatched signatures–with no standards, an illusory process to cure, and no process to challenge the rejection—passes constitutional muster. The answer is simple. It does not.”

Specifically, the Post reported, Judge Walker noted that while the deadline to submit a mail-in ballot was 7 p.m. Election Day, the deadline to “cure” a mismatched signature was 5 p.m. Monday, the day before — meaning those voters not notified, or notified too late, had no recourse.

In his ruling, Walker said the plaintiffs, the Florida Democratic Party and the Nelson campaign, had established “irreparable injury” to the constitutional right of citizens “to cast their ballots and have them counted.” Specifically, Walker noted that while the deadline to submit a mail-in ballot was 7 p.m. Election Day, the deadline to “cure” a mismatched signature was 5 p.m. Monday, the day before — meaning those voters not notified, or notified too late, had no recourse.

State law requires canvassing boards to notify voters “immediately” if they determine that a mail-in ballot contains a signature inconsistent with the one on file.

“Here, potentially thousands of voters have been deprived of the right to cast a legal vote — and have that vote counted — by an untrained canvassing board member based on an arbitrary determination that their respective signatures did not match,” wrote the judge “Such a violation of the right to vote cannot be undone.”

He concluded, “This Court … is NOT ordering county canvassing boards to count every mismatched vote, sight unseen. Rather, the county supervisors are directed to allow those voters who should have had an opportunity to cure their ballots in the first place to cure their votes-by-mail and provisional ballots now,” he wrote.

Marc Elias, Nelson’s lead recount attorney, praised the ruling. “We look forward to ensuring that those voters who cast lawful ballots have them counted,” he said in an email to the DC-based news outlet.

Scott’s campaign said it was appealing the decision. “We are confident we will prevail,” said campaign spokesperson Lauren Schenone in a statement.

As recounts continue, the Post pointed out that the stakes are high: The Florida Senate race will determine the size of the GOP’s majority in 2019 and shape the power structure in the nation’s largest swing state. Together, the two sides have racked up at least 10 lawsuits trying to gain a legal advantage in the recount.

Research contact: @WaPoSean

Judge rules Florida cannot block early voting on college campuses

July 27, 2018

During the last election, students at the University of Florida at Gainesville had to use two buses to reach their polling place—wasting about an hour each way. The reason: Florida’s top election official wouldn’t allow them—nor any of the 830,000 students enrolled at public institutions of higher education in the state―to vote early on campus, the Huffington Post reported on July 25.

But that could soon change. On July 24, U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of Florida Mark Walker temporarily blocked the policy—ruling that the state’s across-the-board ban on early voting on college campuses is unconstitutional.

Walker found that the ban violated the guarantees of the First, 14th and 26th amendments. The 26th Amendment prohibits age restrictions on voting for anyone 18 or older. While he conceded that some inconvenience when voting is constitutionally tolerable, Walker said that Florida’s position went beyond that. The ban made it more difficult for a particular group of people―young voters around college campuses―to vote.

“Florida’s public college and university students are categorically prohibited from on-campus early voting,” he wrote. “This is not a mere inconvenience.”

The ban has its origin in a 2013 state law that lays out where local election supervisors may allow early voting. Approved locations for early voting  included stadiums, civic and convention centers, as well as government-owned senior and community centers.

But in 2014, the office of Secretary of State Ken Detzner (R) issued an opinion saying the student union at the University of Florida, a state-funded institution, didn’t qualify as such a place, because it was “designed for, and affiliated with, a specific educational institution.” He went further, saying that the law did not permit early voting at “college- or university-related facilities” because lawmakers had explicitly chosen to exclude them from the bill.

In his ruling Tuesday, the judge said the state’s justifications “reek of pretext,” HuffPost reported. “While the [Detzner’s] Opinion does not identify college students by name, its target population is unambiguous and its effects are lopsided,” the judge wrote. “The Opinion is intentionally and facially discriminatory.”

Walker listed a number of reasons why access to early voting sites, in particular, is important for college students. While they can vote on election day, the judge wrote, the lines are often long. Student communities also face longer transportation times to early voting sites, and people living near college and university campuses disproportionately lack cars. College students in Florida also vote early at higher rates than their counterparts across the country, he said.

Through the ban, the judge concluded, Florida was “creating a secondary class of voters whom [the state] prohibits from even seeking early voting sites in dense, centralized locations where they work, study, and, in many cases, live.”

McKinley Lewis, a spokesperson for Florida Governor Rick Scott (R), said in a statement the governor was proud to have signed an early voting expansion and would review the ruling.

According to the Pew Research Center, more than 50 million voters were expected to cast early, absentee, and mail-in ballots in the 2016 presidential election. In 2012, 46 million voters—nearly 36% of the total—cast ballots in some manner other than at a traditional polling place on Election Day.

Research contact: samuel.levine@huffpost.com