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Federal judge cancels hearing on Florida vote-by-mail ballot lawsuit

[JURIST] US District Court for the Northern District of Florida [official website], issued an order on Saturday cancelling a hearing on a lawsuit regarding vote-by-mail ballots. Judge Mark Walker was highly critical [AP report] of Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner [official profile] for previously delaying the hearing, accusing him of "us[ing] every second available to run out the clock" in order to "deprive Florida citizens of their most precious right" to vote. The lawsuit, filed earlier this month by the Florida Democratic Party [party website], alleges that thousands of vote-by-mail ballots are rejected each election because voter signatures don't match the signature on the registration file. Without a valid signature these votes are not counted, and these individuals are not given a chance to correct their mistake. In what the judge called an act of "undeclared war," Detzner requested a week extension to respond to the lawsuit, but later informed the judge that no witnesses or evidence would be presented. According to the complaint [PDF], more than 23,000 ballots were rejected in the 2012 presidential election.

Voting issues have become contentious as the presidential election approaches. Last week a federal court issued [JURIST report] a preliminary injunction in favor of the Pyramid Lake and Walker River Paiute Native American tribes challenging Nevada's voting procedure of failing to provide polling places on Native American reservations. Late last month California Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation [JURIST report] clarifying felons' voting rights. The law now clarifies that those sentenced under the third category of Criminal Justice Realignment Act of 2011, a term in county jail, are not stripped of their constitutional right to vote and confirms that only those serving a state-prison sentence or on parole and under California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation supervision lose the right to vote. Earlier in September a judge for the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois granted a motion [JURIST report] blocking Illinois from allowing voter registration on Election Day in the state's most populated counties. The week before the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit struck down [JURIST report] a procedure implemented by the Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted that effectively eliminated inactive voters from registration rolls if they failed to respond to letters requesting confirmation of their status and addresses.

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