Breaking News: RNC Loses Appeal Over Consent Decree Barring Polling Place “Ballot Security” Measures

You can read the unanimous opinion of the three-judge-court of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit at this link. Speaking very roughly, back in 1982 the Republican National Committee settled a case (through a court-enforced consent decree) brought by the Democratic National Committee claiming that Republican “ballot security” programs meant to combat supposed voter fraud constituted intimidation of minority voters in violation of the Constitution and the Voting Rights Act. Among other things, the consent decree requires the RNC to get permission from the court before implementing certain poll watching activities.

This decree has been in place for a long time, and recently the RNC argued that the consent decree should be modified or dissolved.  The district court agreed to put an 8 year time limit on the rest of the decree (subject to the DNC arguing for additional extensions after 2017), but otherwise kept the key provisions in place.  In today’s decision, a three-judge panel of the Third Circuit unanimously affirmed the District Court’s decision not to weaken or dissolve the decree. The only point upon which the appellate court seemed to disagree with the district court was over whether it was appropriate to dissolve this in 8 years–the appellate court suggested that it might be improper to do so, because the mere passage of time is not enough to prove the decree should be dissolved.

Bottom line: huge win for the DNC here.  I do not know if the RNC will try for a rehearing en banc in the third circuit, but a motion for an injunction pending appeal to the Supreme Court Justice in charge of the Third Circuit, Justice Alito, does not seem to far-fetched to me.

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