- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 16, 2002

Advocates of shifting national elections from the ballot box to the mailbox got a boost yesterday when the Supreme Court refused to review Oregon's trailblazing vote-by-mail system.
Four opponents of postal voting, represented by D.C., lawyer M. Miller Baker, argued in vain that Oregon's system violates a 19th-century law requiring all states to elect congressional and presidential candidates on the same day.
Justices refused without comment to review the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals' November decision upholding Oregon's system, which was challenged by Oregon voters in the Voting Integrity Project. Mr. Baker said Oregon's system is the most extreme example of early voting in the 20 states that allow it.
The appeals court ruled that Oregon complies with federal law by designating the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November "the day for the election," even though ballots mailed to every voter may be returned up to two weeks earlier. Each county provides at least one polling place for those seeking to vote in person.
"It's the difference between the exception to the rule and the exception that swallows the rule," Mr. Baker said when asked to compare Oregon's plan with virtually universal absentee voting.
The Oregon voting case was closely watched by states with absentee-voting laws less ambitious than Oregon's, which aims for 100 percent mail-in balloting.
"This is really an issue for Congress to decide," Oregon Solicitor General Michael D. Reynolds said yesterday. He said the Senate and House are considering bills on voting reform.
"The Supreme Court has said in the Foster v. Love case that election day is the day when the acts of election officials and voters combine to make a decision," Mr. Reynolds said, referring to a 1997 decision in a 9-0 Louisiana case in which Mr. Baker was the winning lawyer.
That decision overturned Saturday primaries that more often than not resolved the contest.
Mr. Baker of Washington's McDermott, Will & Emery law firm was disappointed by the outcome. "Since the late 1970s, states have begun sliding down a slippery slope and removing all restrictions to voting early," he said.
The court yesterday also:
Agreed to decide next term a trademark case pitting Victor and Cathy Moseley's Elizabethtown, Ky., lingerie store called Victor's Little Secret against the Victoria's Secret chain. Lawyers for the chain oppose review because Congress is considering a law requiring factoring in of actual economic harm on trademark issues. The Kentucky store has since changed its name to Cathy's Little Secret.
Postponed a decision on Scheidler v. NOW, in which Operation Rescue seeks to overturn use of a federal racketeering law to punish abortion protesters. The pro-life activists were fined for emulating tactics they contend were used by civil-rights groups and the anti-war movement.
Allowed Mary E. Lewis to keep her Missouri vanity tag "ARYAN-1," which she's had since 1986, over objections from officials who, in the words of a lower court, seek to "censor a license plate because its message might make people angry." Missouri said the ruling calls into question similar laws in every state.
Declined to intervene in the case of Texas author Vanessa Leggett, who was kept in jail five months for refusing to give federal prosecutors research about the 1997 society murder of Doris Angleton in Houston. An appeals court ruled "the journalist's privilege is ineffectual against a grand jury subpoena absent evidence of governmental harassment or oppression."

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