State of Elections

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Tag: Jim Crow

Show-Me Your Voter ID

By: Victoria Conrad

The phrase “I am from Missouri. You have got to show me” struck a new chord to voters this June.

June brought a new era for elections in Missouri: voters are now required to show identification to fill out a ballot. After decades of battling over a voter identification law, Republicans in the state legislature finally got their way. Continue reading

Weekly Wrap Up

No more automatic restoration of rights: Governor Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet have recently attempted to change how released felon regain the right to vote. Their proposal, which the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund suggests must get preclearance under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, would prevent people who committed non-violent felonies from regaining the right to vote for 5 years and the 5 year clock would restart if that person were arrested during that period, even if no charges are filed. Some have called these requirements a return to Jim Crow-style voting laws.

Campaign finance again in front of the Supreme Court: As mentioned on Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in McComish v. Bennett on Monday morning. The case is a constitutional challenge to Arizona’s Clean Elections Act, which includes a trigger fund provision for publicly-funded candidates. This is one a several such cases that have been heard in federal courts in the last year; several other challenges have come out of Florida, Connecticut, and most recently Wisconsin in the ongoing judicial elections.

“Fair Districts” Amendments go to the Justice Department: Three months after Governor Rick Scott quietly withdrew the preclearance request for the “Fair Districts” amendments (Amendments 5 and 6 to the Florida constitution), the legislature has renewed the request, after reviewing the amendments and deciding they were the proper body to make the request, as opposed to the governor. This, however, will likely not end the battle over these amendments as a lawsuit to block these amendments is still pending.

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The Bizarre History of Election Law: The Camden Election Riots of 1870

Election law has certainly earned its eccentric reputation.  From zombie voters to hanging chads, the strange history of modern election law has become ingrained in the public consciousness.  But, as odd as the last decade has been, the previous centuries of election law have been even more bizarre.  So, in this series of articles, State of Elections will take a closer look at some of the stranger moments in election law.

In the previous “bizarre history” article, we discussed the various (and often hilarious) irregularities of  Siskiyou County’s school superintendent election.  Today, we are going to take a more solemn look at one of the strangest and most brutal attempts to disenfranchise black voters in American history.

In the aftermath of the Civil War, Camden County New Jersey was a hotbed of racial strife.  The black population of the county grew dramatically, as former slaves left their plantations and moved up North.  As the black population 316px-Map_of_New_Jersey_highlighting_Camden_County.svggrew, so did the anger of certain elements within the white community. This tension between the whites and blacks in Camden County came to a head during the 1870 Congressional election.  For many of the newly freed slaves, it would be their first time voting.  In Centreville, a small town in Camden County, whites feared that this sudden influx of freed slaves would have an irrevocable impact on local politics. So, they formed a mob and marched down to the polls to stop blacks from voting, anyway they could. Continue reading

Op Ed: Take Jim Crow Out of the Virginia Constitution: Restore Voting Rights for All

After the 15th Amendment was passed, giving blacks the constitutional right to vote, Southern states enacted Jim Crow laws, designed to keep blacks from actually voting. These laws included disingenuous literacy tests and poll taxes, which served as illegal but thankfully temporary impediments for black voters. One of the few ways that states found they could legally keep at least some blacks from voting, however, was to enact felon disenfranchisement laws. These laws say that after a felon has served his time in prison, he still cannot vote. Although African-Americans represent only about 12.5% of America’s population, they make up about 48.5% of its prison population. So, felon disenfranchisement laws, which are at best arguably constitutional, have proved an effective method of suppressing the black vote.

Virginia is one of only two states in the U.S. that permanently bars ex-felons from voting, even after they have paid their debt to society (the other is Kentucky). In Virginia alone, there are more than 377,000 disenfranchised felons. Of these, more than 208,000 are African-American.This is an abomination. Virginia’s laws must be changed. Continue reading

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