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Tag: Voting Rights Act (page 1 of 4)

The Story of Texas SB 14: A Legal Lazarus

By: Shawn Syed

“Lazarus” is a name associated with a simple story. A subject dies. The Subject is then restored and is suddenly alive. Lazarus has been explored in songs, movies, and other forms of narrative. The 82nd Texas Legislature’s Senate Bill 14 (SB 14) is the legal world’s example of Lazarus.

Our Lazarus, SB 14, allowed the following to be accepted as voter identification: Texas Driver License, Texas Election Identification Certificate, Texas Personal Identification Card, Texas Concealed Handgun License, United States Military Identification Card, United States Citizenship Certificate, or United States Passport. The most notable form of identification that was not included was a student ID. The first four could only be issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety. The Texas Department of Public Safety has been in the news for other reasons recently. The Texas Department of Public Safety proposed closing 87 driver’s license offices as a solution to cut down wait times. In effect, this would hinder the ability of people trying to get certain forms of acceptable identification under SB 14.

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In Alabama, an Ease on Restrictions for Felon Voting—From an Unlikely Source

By: Zach McDonnell

In May 2017, the Alabama Legislature did something unusual, especially for a state in many respects still steeped in the vestiges of the Jim Crow era: it made it easier for people with felony convictions to vote. On May 17, 2017, the Alabama Legislature passed the Definition of Moral Turpitude Act (DMTA); eight days later, Governor Kay Ivey signed the bill into law, which took effect on August 1, 2017. In contrast to Republican politicians such as Governors Terry Branstad of Iowa and Rick Scott of Florida, Alabama Republicans led the re-enfranchisement effort: Representative Mike Jones, a Republican from deeply white district in southern Alabama, introduced the bill, which passed 102-1 in the Alabama House and 29-6 in the Alabama Senate—in both of which Republicans have a supermajority.

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Native Alaskan Voter Language Assistance Implementation

By: Jakob Stalnaker

Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act requires certain covered jurisdictions to provide language assistance and bilingual election materials to language minority groups. The determinations are made every five years by the Census Bureau. The criteria for coverage include if either (1) more than five percent of voting age population or (2) 10,000 of the voting age citizens are members of a single-language minority group and do not “speak or adequately understand English adequately enough to participate in the electoral process.” There is an additional provision, covering jurisdictions with more than five percent of American Indian or Alaska Native population residing within an American Indian Area, meeting the same criteria if those citizens do not “speak or understand English adequately enough to participate in the electoral process” and the rate of individuals in that population who have not completed the fifth grade is higher than the national rate.

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Can Virginia Become a Redistricting Unicorn like Iowa?

By Aaron Barden

There was a lizard on the floor of the James City County (JCC) government building’s Board of Supervisors meeting hall on August 8th, 2017. I was there to watch the board consider OneVirginia2021’s resolution, which in most cases does little more than declare support for non-partisan redistricting. But JCC’s resolution was different. The resolution had a paragraph tacked to the end that would have changed the County’s local redistricting procedure from a citizen board with no criteria-based restrictions (preventing use of party, no incumbency protection, etc.) to a reliance on the Board’s staff to draw the lines with such restrictions. Continue reading

North Carolina’s Battle for Voter Identification

By: Collin Crookenden

With the recent invalidation of the coverage formula set forth in Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, several previously covered districts implemented stricter voting requirements. In 2013, immediately following the invalidation, North Carolina enacted Session Law 2013-381 which contained multiple provisions that were contested as soon as Governor McCrory (R) signed it into effect: photo identification requirements, shortened early voting periods, and elimination of pre-registration for individuals under the age of 18. The new requirements were set to go into effect January 2016 and were in fact utilized in the primaries earlier this year, after the legislature altered the law in 2015. Of primary concern to the litigants and to the legislation’s opposition was the requirement of all voters to show photo identification. Most states have some form of identification requirements, but North Carolina’s 2013 version maintained some of the most stringent provisions. Governor McCrory argued that these, specifically the photo identification statute, were “common sense” pieces of legislation. However, while the district court agreed with his assessment, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the legislation was in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination of voting requirements based upon race.

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Pennsylvania is leading the charge to reenact Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act

By: Ebony Thomas

From slavery to Jim Crow, America has a long, dark history in the treatment of its African American citizenry.  Although Congress ratified changes to the United States Constitution three times to benefit African Americans (i.e., the 13th Amendment abolished slavery, the 14th Amendment provided African Americans equal protection, and the 15th Amendment gave African American men a right to vote), the franchise did not come easily for former slaves. Many states imposed barriers, such as poll taxes, literacy tests, intimidation, and other methods, to keep African Americans from accessing the ballot. It was not until 1965, under the leadership of President Lyndon B. Johnson, that the nation affirmed the promise of the Constitution to all Americans and effectively decimated States’ self-imposed barriers that kept African Americans from exercising their right to vote.  This legislation is known as the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

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Federal Court Ruling Creates Chaos for North Carolina Primaries But There May Be a Solution

By: Blake Willis

Election litigation has experienced a new spike in recent years, with many states being involved with litigation over redistricting plans, Voter I.D. laws, and other ballot access issues. Since the inception of litigation under the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA), there has been a consistent concern that federal courts should not be involved in determining the policies of voting, re-districting, and other related issues. Cases such as plurality opinion Davis v. Bandemer express such concerns, stating that partisan gerrymandering concerns are not justiciable, and that opening the door for federal courts to examine similar claims may set a dangerous precedent. In Veith v. Jubelirer, Justice Scalia echoed this sentiment, arguing that it is an increasingly difficult task for courts to determine what the predominant factor for drawing a district line may be. The expanding jurisprudence from both partisan and racial gerrymandering cases proves this argument may hold some validity, as evidenced by courts’ disagreement over the correct standard to apply, what the evidentiary standard should be, and who the burden of proof rests upon, as just a few examples. Although this litigation has been ongoing for decades, it is by no means near reaching an end.

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Why Was South Carolina’s Voter ID Law Approved in 2012? Will It Remain?

By: Lane Reeder

Prior to Shelby County v. Holder in 2013, South Carolina was a covered jurisdiction under Section Five of the Voting Rights Act.  In 2011, during Legislative Session 119, the South Carolina legislature passed, and the Governor signed, an act that made voting-related changes.  Section Five of Act R54 (A27 H3003) (2011) dealt with voter identification. Because this happened prior to Shelby County v. Holder, pre-clearance was required.  The State asked for pre-clearance from the Attorney General of the United States, but it was denied.  South Carolina then sought a declaratory judgment in the D.C. District Court.

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Black Votes Matter: Pennsylvania’s Impressive History of Access to the Franchise

By: Ebony Thomas

Today, Pennsylvania’s voting laws are among the least restrictive of any state in granting its citizens access to the ballot. Pennsylvania is one of the few states that supports the voting rights of people with past felony convictions. Moreover, Pennsylvania has always been a leader in providing its citizens, especially its black citizens, access to its franchise.

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As early as the late 18th century, black freemen in Pennsylvania had the right to vote-well before the passage of the civil rights amendments (the 13th, 14th, and 15th). These gains were short-lived, as black freemen lost their suffrage rights in 1838 when the Pennsylvania constitution was amended. These freemen did not regain their right to the franchise until 1870 with the ratification of the United States Constitution’s 15th Amendment. During their disenfranchisement, blacks still fought for suffrage by petitioning and protesting for the Pennsylvania legislature to reinstate their rights. Yet their efforts fell on deaf ears. It was commonly held that apathy among black freemen and rising racial tensions between blacks and whites lost them their right to vote in Pennsylvania. Surprisingly, once blacks regained their right to vote in 1870, Pennsylvania did not impose any barriers on the franchise, in contradistinction to other states, which imposed barriers like the poll tax and literacy tests that ultimately led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

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Texas: District Court Orders Texas to Re-Write Voter ID Educational Materials, Requires Preclearance Before Publishing Materials

By: Benjamin Daily

In a new development in Texas’ Voter ID saga, U.S District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos found that Texas had misled voters and poll workers about the ID requirements to cast a ballot in the November 2016 election. The new order also requires Texas to obtain preclearance before publishing its educational material. The challenge comes after the Fifth Circuit struck down SB14, the Texas Voter ID law, in Veasey v. Abbott, the Texas Voter ID law last July.

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