State of Elections

William & Mary Law School | Election Law Society

Tag: DoJ

Is it Really Jim Crow 2.0? The DOJ Seems to Think So

By: Lubna Alamri

In March 2021, Georgia governor Brian Kemp signed into law the “Election Integrity Act of 2021”, a law that many have criticized as an effort by Republicans to suppress the minority vote after President Biden’s election and the Democrats’ win of both Senate seats in Georgia.

Most of the controversy surrounding the new law stems from its efforts to tighten limits on absentee voting . Among some of its more notable provisions, the law now requires voters to obtain a voter ID number in order to apply for an absentee ballot, cuts off absentee ballot applications 11 days before an election, and limits the number of drop boxes in each given county. One of the more unusual provisions includes a prohibition on the distribution of food and drink to voters waiting in lines, that is despite Georgia having some of the Nation’s longest waiting lines, especially in heavily minority populated areas.

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Alabama sidesteps VRA § 5 preclearance status quo: I’ll see you in court

by John Alford

As part of the mandated decennial redistricting, the Alabama legislature will change the lines for the State’s congressional and school board districts. Current and proposed maps can be found here. This redistricting will alter the political landscape of the State, but before Alabama can move forward on redistricting, the Federal Government has to approve of the new map as per the Voting Rights Act § 5 (“VRA”). Under the VRA § 5, there are two paths Alabama can take to get preclearance. It can seek approval through the Justice Department (DOJ) or through the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. (For more on the VRA § 5, particularly why and how states like Alabama get preclearance from the Federal Government, see here.) Alabama has opted to take the matter to court.

Like many other covered jurisdictions, Alabama is unhappy with the requirement that the Justice Department (DOJ) keep tabs on its election process. To wit, Shelby County recently filed suit challenging the constitutionality of the preclearance process, so far unsuccessfully (see more about this lawsuit here.) The opinion in Shelby County emanates from the same court from which Alabama is seeking preclearance on redistricting. But the ruling against Shelby County should not alter how the District Court views the issue here. Overturning VRA § 5 would be an extreme political move, essentially declaring that issues of race no longer disrupt the electoral process in states historically notorious for prejudicial practices. Granting preclearance to a redistricting plan, as routinely done in the past, is nowhere near as high a hurdle for Alabama to clear. Continue reading

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