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Tag: Voting Rights Act (page 1 of 6)

“Colorful Colorado”: State Redistricting Maps In The 2020 Election

By: Weston Zeike

“Colorful Colorado” is one nickname of the “Centennial State.” Perhaps it’s fitting, then, that the state has been making headlines on the way it decided to color in its maps during the 2020 redistricting process.

Redistricting reform has received increasing attention in recent years, with Colorado being no exception to the national trend. In 2018, Colorado voters amended the Colorado Constitution to task an independent redistricting commission with drawing lines. Requiring 55% of the vote while receiving over 70%, these amendments gave the new independent redistricting commission authority to draw both state and congressional lines. Three years after the vote (and only months after the release of the requisite decennial census data release), we have a final congressional redistricting plan drawn by the commission.

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Political Process Breakdown: What Happens When the Political Branches Cannot Agree on a Map?

By: Kayla Burris

What happens when the governor and state legislature disagree on how to draw a state’s legislative districts? Should the courts get involved? And how soon should they get involved—at the beginning of the process, or closer to the primaries?

State and federal courts in Wisconsin are grappling with these questions. Two tandem tracks of cases are proceeding—one in the Wisconsin Supreme Court and one consolidated case in the District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin.

To set the scene, Wisconsin is one of the most politically divided states in the country with a Republican legislature and a Democratic governor—both of which are required to agree on a legislative map according to Wisconsin law. Thus far in the redistricting cycle, the two sides seem unlikely to come to an agreement on the new legislative map. The Democratic governor has said that “it’s unlikely he would sign into law any maps drawn by the Republican-controlled [l]egislature that are based on the current boundary lines that have solidified GOP majorities for decades.” The governor instead favors using a nonpartisan commission to draw the maps. The Republican-controlled legislature on the other hand argues for retaining the current maps to the extent possible under the law.

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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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Florida Senate Bill 90: Usual or Unusual Beast of Burden?

On May 6, 2021, Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida signed Senate Bill 90 into law. While the Governor and his Republican colleagues in the Legislature heralded SB 90 for its election integrity and transparency measures, critics called foul, or rather “voter suppression.” SB 90 is Florida’s contribution to a flurry of state-led reforms sparked by the national discourse on the validity of the 2020 election. As a result of SB 90, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida now has a substantial election law docket. Petitioners assert a variety of claims (including ADA, Equal Protection, and Fifteenth Amendment claims), with claims regarding Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act featuring prominently.

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How Much is on the Chopping Block? – Arizona Sends a VRA Section 2 Case to the Supreme Court

By: Megan Kelly

What do ballot harvesting and out-of-precinct votes have in common? Arizona is sending cases about both to the Supreme Court next term. In early October, the Supreme Court granted certiorari on two cases about voting regulations in Arizona. The first is Arizona’s law banning ballot harvesting. The law bans third parties from turning in voter ballots, except in the case of family, members of the household, or caregivers. The second is Arizona’s law requiring that ballots cast at the wrong precinct not be counted.

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Question 4: Constitutionally Codifying Nevada’s Voters’ Bill of Rights

By Elizabeth DePatie

This year, Nevadans will have to answer “yes” or “no” to Question 4—a ballot initiative that seeks to enshrine specific voter protections in Nevada’s state constitution. Collectively, these rights are referred to as the Voters’ Bill of Rights, and they were added to Nevada state law in 2002. The amendment would add these rights to Nevada’s state constitution, thus preventing future legislatures from easily overturning or modifying Nevadans right to vote in the future.

Arguments against the amendment largely rest on the idea that the amendment is unnecessary and could be burdensome as voting technology improves. There are concerns that by codifying these rights in the state constitution, it will be harder to adapt laws going further as voting conditions continue to change. The right to vote in Nevada is protected by statute and by amendments to the United States Constitution; opponents argue this is “a solution in search of a problem.”

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Racial Vote-Dilution Lawsuit Transforms Small Town City Council

By Jeffrey Tyler

A lawsuit brought by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund has finally allowed the Black residents of a small Alabama city to elect their preferred candidates for City Council. Since its incorporation in 1937, Pleasant Grove has not elected a single non-white City Council member – until now. The NAACP’s legal challenge, brought under the Voting Rights Act’s anti-racial-vote-dilution provisions, argued that Pleasant Grove’s “at-large, numbered-place” electoral system violated Section 2 of the Act because Black residents were consistently prevented from electing their preferred candidates.

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Meeting California’s Language Access Needs: Decision in Appeals Case Against California Secretary of State

By: Elizabeth Harte

A California appeals court ruled on November 5, 2019, that California Secretary of State, Alex Padilla, improperly used the federal Voting Rights Act population requirement, instead of state law, to determine which language minorities required language services. His 2017 directive had restricted language assistance for “tens of thousands of California voters.” This ruling will bring language service access to those who speak languages like “Japanese, Hindi, Thai, Burmese, Urdu, Hmong and Punjabi” and will result in the recognition of eleven languages that California has not previously acknowledged. The ruling affects approximately 1,300 California precincts and grants “56,000 limited-English speaking California residents” assistance, like translated voting materials, that helps them participate in the democratic process.

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Open Season on Ballot Harvesting in Arizona? 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Considers a Reversal

By: Kristin Palmason

A controversial piece of election legislation (HB 2023) enacted in Arizona in 2016 made ballot collecting a class 6 felony. Ballot collection, known as “ballot harvesting” is the practice of collecting completed ballots from voters and hand delivering them to be counted. Proponents of the practice say it is a valuable service that benefits voters in need of assistance to ensure that their vote is counted, while critics decry the practice as ripe for fraud. This issue is particularly salient in Arizona, where approximately 80% of voters receive their ballot in the mail (which can then be returned via mail or delivered to the county by hand).

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Can State Laws Fill the Gap Left by Shelby County v. Holder?

By: Trevor Bernardo

Following the Supreme Court’s landmark decision to invalidate the coverage formula of the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder, many wondered what impact the decision would have on minority voting access. The Brennan Center has found that formerly covered jurisdictions, like Texas and North Carolina, have passed restrictive voting laws (think voter ID) and purged voters from voter rolls at higher rates than non-covered jurisdictions. Continue reading

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