minority voters

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Florida: Another year, another stalled batch of Democratic-sponsored elections bills | Orlando Sentinel

With an eye toward the fall elections, Florida Democrats are hoping to build pressure on the Republican-controlled Legislature to adopt tougher voter-protections for minorities despite a sweeping elections reform enacted last year. Florida’s voting laws have seen a major overhaul since the problem-plagued 2012 presidential election, partly thanks to court-rulings that have halted a voter “purge” review of the legality of registered voters and the about-face the Legislature took in 2013 to expand early-voting. But at the same time, the U.S. Supreme Court last summer struck down provisions of the federal Voting Rights Act which served to protect minority voters from major changes in Florida – specifically, removing the requirement that changes get “pre-cleared” by the federal Justice Department before taking effect.  Read More

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Voting Blogs: Federal Judge Orders Texas to Produce Legislative Docs That May Prove Polling Place Photo ID Restriction Law Was Racially-Motivated | BradBlog

Just over a week ago, it was North Carolina legislators ordered by the court to cough up documentation relating to passage of new, draconian restrictions on voting rights in their state. Now, legislators in Texas are facing much the same thing, as that state’s extreme polling place Photo ID restrictions also face legal and Constitutional challenge. By way of an eight-page Order [PDF]issued late last week, U.S. District Court Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos has directed the State of Texas to serve upon the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) documents that relate to the question of whether “state legislators, contrary to their public pronouncements, acted with discriminatory intent in enacting SB 14,” the Lone Star State’s polling place Photo ID restriction law. That law had previously been found to be discriminatory against minority voters in TX, and thus rejected by both the DoJ and a federal court panel as a violation of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). It was then re-enacted by the state of Texas almost immediately after the U.S. Supreme Court gutted a central provision of the VRA in the summer of 2013. Read More

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National: Voting Rights Fight Takes New Direction | NPR

It’s that time again, when primary voters start casting their ballots for the midterm elections. As in recent years, voters face new rules and restrictions, including the need in 16 states to show a photo ID. But this year, some voting rights activists say they’re seeing a change — fewer new restrictions and, in some places, even a hint of bipartisanship. Although that wasn’t the case last month in Ohio, when the Legislature voted along party lines to eliminate a week of early voting. Lawmakers also agreed to prevent local election officials from mailing out unsolicited absentee ballot applications. ”We’re talking about disenfranchising thousands of folks,” Democratic state Rep. Alicia Reece said on the House floor. “And don’t tell me it can’t be done, because our history has shown it has been done.”  Read More

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Georgia: Lawmaker seeks shorter early-voting periods for small cities | Online Athens

The League of Women Voters slammed legislation Tuesday requested by small cities to shorten early-voting periods from 21 days to six, including one Saturday. Cities complain that staffing three people as poll workers for days when almost no one shows up to vote is too costly for local taxpayers, according to Tom Gehl, a lobbyist for the Georgia Municipal Association. “The requirement that they stay open can be really expensive, especially with a part-time staff,” he said. That argument doesn’t wash with Elizabeth Poythress, president of the League of Women Voters of Georgia. Read More

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New York: Albany County minority election districts case can proceed | Times Union

A lawsuit that alleges Albany County didn’t do enough in 2011 to create a new election district made up mostly of minority voters can go forward, a judge ruled. In a decision issued Tuesday, Judge Lawrence E. Kahn ruled there are enough black residents in a compact geographic area in the county to create a fifth minority district, allowing the case to proceed to trial. The plaintiffs — who include local NAACP leader Anne Pope and former County Legislator Wanda Willingham — brought the action seeking to invalidate the 2011 redistricting map by arguing the 2010 census showed a growth in the minority population, and therefore, minority representation should have been increased to five legislators out of 39 from the current of four. The suit says the county violated the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Read More

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Alaska: Senator Begich: Voting rights bill too weak | The Hill

Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) is pushing his Democratic colleagues to strengthen the protections for minorities in their proposed update to the Voting Rights Act. Begich said the bill introduced in the Senate by Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) does not do enough for minority voters, especially native populations in Alaska. Begich expressed concern that Alaska would not have to clear voting procedure changes with the federal government under the bill. A transparency provision that requires notice of voting changes is little consolation, he said. “This is cold comfort considering that the burden is entirely on the voter to find out about such changes,” he said in a letter to Leahy.  Read More

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South Carolina: Voting plan could put state ‘on thin ice’ | Gannett

South Carolina will be one misstep away from renewed federal supervision of its elections if legislation to restore part of the Voting Rights Act becomes law. The bill introduced Thursday would rewrite the rules that would determine which states need strict oversight based on the chance their election-related changes could harm minority voters. The old rules, which applied to South Carolina and all or part of 14 other states, were thrown out by the U.S. Supreme Court last year because they were based on outdated voting data. Read More

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Pennsylvania: Judge strikes down Pennsylvania’s Voter ID law | Washington Post

A state judge in Pennsylvania has struck down the state’s new Voter ID law. Commonwealth Court Judge Bernard McGinley ruled that the law, which has already been delayed by the courts and was not implemented in the 2012 election, is unconstitutional. The ruling sets up a key showdown in the state Supreme Court over the controversial law. “Voter ID laws are designed to assure a free and fair election; the Voter ID Law does not further this goal,” McGinley wrote in his decision, adding: “Based on the foregoing, this Court declares the Voter ID Law photo ID provisions and related implementation invalid…” Read More

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Alabama: Judge Reinstates Federal Oversight of Voting Practices for Alabama City | New York Times

A federal judge in Alabama on Monday reinstated federal oversight over the voting practices of a city there, in what election law specialists said was the first such move since the Supreme Court struck down part of the Voting Rights Act in June. Judge Callie V.S. Granade, of Federal District Court in Mobile, used a mechanism in the law that the Supreme Court had left untouched, Section 3, which allows jurisdictions that have intentionally discriminated against minority voters to be “bailed in” to the oversight requirements. Relying on Section 3, Judge Granade ordered the city, Evergreen, to submit some changes in voting procedures to the Department of Justice or a federal court for review before they can go into effect. “This is a major win for the people of Evergreen,” said John K. Tanner, a lawyer for the plaintiffs and a former chief of the Justice Department’s voting section. But he added that piecemeal litigation under Section 3 was no substitute for a general requirement that states and localities designated by Congress be subject to federal oversight. Read More

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California: Anaheim settles minority voting rights lawsuit; residents will weigh in on electoral changes | Associated Press

Anaheim on Tuesday approved a settlement in a voting rights lawsuit that challenged its citywide elections as unfair to the city’s Hispanic majority. Under the settlement, the plaintiffs’ claims will be dismissed and Anaheim residents will vote in November on whether to change the city charter to a district system, which supporters and judges have said is more fair to minority voters, the city announced in a statement. The city didn’t admit in the deal that its current system violates the California Voting Rights Act, under which the American Civil Liberties Union brought the lawsuit on behalf of three residents. City Attorney Michael R.W. Houston said it will allow changes to the system to be decided by voters, “not through court-ordered mandates and judicial oversight of the City’s electoral system.”  Read More

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