minority voters

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Editorials: Voter ID lawsuits are the last chance to prove the laws are intentionally racist | Ana Marie Cox/The Guardian

This week, the US Department of Justice and the state of Texas started arguments in the first of what will be a summer-long dance between the two authorities over voting rights. There are three suits being tried in two districts over gerrymandering and Texas’s voter identification law – both of which are said to be racially motivated. In its filing, the DoJ describes the law as “exceed[ing] the requirements imposed by any other state” at the time that it passed. If the DoJ can prove the arguments in its filing, it won’t just defeat an unjust law: it could put the fiction of “voter fraud” to rest once and for all. These battles, plus parallel cases proceeding in North Carolina, hinge on proving that the states acted with explicitly exclusionary intent toward minority voters – a higher standard was necessary prior to the Supreme Court’s gutting of Section 3 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) back in January. Under Section 3, the DoJ had wide latitude to look at possible consequences of voting regulation before they were even passed – the “preclearance” provision. Ironically, because the states held to preclearance had histories of racial discrimination, some of the messier aspects of the laws’ current intentions escaped comment. Read More

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Editorials: Texas GOP’s secret anti-Hispanic plot: Smoking gun emails revealed | Salon.com

On Nov. 17, 2010, Eric Opiela sent an email to Gerard Interiano. A Texas Republican Party associate general counsel, Opiela served at that time as a campaign adviser to the state’s speaker of the House Joe Straus, R-San Antonio; he was about to become the man who state lawmakers understood spoke “on behalf of the Republican Congressmen from Texas,” according to minority voting-rights plaintiffs, who have sued Texas for discriminating against them. A few weeks before receiving Opiela’s email, Interiano had started as counsel to Straus’ office. He was preparing to assume top responsibility for redrawing the state’s political maps; he would become the “one person” on whom the state’s redistricting “credibility rests,” according to Texas’ brief in voting-rights litigation.  Read More

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National: Can an election district have too many minority voters in it? | Constitution Daily

Under the Constitution, government officials are not supposed to sort people by race, for any public benefit. If they do, they have to come up with the strongest policy reasons, and even those will be severely tested in court.   The really hard part comes when race is taken into account as an attempt to remedy past racial discrimination. When does that become a new form of discrimination? Courts have long struggled with that remedy issue, and in no field of law has that effort been more difficult than in drawing new election districts, as almost always has to be done after each new federal Census. Populations do shift over 10-year spans, and districting maps thus may get out of date. Racial calculations do enter into the map-drawing process, for the simple reason that federal voting rights law requires it. Read More

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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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