A bitter feud between a voter registration group and Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State has seen a lawsuit, claims of voter suppression, a politically motivated effort to hype voter fraud, and fears that large numbers of minority voters could be disenfranchised. But in the final analysis, it perhaps says just as much about less sensational but more intractable problems in the way we run elections. How the fracas gets resolved may play a key role in Georgia’s tight U.S. Senate race, which could hang on minority turnout, and might end up determining control of the chamber next year. The latest twist in the saga came Monday evening, when a local news report cast doubt on claims made by Secretary of State Brian Kemp to justify a controversial investigation he launched last month into the New Georgia Project (NGP), a voter registration group working in minority areas.
Documents obtained from Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s office appear to contradict Kemp’s claim that a voter fraud probe was based on numerous complaints from counties across Georgia. For weeks, Democrats have hinted that Secretary of State Brian Kemp is trying to keep newly registered Democrats off the voters rolls. Kemp, a Republican, makes no apologies for investigating the New Georgia Project — which has focused on registering Democratic-leaning minority voters. Last week, Kemp said again that reports of potential voter fraud led to the probe.
Democrats and civil rights groups hope the fight to restore a key provision of the Voting Rights Act will boost turnout among minority voters this year, particularly in the South. ”We’re going to do some things to raise the profile of the Voting Rights Act and the fact that the Supreme Court gutted it,” said Rep. Cedric Richmond, a Democrat from Louisiana. “You will see us be more active. We tried to do it in a very bipartisan manner … But it just doesn’t seem like that’s going to go far enough soon enough, so it’s going to be a fight.” Richmond is among those working to pass legislation that would revive a section of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that the Supreme Court threw out last year. The bill’s supporters are making their case at press conferences, town halls and in newspapers — online and in print — to mobilize voters. The issue will be the focus of several panels at the Congressional Black Caucus’ annual legislative convention in Washington this week.
A law requiring Texas voters to show government-issued identification before casting a ballot is the latest example of the state’s long history of discrimination against minorities and puts unjustified burdens on the right to vote for more than half a million Texans, lawyers challenging the law told a federal judge here on Monday. The Justice Department, joined by several black and Hispanic voters, elected officials and advocacy groups, sued Texas in federal court over the state’s voter-identification law, asking a judge to overturn it and arguing that it discriminates against minority voters. Texas officials said the law was necessary to prevent voter fraud and have denied that it discriminates, arguing that the five elections Texas has held using the law’s requirements had yielded few reports of people being unable to produce the types of ID needed to vote.
Georgia’s top elections official gave a nonprofit group that has registered more than 85,000 minority voters until tomorrow to produce every record it has, in what critics say is an effort to suppress minority voting in November’s tight race for the U.S. Senate. Secretary of State Brian Kemp, a Republican, is accusing the New Georgia Project of fraud in its drive to reach the more than 800,000 minority Georgians not on the rolls. Kemp served a subpoena on organizers a day after first lady Michelle Obama urged on the effort at an Atlanta appearance. Kemp spokesman Jared Thomas said the office received fraud reports from several county elections offices. “We had clear evidence,” he said. “We need to know the totality of it.”
The Justice Department and the state of Texas are tangling in two separate court cases that could determine how much of the Voting Rights Act is still enforceable. Last year, the United States Supreme Court moved to narrow the scope of the historic act, passed in 1965 as a watershed moment in the civil rights movement. The Act in its original form guaranteed the voting rights of minorities under the 14th and 15th Amendments, including a provision called Section 5 that required states with a history of discrimination to get federal government approval before changing their election laws. In 2013, the Supreme Court decided in Shelby County v. Holder that the formula used to decide which states had historically discriminated against voters was unconstitutional, and it asked Congress to devise a new coverage formula. The ruling effectively allowed nine states (mostly in the South) to change their election laws without federal approval, since there was little expectation that Congress could agree on a new coverage formula in the near future. But the Obama administration and the Justice Department, under Attorney General Eric Holder, vowed to use other parts of the Voting Rights Act to press its case where it believed voter discrimination existed. In Texas, the Justice Department is pursuing two federal court actions: one in San Antonio and the other in Corpus Christi.
California: Senate Bill Strengthening California Voting Rights Act Headed to Gov. Brown | California Newswire
A bill that would strengthen the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA) is on its way to the desk of Calif. Governor Jerry Brown for consideration. The bill won final legislative approval today in the State Senate. SB 1365 by Senator Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) would expand the CVRA by explicitly prohibiting school boards, cities, and counties from gerrymandering district boundaries in a manner that would weaken the ability of a racial or language minority to influence the outcome of an election. “With today’s vote, we are one step closer to strengthening voting rights in Californian,” said Senator Alex Padilla. “As our state becomes increasingly diverse we must ensure that the rights of all voters are protected,” added Padilla.
Editorials: Texas is wasting time and money in defending the GOP’s political advantage | Houston Chronicle
Texans know about lines, including the sword-drawn line Col. William Barrett Travis allegedly scraped through soon-to-be-bloody Alamo sand to distinguish the brave from the not-so-brave. These days a three-judge federal panel meeting a few blocks from the Texas shrine is examining in tedious detail a set of lines that won’t be erased by an early-morning breeze. They’re drawn, not in sand, but on computers. Since these lines will determine for years to come how Texans choose their elected representatives, the state’s politically invested are fighting almost as ferociously as the two armies that clashed at the Alamo. Unfortunately, the fight will last a good deal longer than the 13 days it took the Alamo to fall.
California: Bill to Strengthen California Voting Rights Act Approved by State Assembly | California Newswire
A bill to strengthen voter protections under the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA) was approved today by the State Assembly. SB 1365 by Senator Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) expands the CVRA by explicitly prohibiting school boards, cities, and counties from gerrymandering district boundaries in a manner that would weaken the ability of a racial or language minority to influence the outcome of an election. Current state law only allows a challenge of at-large elections. The bill now goes to the State Senate for a final concurrence vote and then to the Governor’s desk. “With today’s vote, we are one step closer to strengthening voting rights for all Californians,” said Senator Alex Padilla. “As our state becomes increasingly diverse we must ensure that the rights of all voters are protected,” added Padilla.
Minority groups seeking more influence in local government would have a potentially powerful new tool at their disposal under a proposed expansion of the California Voting Rights Act. The way Los Angeles County — among others jurisdictions — has drawn districts for elected officials could face a legal challenge in California if a bill, introduced by state Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima), becomes law. It took a federal lawsuit more than 20 years ago to create the first Latino-majority district on the L.A. County Board of Supervisors. More recently, advocacy groups have argued for a second district, noting that Latinos make up nearly half the population of the county. A majority of the current board has resisted drawing new district boundaries to accomplish that.