minority voters

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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. Read More

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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. Read More

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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. Read More

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California: Proposal could create more voting districts anchored by minorities | Los Angeles Times

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. Read More

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Oregon: Portland’s electoral system loses under California law aimed at ensuring minority representation | The Oregonian

Congress approved the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to break down the kind of system that the city of Portland uses to this day. The federal legislation prohibits voting practices that discriminate against African Americans, Latinos or other racial and ethnic minorities. Most successful lawsuits filed under the civil rights law have targeted local governments that elect representatives citywide rather than by geographic district. Courts ruled that some Southern cities used at-large elections to water down the voting power of African Americans, who lived clustered in one part of town but formed a minority of the total electorate.  Read More

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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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