Thousands of demonstrators gathered outside the historic Brown Chapel AME Church in Selma, Alabama on Sunday to reprise one of the most powerful acts of the civil rights era. But memorializing history was not the only order of the day, attorney general Eric Holder said in a speech inside the church. In a message that appeared to be coordinated with a pre-recorded television interview by President Barack Obama, Holder attacked a 2013 supreme court decision that invalidated part of the Voting Rights Act as he called for a new national push for protections for minority voters. This year’s march over the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Holder said, was a symbolic call to finish the work of the original demonstration of 7 March 1965, “Bloody Sunday”, which set the stage for the passage of the Voting Rights Act. Police estimated the crowd crossing the bridge on Sunday at 15-20,000.
Despite recent gains in drawing fairer lines for state lawmakers’ districts, congressional district maps could look like Rorschach test ink blots for the foreseeable future. One of the reasons for the impasse in reforming congressional redistricting is a U.S. Supreme Court case debated Monday. In the case, Arizona lawmakers say they were cut out of the congressional line-drawing process when voters created an independent commission in 2000. The board of two Republicans, two Democrats and an independent took the pencil out of the hands of partisan politicians.
Editorials: Celebrating Selma without fixing the Voting Rights Act dishonors the sacrifices of Bloody Sunday | Sherrilyn Ifill/Los Angeles Times
Long after he had left his career as a civil rights lawyer to become a justice on the Supreme Court, Thurgood Marshall described his 1944 success in a case striking down all-white primary elections in Texas as his “greatest victory.” This is an astonishing statement for a man who was the architect and chief litigator of the most important civil rights case of the 20th century, Brown vs. Board of Education. But Marshall recognized that breaking down the stranglehold on exclusive white political power was as crucial to defeating Southern white supremacy as dismantling segregation in education. Despite Marshall’s victory in the Texas case, it took 20 years and the activism of thousands before the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965 provided the tools to protect the right of blacks to participate equally in the political process. On Saturday and Sunday, thousands converged on Selma, Ala., to commemorate March 7, 1965, “Bloody Sunday,” and the voting rights marches from Selma to Montgomery that led to the passage of the act.
“What is corruption, how should we define it, and why is it bad?” This is the question put to the panel organized by Fordham Law and featuring key theorists about corruption and equality, all of them on the reform side. It is available on video and well worth watching. Rick Hasen has already reported that he and Larry Lessig came to a sort of detente – – coming closer, he said, “than we ever have before” on the role of money. This is an understatement. By the time they were done, Lessig, champion of a theory of “dependence corruption”, and Hasen, vigorous exponent of a theory of political equality, agreed that they might be talking about roughly the same thing. Somewhat more on her own was Zephyr Teachout, who argued eloquently for a morality-based view of corruption centrally concerned with shoring up civic culture.
Only in Connecticut will you find a registrar of voters nominated by each political party, in every city and town. Secretary of the State Denise Merrill believes this is part of the reason there have been problems in several recent elections and the system needs to change. On Monday, Merrill came to the state capital to ask legislators to move forward a bill calling for professionalizing all 169 registrars offices across the state. ”In the past few years election day problems court interventions long lines at the polls and numerous other breaches of the law have shocked the public, and rightly so,” she said.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit Monday against the Jefferson County Commission, the county’s school board and supervisor of elections challenging the inclusion of state prison inmates in the drawing of election district maps. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Tallahassee by the ACLU on behalf of concerned county residents, says the redistricting plan adopted by the commission and school board in 2013 violates the constitution’s “one person, one vote” requirement and amounts to “prison-based gerrymandering.”
In a shift from the “tough on crime” rhetoric of years past, some Maryland lawmakers are questioning whether the state has gone overboard in punishing ex-offenders long after they have paid their dues and returned to the street. “Restorative justice is the movement we’re hearing about,” said Del. Brett R. Wilson, a prosecutor and Western Maryland Republican who supports some efforts to help ex-offenders get jobs. “It’s gained momentum over the years. There’s no doubt about that.” The General Assembly is considering bills that would make it easier for some former offenders to have their records expunged or to at least shield records from potential employers and landlords. Another measure would restore voting rights to felons much sooner than under current law.
It was appropriate that during the same week of commemoration and reenactment of the civil rights movement’s march across the Selma, Alabama, bridge that led to “Bloody Sunday” and the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the Oregon Legislature took steps to further advance the opportunity to vote. Under the “New Motor Voter” bill passed last week, Oregon, already a leader in encouraging voter participation through its vote-by-mail balloting, will have the most expansive voter registration system in the country. By providing automatic voter registration for any citizen obtaining a driver’s license who’s not already registered, the bill makes it easier for many to register, especially for poorer and younger voters who move a lot. An estimated 300,000 new voters could be added to the nearly 2.2 million currently registered voters.
Tennessee’s voter ID law may have its day in court now that a group of college students has filed a federal lawsuit alleging the state is violating rights guaranteed to them by the U.S. Constitution. At issue is the exclusion of student ID cards from the accepted list of voter IDs. Jon Sherman, an attorney with the Fair Elections Legal Network, is representing the students. “The state has discriminated against students and discriminated on the basis of age,” he states. “They’ve made it easier for older voters to cast ballots without showing ID and made it harder and harder for students to cast their votes.”
The Utah House narrowly passed a bill that would let a party’s delegates choose the party’s nominee if nobody in a primary election gets more than 40 percent of the vote. The bill is in response to last year’s compromise between lawmakers and organizers of Count My Vote, which was pushing a voter initiative allowing candidates who gather enough signatures to get to the primary ballot without going through the traditional caucus-and-convention process. Rep. Marc Roberts, R-Santaquin, said the concern is that someone would win the party’s nomination without winning a majority of the vote. His bill was amended to let delegates make the decision between the top two vote-getters if no nominee gets at least 40 percent. “I think we should demand at least 50 percent. We will live at 40 percent at this point,” Roberts said.
A political sideshow for much of the past six decades, Israel’s Arab minority is hoping to gain much-needed muscle after next week’s parliamentary election, with four Arab parties uniting under one banner for the first time. Surveys show the Joint Arab List could even finish third in the vote and become a factor in the coalition-building that dominates Israeli politics, where no party has ever won a parliament majority. Many in the Arab community, which makes up 20 percent of Israel’s eight million population, see the newfound unity as a breakthrough in battling discrimination and gaining recognition. Though they have full and equal rights, Arab Israelis often say they are treated as second-class citizens.
Nigeria: What other African elections tell us about Nigeria’s bet on biometrics | The Washington Post
Nigeria, sub-Saharan Africa’s largest economy and home to almost 180 million people, will hold elections on March 28, a six-week delay after its initial date. While international commentators focus debate on the Boko Haram crisis and the risk of electoral violence, another novelty in this 2015 election has gone relatively overlooked: the use of new biometric voting technology. Every Nigerian voter is supposed to receive a permanent voter card, which stores biometric information such as fingerprints and facial image. At the polls, the voters will present their cards and a voter card reader will verify their name on the voter roll and the authenticity of the card.