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National: Voting rights for minorities threatened, experts say | Gannett

Since 2010, 21 states have restricted voting rights, said Nicole Austin-Hillery, director of the Brennan Center for Justice’s Washington, D.C., office. Proponents of the new laws, which do such things as requiring government-issued photo IDs to vote, say they are designed to combat voter fraud. Opponents point out that documented cases of in-person voter fraud are all but non-existent. The real reason for the new laws, the say, is to make it harder for minorities or poor people to vote. “The move ‘Selma’ has come out, and we’re still in the fight to secure and protect voting rights,” said Judith Browne Dianis, co-director of the Advancement Project, a national civil rights organization founded in 1999. “We no longer have poll taxes. But instead, we have voter IDs. We don’t have literacy tests. But we have things like cuts to early voting and cuts to Sunday voting, all which are targeted at communities of color who have gained access to the ballot because of the Voting Rights Act. “We see more subtle attempts to make it harder to vote. It’s just a different page out of the playbook that makes it harder for African Americans to participate,” Browne Dianis said.

Full Article: Voting rights for minorities threatened, experts say.

Editorials: Will the Supreme Court Re-Visit Voting Rights Before the 2016 Elections? | Jessica Mason Pieklo/RH Reality Check

Civil rights advocates want the Supreme Court to step back into the fight over voting rights, urging the Roberts Court to act soon and strike down Wisconsin’s 2011 voter ID law or risk getting caught in the “untenable position of referring voter ID disputes in the run-up to the November 2016 election.” Wisconsin Act 23 mandates that voters show one of nine specific forms of identification in order to vote either by absentee ballot or in person. Wisconsin lawmakers passed the law more than three years ago, but because of ongoing legal challenges to its constitutionality, the restrictions have only been enforced once in a state primary election, in 2012. Two state courts blocked the law’s enforcement in 2012 on the grounds that it violates the state constitution. Meanwhile, a federal trial judge in April ruled that the law violates the U.S. Constitution as well as Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  

Full Article: Will the Supreme Court Re-Visit Voting Rights Before the 2016 Elections?.

National: Voter ID Laws Sowed Confusion Tuesday, Lawyers Report | National Law Journal

Civil rights lawyers monitoring polls across the country on Tuesday reported some confusion in states where contested voter identification laws were in effect. In Texas, where the state’s voter ID law faces a court challenge, voters reported receiving contradictory information about what types of identification they could show at the polls, according to Nicole Austin-Hillery of the Brennan Center for Justice. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last month that Texas officials could enforce the law while a court challenge was pending. In Virginia, there were inconsistencies in how poll workers implemented the state’s voter ID law, according to Hope Amezquita of the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia; this was the first statewide election with the law in effect. Amezquita said her team fielded reports from two counties about voters showing up without identification who weren’t provided with provisional ballots, which should have happened. “There are people out there who did not vote and should have been offered the opportunity,” Amezquita said. “If it’s happening and we’re hearing about it, it’s probably happening elsewhere and we’re not hearing about it.” Vicky McPherson, a shareholder at Greenberg Traurig who was coordinating lawyers monitoring polls through the National Bar Association, reported situations in which Virginia voters were asked to provide supplemental identification when they weren’t legally required to do so. She said her team was in touch with state officials to make sure they were giving poll workers proper instructions.

Full Article: Voter ID Laws Sowed Confusion Tuesday, Lawyers Report | National Law Journal.

Virginia: Voting rights groups mobilize for Election Day and new photo ID law | The Washington Post

When Virginia’s new voter identification law goes into effect statewide Tuesday, voting rights groups will monitor select polling places to help people comply with the rules, which are among the nation’s strictest. For years, voters have been required to provide identification at the polls, but this year — for the first time in Virginia — an ID with a photograph will be required. “We’re all very concerned about the implementation of the photo ID law across the state and whether or not voters have been educated about the fact that they need a photo ID to vote,” said Hope Amezquita, staff attorney and legislative council at the ACLU of Virginia.

Full Article: Virginia voting rights groups mobilize for Election Day and new photo ID law - The Washington Post.

National: Republicans in tight midterm races use election rules changes to increase odds | The Guardian

In 2007 Charlie Crist, the then Republican governor of Florida, astonished political friend and foe alike by putting a stop to what he saw as the state’s iniquitous practice of withholding the vote from released prisoners. He announced that non-violent former felons who had done their time would automatically have their right to vote restored to them. It was no small affair. In Florida, 1.3 million people have prior felony convictions, making this a very sizeable chunk of a total eligible electorate of 11 million. Former felons are disproportionately drawn from poor and minority communities, and as such, if they vote at all, they tend to lean Democratic, making the decision by a Republican governor all the more remarkable. But it didn’t last long. Four years later, Crist’s successor as governor, the Tea Party favourite Rick Scott, made a point of reversing the decision. That could prove crucial on 4 November for Florida’s GOP candidates, not least for Scott himself, who is in a bitter fight for re-election, with polls putting him neck-and-neck with his challenger – none other than Charlie Crist, now standing as a Democrat.

Full Article: Republicans in tight midterm races use election rules changes to increase odds | US news | theguardian.com.

Wisconsin: Opponents again ask for relief from voter ID requirement | Wisconsin State Journal

The fate of Wisconsin’s voter ID law, set to take effect in one month, is pending before two federal courts, both of which have been asked to issue an emergency order halting implementation of the law. Meanwhile, Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen on Tuesday asked the U.S. Supreme Court to leave the law in place for the Nov. 4 election , when voters will select Wisconsin’s next governor. On Tuesday, one day after a three-judge appeals court panel affirmed that Wisconsin’s voter ID law is constitutional, opponents including the League of United Latin American Citizens and the American Civil Liberties Union asked the full 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to stop implementation of the requirement that residents show a state-issued identification or other photo ID before voting.

Full Article: Opponents again ask for relief from voter ID requirement : Wsj.

Wisconsin: U.S. Appeals panel officially upholds voter ID law | Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

A panel of three federal judges upheld Wisconsin’s voter ID law Monday, finding it is in keeping with the U.S. Constitution and federal Voting Rights Act. The panel of the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals last month ruled the voter ID law could be put in place for the Nov. 4 election between Republican Gov. Scott Walker and Democrat Mary Burke. Monday’s ruling is the panel’s final decision on the issue and puts the voter ID law in place for other future elections. Attention now turns to what U.S. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan or the full Supreme Court might do. Even before Monday’s ruling, the groups that challenged the voter ID law had asked Kagan to block the voter ID law for the Nov. 4 election. Kagan is the justice responsible for handling emergency petitions in cases before the 7th Circuit, which covers Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana. Writing for the unanimous appeals panel, Judge Frank Easterbrook determined Wisconsin’s law was essentially identical to an Indiana voter ID law that the U.S. Supreme Court upheld in 2008.

Full Article: U.S. Appeals panel officially upholds Wisconsin voter ID law.

Wisconsin: Appeals Court Upholds Wisconsin Voter ID Law | Associated Press

A federal appeals court ruled Monday that Wisconsin’s requirement that voters show photo identification at the polls is constitutional, a decision that is not surprising after the court last month allowed for the law to be implemented while it considered the case. State elections officials are preparing for the photo ID law to be in effect for the Nov. 4 election, even as opponents continue their legal fight. The American Civil Liberties Union and the Advancement Project asked the U.S. Supreme Court last week to take emergency action and block the law. Opponents argue that requiring voters to show photo ID, a requirement that had, until recently, been on hold since a low-turnout February 2012 primary, will create chaos and confusion at the polls. But supporters say most people already have a valid ID and, if they don’t, there is time to get one before the election.

Full Article: Appeals Court Upholds Wisconsin Voter ID Law - ABC News.

Wisconsin: Voting rights advocates want Supreme Court to block voter ID law | The Washington Post

Opponents of a strict new voter identification law set to go into effect for the first time in this year’s elections are asking the Supreme Court to block the law, arguing there isn’t enough time to properly implement the law before Election Day. Two voting rights groups, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Advancement Project, which represents a number of other Democratic-leaning groups, filed a petition with Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan seeking an emergency stay halting the new law’s implementation. The petition comes after an en banc panel of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago on Friday split evenly on whether to hear a challenge to the law. The 5-5 decision leaves an earlier three-judge panel’s ruling in favor of the law intact, reversing an order from a federal judge in Wisconsin this spring to strike it down as unconstitutional.

Full Article: Voting rights advocates want Supreme Court to block Wisconsin voter ID law - The Washington Post.

Wisconsin: State will enact voter ID law denounced as ‘recipe for chaos’ | The Guardian

A controversial voter ID law in Wisconsin, which critics fear will disenfranchise thousands of voters in the November midterm elections, must be implemented after a federal appeals court turned down a request to re-hear a legal challenge. The seventh circuit court of appeals in Chicago declined to take up the application to hear the challenge before its full panel of judges. On 12 September, three judges stayed an injunction issued by a district court that had prevented the law’s implementation. With less than six weeks to go until the 4 November midterms, voter-rights advocates fear chaos as people rush to get the required identification, and confusion at the polls as election workers and voters struggle with the new rules. Previous testimony in the case indicated that about 300,000 people who had previously been eligible to vote will have difficulty obtaining the identification now needed to cast their ballots. The plaintiffs in the voter ID cases include Ruthelle Frank, the League of United Latin American Citizens of Wisconsin, the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, and the Advancement Project.

Full Article: Wisconsin will enact voter ID law denounced as 'recipe for chaos' | World news | theguardian.com.

Wisconsin: Federal appeals court rejects request to rehear challenge to voter ID case | Associated Press

The full 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Friday it will not rehear its decision allowing Wisconsin’s voter identification law to be implemented for the Nov. 4 election. The court said in a seven-sentence order that it was equally divided on whether to take up a request to reconsider a Sept. 12 decision allowing for the law to go forward while it considers the merits of the case. That means the 10-judge panel was one vote short of reconsidering the earlier decision, as requested by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Advancement Project. The groups argued that implementing voter ID so close to the election will create chaos at the polls, undermining election integrity and public confidence.

Full Article: Federal appeals court rejects request to rehear challenge to Wisconsin voter ID case | Star Tribune.

Florida: National voting-rights groups bash Manatee County for inconveniencing voters | Bradenton Herald

A national coalition of voting-rights groups say Floridians face persistent barriers to voting that could result in more ballots not counting in November, and singling out Manatee County for inconveniencing its voters. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Advancement Project and other groups cited Manatee, Polk and Orange counties for problems they claim they found in last month’s statewide primary election. The groups said Florida should encourage more people to register to vote, that voters are inconvenienced by changes in polling places, and that voters are not always told about a new law gives them a second chance to fix their absentee ballots should they forget to sign them, officials said during a news conference Tuesday.  The groups singled out Manatee County, saying its elimination of polling places requires some black voters to travel longer distances to vote.

Full Article: National voting-rights groups bash Manatee County for inconveniencing voters | Elections | Bradenton Herald.

Wisconsin: Attorneys urge federal appeals court to leave voter ID decision alone | Associated Press

A federal appeals court should leave its decision allowing Wisconsin election officials to implement the state’s voter photo identification law alone, state Department of Justice attorneys argued Tuesday. Changing course now, this close to the election and with preparations already underway to implement the law, would confuse election officials and voters, the attorneys wrote in a court filing in response to a request that the court reconsider its decision. The attorneys also argued that the vast majority of voters already have the proper ID. “Plaintiffs are asking this Court to pinball state and local election officials between enforcing and not enforcing the law with an election on the horizon,” they wrote in their brief. “Voters would get the pinball treatment, too.”

Full Article: Wisconsin attorneys urge federal appeals court to leave voter ID decision alone | Star Tribune.

Florida: Advocacy groups find flaws with Florida voter laws | The Miami Herald

Voting rights groups say Floridians face persistent barriers to vote that could result in more ballots not counting in November. The groups say Florida should encourage more people to register to vote, that voters are inconvenienced by changes in polling places and that voters are not always told about a new law that gives them a second chance to fix their absentee ballots when they forget to sign them. The League of Women Voters, NAACP, Advancement Project and other groups cited Orange, Polk and Manatee counties for problems they claim they found in last month’s statewide primary election.

Full Article: Advocacy groups find flaws with Florida voter laws | The Miami Herald.

Wisconsin: Brief filed in Voter ID case points out limited DMV access | Capital Times

An amicus brief filed in the effort to stop Wisconsin’s Voter ID law from being implemented before Election Day focuses on a lack of access for many to Department of Motor Vehicles service centers throughout the state between now and Nov. 4. The brief, filed by One Wisconsin Institute (the research arm of One Wisconsin Now), demonstrates the differences between Wisconsin and Indiana with regard to implementing Voter ID laws. One Wisconsin Institute’s research shows that Wisconsin residents have much less access to DMV centers to obtain necessary identification than Indiana residents do. A three-judge panel on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Sept. 12 that the state could implement its Voter ID law before the midterm election, while it considers the merits of a case brought by Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen. Van Hollen is asking the court to overturn U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman’s decision to strike down the law, which was passed in 2011.

Full Article: Brief filed in Wisconsin Voter ID case points out limited DMV access : Ct.

Wisconsin: Opponents of voter ID law seek reversal of court’s decision | Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

Groups challenging Wisconsin’s voter ID law in filings asked a full appeals court to reverse a decision by three federal judges that allows the law to go into effect this fall. The submissions Tuesday and Wednesday by lawyers for the Advancement Project and the American Civil Liberties Union said Friday’s decision by a panel of judges from the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals was a “radical, last-minute change to procedures for conducting an election that is already underway.” “Supreme Court precedent and other circuits uniformly caution against such eleventh-hour changes to the election laws, even where those courts have approved such changes for future elections,” the attorneys wrote. In a terse order Wednesday, the court told Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen’s office to respond by Tuesday. Van Hollen declined to comment on the filings through his spokeswoman, Dana Brueck. The legal fight is coming to a head just seven weeks before the Nov. 4 election between Republican Gov. Scott Walker and Democrat Mary Burke. Walker signed the voter ID law in 2011; Burke opposes it.

Full Article: Opponents of Wisconsin voter ID law seek reversal of court's decision.

North Carolina: Voting suits continue despite ruling | Associated Press

Civil rights activists opposed to North Carolina’s dramatic voting law changes will use the ballot box and the courts to try to overturn them after a judge refused to block them from being used, attorneys for the state NAACP said Monday. A U.S. District Court judge declined late last week to prevent continued implementation of several provisions being challenged in court by advocacy groups, voters and the federal government. But Judge Thomas Schroeder allowed a trial on the constitutionality of those provisions to continue as planned next July, rejecting requests of the state to throw out the three lawsuits. The provisions, already used in the May primary, eliminated same-day registration during early voting, reduced the early-voting period by a week and eliminated the counting of ballots cast on election day outside of a person’s home precinct. Voters also are being told at the polls to prepare for a photo identification requirement in 2016. Political parties also can send in more observers to monitor voting.

Full Article: Goldsboro News-Argus | State News.

Wisconsin: Voting rights advocate on Supreme Court voter ID ruling: ‘We feel we have already won’ | The Cap Times

With the Wisconsin Supreme Court set to release decisions Thursday on cases challenging the state’s voter ID law that was filed nearly three years ago, the executive director of the Wisconsin League of Women Voters said, in many ways, “we feel we have already won.” The law that requires voters to show a picture ID prior to voting was passed in May of 2011. That October, the league became the first of four organizations to file a lawsuit. The law, which quickly became the most restrictive of its kind in the country when it passed, was in place for one election cycle in February 2012. It was subsequently blocked under a Dane County Circuit Court ruling issued by Judge Richard Niess in March of 2012. For the next seven elections, voters did not have to show their ID’s, said Andrea Kaminski, the league’s executive director.

Full Article: Voting rights advocate on Supreme Court voter ID ruling: 'We feel we have already won' : Ct.

North Carolina: Voter law challenged: ‘the worst suppression since Jim Crow’ | The Guardian

North Carolina’s voter identification law, which has been described as the most sweeping attack on African American electoral rights since the Jim Crow era, is being challenged in a legal hearing that opens on Monday. Civil rights lawyers and activists are gathering in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, for the start of the legal challenge that is expected to last all week. They will be seeking to persuade a federal district judge to impose a preliminary injunction against key aspects of HB 589, the voting law enacted by state Republicans last August. Lawyers for the North Carolina branch of the NAACP and the civil rights group the Advancement Project will argue that the main pillars of the law should be temporarily halted ahead of a full trial next year. Otherwise, they say, tens of thousands of largely poor black voters could find themselves turned away at the polls at the midterm elections in November.

Full Article: North Carolina voter law challenged: 'the worst suppression since Jim Crow' | World news | theguardian.com.

Editorials: Wisconsin voter ID ruling a ‘blueprint’ for similar challenges in North Carolina, Texas | Facing South

In a major victory for voting rights, a federal judge struck down Wisconsin’s voter identification law last week, ruling that requiring voters to show a state-issued photo ID at the polls discriminates against low-income and minority voters. Legal experts say the decision in a state that’s been called the “Selma of the North” for its history of racial conflict has important implications for legal challenges to similar laws passed in North Carolina and Texas. The ruling is “absolutely a blueprint” for the courts considering those other challenges, Katherine Culliton-González of the Advancement Project, a national civil rights group that challenged the Wisconsin law, said last week during a press call about the decision. “This case is very symbolic of turning the tide toward democracy,” Culliton-González added. Wisconsin’s Republican-controlled legislature passed the photo ID requirement in 2011. The law was in force only for the 2012 primary before it was temporarily blocked.

Full Article: Wisconsin voter ID ruling a 'blueprint' for similar challenges in NC, TX.