Alabama: Want to vote absentee in Alabama? COVID-19 will be reason enough through end of year | Brian Lyman/Montgomery Advertiser

Voters concerned about the COVID-19 outbreak will be able to vote absentee in the Aug. 25 municipal elections and the November general election. The move does not affect any other of Alabama’s strict absentee voting requirements, but could significantly expand the number of people eligible to vote before Election Day. It comes after six weeks of rising coronavirus caseloads and a statewide mask order aimed at controlling the outbreak. “Amid coronavirus concerns, it is important to remember that Alabamians who are concerned about contracting or spreading an illness have the opportunity to avoid the polls on Election Day by casting an absentee ballot,” Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill said in a statement. The Secretary of State’s office said voters with COVID-19 concerns can mark a box citing a physical illness or infirmity preventing them from going to the polls when they apply for an absentee ballot. Voters could do the same in the July 14th runoff election. Rep. Tashina Morris, D-Montgomery, one of several Democratic legislators who has pushed for more voting options amid the pandemic, called the decision “a great move,” but said there needed to be additional voting options in the state.

Voting Blogs: How urgent is the Section 5 issue? | SCOTUSblog

While much of the rest of the nation was diverted for the holidays, a group of lawyers in Washington pressed on to prepare new legal papers in hopes of getting a speedy decision — perhaps in time for the 2012 elections — on the constitutionality of the federal law that many consider history’s most important guarantee of minorities’ voting rights.  Having barely missed the chance in 2009 to get the Supreme Court to strike down Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, challengers are seeking to set up a new test case as quickly as they can.  They may get their wish, at least in lower federal courts.

Three days after Christmas, attorneys for a group of opponents of Section 5, who live in the small community of Kinston in eastern North Carolina (population about 24,000), urged the D.C. Circuit to take unusual steps to decide their case in close tandem with an already pending challenge there from Shelby County, Alabama.   The Kinston lawyers even offered to forfeit the usual opportunity for an oral argument, if that would move the case along.

“The public has a compelling interest in a prompt and definitive resolution of Section 5′s facial constitutionality during the upcoming election year,” the attorneys said in a motion to expedite their appeal, and to assign it to the same three-judge panel that is reviewing the Shelby County case.  “Section 5 will have a sweeping effect on the 2012 elections, because it will affect redistricting, voter-identification laws, polling-place locations, early-voting hours, and any other voting change” in all or parts of 16 states that are subject to Section 5. The Justice Department, the attorneys told the Court, does not object to those requests.

National: Redistricting Spurs Debate Over Voting Rights Act | Roll Call

As new Members take the oath of office in January 2013, something unprecedented may occur: Not a single white Democrat from the Deep South could be a Member of the 113th Congress. Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and South Carolina already have just a single Democratic Representative in Congress. Each of those Democrats is African-American and represents majority-black districts.

It’s a trend that may extend to a fifth state in the Deep South. Georgia’s Republican-written Congressional redistricting map, which became law earlier this year and was approved by the Department of Justice just before Christmas, undermines the current Democratic bent of Rep. John Barrow’s district. He’s the Peach State’s one white Democratic Member. The new map is likely to leave Georgia’s delegation with only four Democrats — representing the state’s four majority-black districts.

Editorials: Voter Fraud: Does It Happen? |

Earlier today I dared the Internet to send me examples of voter fraud — particularly of a scale that would justify erecting barriers against whole groups of voters through photo ID requirements and other such pernicious nonsense.

The Internet obliged, weakly.

A few readers reminded me that the conservative columnist Ann Coulter wasaccused of voter fraud in 2009, for voting by absentee ballot in Connecticut in 2002 and 2004 despite the fact that she was living in New York. The Connecticut Election Commission investigated, but decided to take no further action since Ms. Coulter was a registered voter in the state and did not vote elsewhere. I never imagined defending Ms. Coulter, but this does not seem like a threat to our democratic way of life.

Editorials: State voter ID laws: Democracy treads backward | Neal Peirce/

Could Bill Clinton have it right — that we’re seeing the most “determined effort” in half a century to limit Americans’ right to vote? That the new wave of restrictions are the worst, as the former president puts it, “since we got rid of the poll tax and all the Jim Crow burdens on voting”?

Alarmingly, the evidence supports Clinton’s position. Bills to require government-issued photo identification at the polls have passed this year in several states where Republicans control both the governorships and legislatures — Texas, Wisconsin, South Carolina, Alabama, Kansas and Tennessee. And they’re being advanced in several more GOP-held states.

The alleged reason: serious voter fraud. But the facts beg to differ. The Brennan Center for Justice reports that actual prosecutions, arrests or findings of voter malfeasance are exceedingly rare. Kansas reports more sightings of UFOs than voter-fraud charges. Realistically, there’s no significant problem.

Editorials: The Fundamental Right |

The right to vote is sometimes said to be the most fundamental in American democracy. Yet legal challenges to the federal voting rights law are increasing even as they highlight the racial injustices that make it essential. In a ruling last week, Judge John Bates of Federal District Court rightly dismissed such a challenge by Shelby County, Ala., which sought to have a central part of the law declared unconstitutional.

That provision, Section 5, requires states and local governments with histories of racial discrimination to obtain “preclearance” of any changes in local voting rules with the Justice Department or a federal court. Because it was common for jurisdictions to adopt new discriminatory practices after a court struck down old ones, the 1965 Voting Rights Act required the “covered” jurisdictions — six Southern states, and other counties and cities around the country — to show that any proposed rule change would not discriminate against minorities. Congress renewed Section 5 in 2006.

Editorials: Will the South Rise Again?: Voting Rights Edition | Mother Jones

Last Wednesday, the district court of the District of Columbia threw out a challenge to Section Five of the Voting Rights Act. The plaintiffs, a coalition of conservative legal groups from Shelby County, Alabama, argued that Section Five, which requires a number of southern states to pre-clear changes to their electoral procedures with the Department of Justice, was illegal because it seeks to correct a problem—the mass disenfranchisement of minorities—that is supposedly nowhere near as pervasive as it was back in the glory days of Jim Crow.

In its opinion, the court convincingly argued that Section Five provides a still-necessary bulwark against discrimination. But that hasn’t stopped the Project on Fair Representation—a Washington-based group that helped fund the Shelby County suit and similar efforts around the country—from pushing back.

National: Judge Rejects Challenge to Voting Rights Law by County in Alabama |

Ruling that the intentional voter discrimination that led to the passage and multiple extensions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 still exists, a federal judge in Washington on Wednesday dismissed an Alabama county’s claim that portions of the act were unconstitutional.

The challenge to the law was brought last year by Shelby County, a mostly suburban county south of Birmingham, and concerned sections of the act that set apart certain jurisdictions that have shown past patterns of discrimination. These jurisdictions — which include the entirety of most Southern states but also Alaska, Arizona and isolated towns and counties around the country — are required to obtain “preclearance” from the Justice Department or a panel of federal judges before making any changes to voting procedures. In 2006, Congress found enough evidence of continuing discrimination to warrant an extension of the act for 25 years.

In its suit, Shelby County argued that the widespread discrimination of the Jim Crow era had ended, and that “it is no longer constitutionally justifiable for Congress to arbitrarily impose” on the county and other covered jurisdictions the “disfavored treatment” of having to obtain preclearance from Washington.

National: Judge upholds key part of voting rights law | Reuters

A federal judge on Wednesday upheld a key provision of the landmark U.S. voting rights law aimed at protecting minorities in states and local governments with a history of racial discrimination.

U.S. District Judge John Bates concluded that Congress acted appropriately when it reauthorized the provision in 2006. Congress initially adopted the voting rights act, a historic piece of U.S. civil rights legislation, in 1965.

The judge ruled extensive evidence of recent voting discrimination in the legislative record justified the law’s reauthorization into the 21st century and that the protections still were needed to safeguard the rights of minority voters.

Alabama: Failure of Alabama challenge to Voting Rights Act looms over Arizona suit | East Valley Tribune

The decision by a federal judge Wednesday to reject challenges by an Alabama county to the Voting Rights Act likely will mean a similar fate for Arizona’s lawsuit, state Attorney General Tom Horne said. Horne acknowledged that the lawsuit he filed last month is based on many of the same arguments that Shelby County made. More to the point, the judge who issued Wednesday’s ruling upholding the federal law is the same one assigned to hear Arizona’s challenge.

But there are other signs that Horne will have a hard time arguing that there’s no reason the Voting Rights Act should extend to Arizona. Horne contends that any discrimination against minorities that may have occurred in the past in Arizona is ancient history. He said there is no evidence of ongoing problems.

But in his 151-page ruling in the Alabama case, Judge John Bates said there are studies as recent as 2004 showing a significant disparity between voter turnout of Hispanics and Anglos. And he cited evidence presented to Congress in 2006 when it renewed the Voting Rights Act, of “men (in Arizona) wearing military or tool belts and black T-shirts reading ‘U.S. Constitutional Enforcement’ approaching Latinos waiting in line to vote, demanding proof of citizenship.”

National: Do New Voting Laws Suppress Fraud? Or Democrats? | NPR

While campaigning to become Kansas’ secretary of state, Kris Kobach held a press conference to make the case for a photo ID requirement at the polls. In his argument, he noted that a man named Alfred K. Brewer, who died in 1996, had voted in the 2010 primary. There was just one problem with that: Brewer wasn’t dead.

Shortly after the press conference, Brewer’s wife received a call regarding her husband’s “passing.” And she says, ‘Well, why do you want to talk to me? He’s out raking leaves,'” Brewer says.

It turned out the voter rolls Kobach referenced had the birth date for Brewer’s father, who had the same name. Despite the mistake, Kobach was trying to make a serious point. He’s part of a growing number of Republican lawmakers trying to crack down on voter fraud.

Voting Blogs: Alabama anti-immigration law’s voter-registration provisions | Votelaw

In a few days, U.S. District Judge Sharon Blackburn will grant or deny a preliminary injunction against numerous provisions of the “Beason-Hammon Alabama Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act.” Three suits by a coalition of organizations and individuals, the federal government, and Bishops of the Episcopal, United Methodist, and Catholic Churches challenged numerous provisions of the Act. But I did not find a challenge to Section 29 (see page 61 of the Scribd copy of the Act) which deals with voter registration.

I only want to look at the sloppy drafting of the Act. Well, actually, Section 29 is drafted in a way superior to most Alabama legislation. Most bills seems to be drafted with extremely long sections with a variety of topics in each section. Section 29 actually has a structure that aids — rather than impedes — reading it. There are three provisions I want to point out as indicating the author(s) of the bill either did not understand Alabama governmental structure or did not understand federal law.