Texas: Still No Answers in Voter ID Case | Texas Weekly

Whether or not the state’s voter ID bill will be in place for the November general election is still a mystery. That’s because the U.S. Department of Justice — which is being sued by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s office after it declined to approve the measure — is accusing the state of stalling the delivery of key data the federal government says is necessary for the trial. Late last month, DOJ asked the district court in Washington D.C. that will hear the care to postpone the trial, which is scheduled to commence July 9. The feds have argued that Abbott’s office is reluctant to turn over information because it knows it will hurt its case. Abbott has argued that the request is nothing more than political theater.

Editorials: 5 Voting Laws That Make People Angry | Huffington Post

A wave of Republican-sponsored laws restricting who can and cannot vote may mean that fewer Democrats, especially those who are low-income or minorities, vote in the 2012 presidential election. Since the beginning of 2011, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin, and West Virginia have passed, or have plans to pass, restrictive voting laws. More than 70 percent of the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency will come from these states, the Brennan Center reported in March. Republican lawmakers argue that the laws are necessary to prevent voter fraud, but fewer than 100 people have been charged with voter fraud in the past five years, according to the Washington Post. In 2011, former President Bill Clinton condemned the laws for disenfranchising Democrats, describing them as “the disciplined, passionate, determined effort of Republican governors and legislators to keep most of you from voting next time.There has never been in my lifetime, since we got rid of the poll tax and all the other Jim Crow burdens on voting, the determined effort to limit the franchise that we see today,” he said.

Alaska: Supreme Court Rejects Interim Redistricting Plan | ktuu.com

The Alaska Supreme Court has rejected a request by the Alaska Redistricting Board to use its original redistricting plan for this year’s statewide elections, instead ordering the use of one amended after court decisions as an interim plan. The redistricting plan has been subjected to several legal challenges, with judges rejecting both an initial plan and a revised one in recent months. In its ruling on the original plan, the state Supreme Court said it improperly prioritized compliance with the federal Voting Rights Act over the state constitution, sending the plan back to be redrafted.

National: John Lewis objects, and Paul Broun backs away from attempt to gut Voting Rights Act | ajc.com

My AJC colleague Daniel Malloy in Washington sends this report of a confrontation between two Georgia members of Congress that you may not have heard about: Around 10 p.m. last night, as House debate over a contentious spending bill stretched on, Rep. Paul Broun, R-Athens, approached with an amendment to end all funding for U.S. Department of Justice enforcement of Section Five of the Voting Rights Act. This is the provision that requires states like Georgia to submit new election laws – last year’s statewide redistricting, for instance — for federal approval to ensure against disenfranchisement of minorities. Broun argued that this is a hammer held over only a few select states, and noted that the U.S. Supreme Court has suggested that the law has outlived its usefulness.

South Carolina: Federal judges could decide to delay South Carolina primaries | necn.com

A three-judge panel will meet next week to consider delaying South Carolina’s June 12 primaries in the wake of a state Supreme Court decision that removed nearly 200 candidates from ballots. U.S. District Judge Cameron Currie heard arguments Thursday from an attorney for Amanda Somers, who says her candidacy was thrown into question after justices ruled financial- and candidate-intent paperwork must be filed at the same time. Since Somers was ultimately allowed on the ballot, Currie questioned her ability to sue. The judge allowed a state Senate candidate from Edgefield who was tossed off, Republican John Pettigrew, to join the suit. While disregarding several arguments, Currie said allegations the state violated the Voting Rights Act in sending separate ballots overseas for federal and local races may have merit.

Alaska: Redistricting map solutions elusive as court battle looms | adn.com

One of the most important and complicated insider games in politics moves back to the Alaska Supreme Court this week with an appeal by the Alaska Redistricting Board of its method for redrawing the state’s legislative map. In a petition filed Tuesday, the board is asking the high court to overturn a decision by a Fairbanks judge that the board failed to first rely on state law for drawing up “one-person, one vote” districts before adjusting them to prevent Alaska Native votes from being illegally diluted. Native voting rights are protected by the U.S. Justice Department under the federal Voting Rights Act. The Alaska Supreme Court has previously ruled that the Voting Rights Act should be applied only after state requirements are met.

Arizona: Bill limiting local election dates goes to Governor | Arizona Daily Star

Insisting they know better, state lawmakers voted Monday to limit local elections to just two days every two years. HB 2826 says, with only a few exceptions, cities, counties, school districts and other government entities could have their elections only at the same time as the state. That means the same days as the statewide primary, which usually occurs in late August, and the general election in November. The 32-28 House vote came over the objections of lawmakers from both parties who questioned why the state should overrule what local communities have decided. “Local rule is still the best rule,” complained Rep. Cecil Ash, R-Mesa. It also presages a legal fight.

Arizona: Redistricting maps challenged by lawsuits | Arizona Republic

Arizona’s contentious redistricting process heated up again with the filing Friday of a pair of Republican-backed lawsuits challenging new congressional and legislative districts approved by a state commission. Each lawsuit asked a court to declare one of the maps unconstitutional and to order the state’s redistricting commission to draw a replacement map for use in elections after this year. However, the lawsuit challenging the legislative districts asked that a three-judge panel of federal judges draw an interim legislative map for use in this year’s elections. The suit filed in state court to challenge the map of nine U.S. House districts doesn’t ask for an interim map.

Florida: Congressional, legislative districts approved by U.S. Department of Justice | Orlando Sentinel

The U.S. Department of Justice gave its blessing to Florida’s proposed legislative and congressional maps on Monday, clearing one of the last remaining hurdles for the newly drawn districts to be in place in time for the June 4-8 candidate qualifying period. Florida is required to seek “pre-clearance” from DOJ’s Civil Rights Division for most election-law changes because five counties have a history of racial discrimination in elections. The one-page letter from Assistant U.S. Attorney General Thomas Perez is boiler-plate, stating Attorney General Eric Holder “does not interpose any objection to the specified changes” to the maps. “However, we note that [the federal Voting Rights Act] expressly provides that the failure of the Attorney General to object does not bar subsequent litigation to enjoin the enforcement of the changes,” it adds.

Florida: Court Rules Against Democrats on Florida Congressional Map | Roll Call

A Florida state circuit court ruled against a Democratic challenge to the state’s new Congressional map, denying a motion that the map violates the state constitution and declining to issue an injunction against the map. The news comes hours after the Department of Justice greenlighted the GOP-drawn Congressional map. This, in effect, means that Democrats are probably stuck with the map passed by the GOP-controlled state Legislature earlier this year, which keeps most of the 19 Republican Members in comfortably safe districts. While Democrats could appeal the ruling to the state Supreme Court, legal observers believe it is probably too late to change the 2012 lines. “The Florida Democratic Party led an unprecedented effort to ensure that the will of the people was heard in the redistricting process and to hold the Republican-led Legislature accountable to Florida’s Constitution,” FDP Executive Director Scott Arceneaux said in a statement. “We remain concerned about elements of the map and we will continue to evaluate our legal options moving forward.”

South Carolina: Deadline Monday for South Carolina to say if implementing voter ID would be possible this year | GoUpstate.com

A federal court has given the state of South Carolina until Monday to clarify whether it would be feasible to implement a statewide voter identification requirement in time for this year’s general elections. State elections officials have said that, in order to take appropriate steps to use the law for the Nov. 6 general election, the requirement that voters present government-issued photo identification at the polls must go into effect no later than Aug. 1 of this year. Now, it will be up to state Attorney General Alan Wilson to outline what steps the state would need to take to create photo voter ID cards and make sure voters know the rules in enough time for the general election. The deadlines for the state would be tight. But one of the three judges hearing the case said the speedy schedule is necessary if state officials want to be able to use the law — if approved — this year.

Arizona: U.S. Justice Department signs off on district maps | Arizona Republic

The U.S. Department of Justice approved Arizona’s new legislative map Thursday, making official what most candidates are already taking for granted. The approval marks the first time in four decades that Arizona’s legislative map has won Justice Department approval on the first submission, according to attorneys for the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission. The agency had no objections to the map, which the commission approved in January. It creates 30 new legislative districts across the state to reflect population shifts over the past decade. Most candidates eyeing a seat in the Legislature have already relied on the new map as they have declared their intentions to run.

Mississippi: Voter ID gets final OK, heads to Governor | The Clarion-Ledger

A Mississippi voter ID bill is headed to Republican Gov. Phil Bryant, who has said he supports it as a way to protect the integrity of elections. The final version of House Bill 921 passed the Republican-controlled House 79-39 Thursday, with strong opposition from black representatives. It would require voters to show a driver’s license or other form of photo identification before casting a ballot. The bill is intended to enact a state constitutional amendment that 62 percent of Mississippi voters adopted in last November’s general election. Bryant has pledged to sign the bill into law. However, there’s no guarantee that the ID requirement will ever take effect.

Mississippi: Voter ID bill gets final approval in Mississippi House | SunHerald.com

A Mississippi voter ID bill is headed to Republican Gov. Phil Bryant, who has said he supports it as a way to protect the integrity of elections. The final version of the bill passed the Republican controlled House 79-39 Thursday, with strong opposition from black representatives. It would require voters to show a driver’s license or other form of photo identification before casting a ballot. The bill is intended to enact a state constitutional amendment that 62 percent of Mississippi voters adopted in last November’s general election.
Bryant has pledged to sign the bill into law. However, there’s no guarantee that the ID requirement will ever take effect.

Texas: Voter ID battle intensifies in federal court, Texas Legislature | Lubbock Online

A pending law that would require Texas voters to show government-issued photo identification before casting a ballot has temporarily overshadowed the long redistricting battle the state is fighting with minority groups and civil rights organizations. The intensity of the latest legal battle became evident this week. First, on Monday, the U.S. Department of Justice asked a federal court in Washington for a delay of a July 9 trial that would determine whether the law the Republican-dominated Texas Legislature approved in last year’s session is constitutional. Then, on Tuesday, San Antonio Democratic Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer accused the Republican super majority of creating significant obstacles for a good number of Texans — mainly the poor and the elderly — to vote. And for its part, the office of Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is representing the state in both legal battles, stressed the significance of the voter ID legislation on hold. “The Department of Justice has been seeking and receiving information since last summer,” Abbott’s deputy communications director, Lauren Bean, said in a statement. “They’ve had plenty of time to get ready for trial and still have two-and-half more months.

Editorials: States Shouldn’t Tamper with Voting Rights Act | New America Media

Since the beginning of 2011, states across the country have passed new laws restricting the right to vote. From voter ID to curbs on early voting and registration drives, these controversial measures could make it harder for millions of Americans to vote this year, including a disproportionate number of minority, young, and elderly voters. The photo ID law passed by Texas, for example, could prevent hundreds of thousands of eligible voters from casting a ballot, including a disproportionate number of minorities, as the data shows. Voting rights advocates are fighting these laws in the courts, but in addition to these direct attacks on the franchise, opponents are now threatening a cornerstone of American civil rights law — the Voting Rights Act (VRA). Decades ago, our nation passed the Voting Rights Act (VRA) to combat discrimination in voting. It has successfully protected voters against decades of discriminatory measures that had disenfranchised African Americans, Latinos, and many other Americans. The VRA was even reauthorized in 2006 with overwhelming bipartisan support in Congress, and it was signed by President George W. Bush. Elected officials in both parties recognized the VRA is still needed because discrimination against minority voters continues to this day. For example, in recent years, the Justice Department forced Texas to stop discriminatory actions against voters at historically black colleges and universities.

Texas: US attorney general seeks delay in Texas voter ID case | Houston Chronicle

The U.S. attorney general’s office has requested a delay in the trial over Texas’ voter ID law, saying the state’s legal maneuvering is taking up too much time to meet the tight deadline. Federal lawyers complained Texas had demanded a speedy trial in order to resolve the issue in time for the Nov. 6 general election. The law passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature last year requires voters to present a government-issued identification card to cast their ballot. The law is before the district court in Washington, D.C., because Texas is covered by the Voting Right Act, which requires places with a history of racial discrimination to first clear any changes in voting laws with either the Justice Department or the Washington court. The Justice Department believes the Texas law, if enforced, will discriminate against Hispanic voters. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott insists it won’t and now it’s up to the court to decide. Republicans say the law is necessary to prevent fraud, but Democrats say it will prevent the poor and the elderly from voting.

Editorials: Could Texas Voter I.D. Case Dismantle U.S. Civil Rights Law? | Public News Service

Court watchers say a Texas case could trigger the dismantling of a decades-old civil rights law. Steven Shapiro, the American Civil Liberties Union’s national legal director, is to speak in Houston today, analyzing recent trends by the nation’s highest court. Texas is among nine mostly southern states with a history of discrimination which are required by the 1965 Voting Rights Act to get federal clearance before changing election rules. That’s why a new Texas voter-photo-ID law is on hold: It failed to win the Justice Department’s blessing. The state is now suing, and the case is likely to head to the U.S. Supreme Court. “The court has dropped some hints that it’s prepared to rethink the whole issue. I would like to believe that the court will not strike down what I think has been the single most successful civil rights law in American history, but I think people are appropriately anxious.”

National: Corporations Donate to Groups on Both Sides of Voter-ID | Businessweek

Companies giving at least $2 million to the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation — nearly half of its reported 2010 donations — also backed an organization championing voter identification laws that caucus members say “suppress” minorities’ right to vote. The group, the American Legislative Exchange Council, lists 22 corporate and trade association members on its private enterprise board. Thirteen of those firms also contributed to the black caucus foundation in 2010, according to Internal Revenue Service records and the latest available data on the websites of both organizations. The dual support puts companies, including Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) (WMT), AT&T Inc. and Johnson & Johnson, in the position of financing both sides in a political dispute over state laws that the U.S. Justice Department said in some cases are biased against minority voters. “Corporations should be conscious of how their advocacy money is being spent by organizations that they contribute to,” said U.S. Representative Hank Johnson, a Georgia Democrat and a member of the black caucus. “This is a wakeup call for corporate interests to be more responsible for how they spend their money.” A spokeswoman for the black caucus foundation, Traci Hughes, didn’t respond to phone calls and e-mails seeking comment.

National: Voter ID Laws Take Center Stage at House Judiciary Hearing | Main Justice

The controversial video showing a man almost fraudulently accepting a ballot as Attorney General Eric Holder got more airtime Wednesday at a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing on the Justice Department’s voting rights enforcement track record. The video, made by conservative activist James O’Keefe, prompted some committee members to question the attorney general’s handling of voting cases. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) said he is “shocked the attorney general hasn’t offered a meaningful response to this.” On hand for the Republican-led House Judiciary subcommittee on the Constitution hearing was former Voting Section lawyerJ. Christian Adams, who has been a vocal critic of Holder since his dramatic departure from theJustice Department in 2010. Adams was critical of Holder’s decision to partially dismiss a voter intimidation civil lawsuit against the New Black Panther Party and members — a racially charged case Adams helped initiate. But many veterans of the Civil Rights Division said the George W. Bush administration’s Voting Section took on a highly politicized agenda in choosing cases.

Wisconsin: Supreme Court won’t take voter ID cases, law remains blocked pending Appeals Court action | AP

The Wisconsin Supreme Court on Monday declined to consider the state’s appeals of two rulings blocking Wisconsin’s new voter ID law from taking effect, leaving the issue to lower courts to decide even with recall elections against the governor and five other Republican officials only weeks away.The  court didn’t explain why it wasn’t taking up the state’s appeals in its two single-page orders, which it issued hours after a trial began in one of the cases. The decision means the law, which would require voters to present photo identification at the polls, will remain blocked pending a ruling by one of the appeals courts, which could come before the May 8 primary elections or June 5 general elections. Gov. Scott Walker, the lieutenant governor and three Republican state senators are facing recall elections, and the seat of another GOP senate recall target who recently stepped down is also up for grabs.

Texas: Justice Department Blasts Voter ID Law | NPR

The U.S. Department of Justice says a Texas law requiring most people to show ID before they can vote will discriminate against minorities. In court documents filed today, the department says there is substantial evidence that minorities will be affected the most: Among other evidence, records produced by the State of Texas indicate that S.B. 14 will disenfranchise at least 600,000 voters who currently lack necessary photo identification and that minority registered voters will be disproportionately affected by the law, based on both a greater likelihood of lacking a required form of photo identification and a lesser ability to obtain a necessary identification.

District of Columbia: James O’Keefe tries to defend voter ID laws by filming D.C. election workers | The Washington Post

Conservative activist James O’Keefe’s latest project aims to lampoon the mostly Democratic opposition to “voter ID” laws, and does so by focusing hidden cameras on last week’s D.C. primary elections. In the first of several promised clips, an O’Keefe associate tries to see if he can vote as Eric H. Holder, attorney general of the United States and longtime Spring Valley resident. Why Holder? Under his leadership, the Justice Department has objected to laws requiring voters to present identification in states subject to preclearance under the Voting Rights Act of 1965. People like O’Keefe think voter ID laws are a common sense way to prevent voter fraud; people like Holder say they address a problem that doesn’t exist, and the laws would give officials new pretext to keep legitimate voters from casting ballots.

Mississippi: Lawmakers close to redistricting votes | SunHerald.com

Mississippi lawmakers soon will be asked to vote on new configurations for their own House and Senate districts. It’s a politically sensitive task that could shape their own re-election prospects — and the prospects of their colleagues and their political parties — for the coming decade. The redistricting chairmen, Sen. Merle Flowers of Southaven and Rep. Bill Denny of Jackson, told The Associated Press that proposed new maps will be released within the next two weeks and should quickly come up for a vote in each chamber. Flowers and Denny, both Republicans, said they’ve been meeting privately the past couple of months with demographers, attorneys and other lawmakers, both individually and in groups, to try to draw districts that would make most lawmakers happy.

New York: Redistricting Process Continues in Legal Purgatory | WNYC

Like a sequel to a horror movie most people never saw in the first place, New York’s redistricting saga continues to play out in court rooms and administrative offices from Washington, DC and Albany. Even before Governor Andrew Cuomo signed off on a compromised redistricting agreement with state legislators—which was ultimately a reversal on his promise to veto maps drawn by said legislators—legal activity surrounding the contentious redrawing of the state’s political boundaries has kept the compromise signed into law by the Governor from being the final word. The redistricting afterlife, it turns out, consists of three levels of political purgatory.

South Carolina: Justice Department: South Carolina voter ID law violates Voting Rights Act | USAToday.com

South Carolina’s voter ID law violates the Voting Rights Act and discriminates against minorities despite the state’s assertions to the contrary, the Obama administration says in new court papers. The U.S. Justice Department’s comments came in a 12-page document filed Monday with a District of Columbia court in response to South Carolina’s Feb. 7 voter ID lawsuit. Justice lawyers urged the judges to reject the state’s request for a declaratory judgment, which is a speedy decision by judges without a trial. The administration rejects South Carolina’s claim that the voter ID law “will not have the effect of denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race, color or membership in a language minority group,” Justice Department lawyers wrote in their legal brief. South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson’s office provided a copy of the brief Tuesday.

Arizona: Congressional district map clears U.S. review | Arizona Republic

The U.S. Department of Justice on Monday approved a new congressional-district map for Arizona, erasing any lingering questions about which geographic areas candidates will run this fall. The OK comes as candidates have already largely embraced the map, which the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission created in January. It reconfigures congressional-district lines to reflect population changes documented by the 2010 census. It also adds a ninth district, the result of population growth over the last decade. The approval means the redistricting commission met its goal to get federal approval the first time it submitted a map. Arizona needs Justice Department pre-clearance for any election-law changes because of past problems with the federal Voting Rights Act, which is designed to protect minority voting rights. “One down, one to go,” said Ray Bladine, the commission’s executive director.

Texas: Santorum Backers Look to Change Texas Primary Rules | The Texas Tribune

Rick Santorum, trying to keep his presidential hopes alive despite increasingly long odds, is looking for the political equivalent of a Hail Mary pass from Texas Republicans. Santorum has noted in recent days that some Texas party activists are waging an uphill battle to change the rules of the May 29 primary so that whoever wins would get all 152 delegates up for grabs in the contest. The activists, led by Santorum supporters, say they have enough support to force an emergency meeting of the State Republican Executive Committee, though major hurdles loom beyond that. The Republican National Committee would have to approve the last-ditch move to change the delegate selection process because of the late date of the request, officials say. An RNC official in Washington, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Thursday that would be highly unlikely. Later, the RNC communications director, Sean Spicer, said there is “no basis” for a change and that Texas would “remain a proportional state,” according to a posting on Twitter from The Washington Post. The change might also require approval from the U.S. Department of Justice.

Texas: Feds, AG duel over who must testify in Texas voter ID case | San Antonio Express-News

U.S. Justice Department lawyers told a federal three-judge panel Tuesday that Texas legislators should not be shielded from testifying in a voter ID case. But lawyers for state Attorney General Greg Abbott said deposing statehouse Republicans to determine legislative intent of the new photo ID requirement amounted to a “fishing expedition” by Justice Department attorneys. The panel — Circuit Judge David Tatel, District Judge Robert Wilkins and District Judge Rosemary Collyer — is expected to rule soon on motions to expedite proceedings. A tentative trial date of July 30 is being considered, which would allow the photo ID law to be implemented for the November general election.

Florida: Legislature seeks federal redistricting review even without a final map | Miami Herald

The Florida Legislature’s legal team has asked the U.S. Department of Justice to begin the process of reviewing its legislative maps for compliance with the federal Voting Rights Act, even before the Florida Supreme Court signs off on a final product. In a March 30 letter to the U.S. Department of Justice, lawyers for the House, Senate and attorney general asked the federal government to expedite its a pre-clearance of the maps so that candidates will know the district boundaries when they are required to qualify during the week the June 4. Under the Section 5 of the federal Voting Rights Act, Florida must submit its legislative and congressional maps for approval, or pre-clearance, because five counties – Collier, Hardee, Hendry, Hillsborough and Monroe – have a history of discrimination against racial or language minorities. Download Preclearance_Senate