Texas: Is the voter ID case on a fast-track to the Supreme Court? | Austin American-Statesman

Texas’ voter identification law, which was the focus of a federal trial that concluded Monday in Corpus Christi, could be on a fast-track to the U.S. Supreme Court before Election Day in November. U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos, a Democrat who was appointed to the post in 2011 by President Barack Obama, is expected to strike down the law, according to election law experts. The state would then appeal to the conservative 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The plaintiffs, which include the U.S. Department of Justice, likely would lose that round and could ask for emergency relief from the Supreme Court — all possibly within the next six weeks. It’s a scenario laid out by Richard Hasen, a professor at the law school at the University of California at Irvine, who has been closely following the Texas case.

Editorials: Eric Holder’s Voting Rights Legacy | Ari Berman/The Nation

When Eric Holder took over the Department of Justice, the Civil Rights Division, known as the crown jewel of the agency, was in shambles. Conservative political appointees in the Bush administration had forced out well-respected section chiefs. Longtime career lawyers left in droves, replaced by partisan hacks. Civil rights enforcement was virtually non-existent. Holder made restoring the credibility of the Civil Rights Division a leading cause. “In the last eight years, vital federal laws designed to protect rights in the workplace, the housing market, and the voting booth have languished,” he said at his confirmation hearing. “Improper political hiring has undermined this important mission. That must change. And I intend to make this a priority as attorney general.” Enforcing the Voting Rights Act became a key priority for Holder’s Justice Department. In 2012, it successfully challenged Texas’s voter ID law, South Carolina’s voter ID law, and Florida’s cutbacks to early voting under the VRA.

Editorials: Republicans should want more African Americans to vote. It’s the only way they can keep winning in the south | George Chidi/The Guardian

If I were a vote-scrounging Republican politician and I wanted to hustle up some black people’s votes, I would think it generally sound policy not to tell them that they’re too stupid to deserve a vote. State senator Fran Millar, a Republican from the affluent, majority-white Dunwoody section of majority-black DeKalb County here in Georgia, apparently doesn’t feel the same way. In a public Facebook post, he took exception to a plan by county CEO Lee May to open up an extra early-voting site in a South DeKalb mall “dominated by African American shoppers and … near several large African American mega churches”. “I would prefer more educated voters than a greater increase in the number of voters,” he added in a comment to his post. “If you don’t believe this is an efort [sic] to maximize Democratic votes pure and simple, then you are not a realist. This is a partisan stunt and I hope it can be stopped.” Well, yes. It is a partisan move. It shouldn’t be. The race of voters shouldn’t be a partisan predictor in an ideal world. But here in Georgia, the contests for governor and a US Senate seat are too close to call – and may turn on whether the Democrats can win as much as 30% of the white vote. Seven out of 10 white voters, minimum, are Republicans, and 90% of black voters are Democrats. Here, all politics are racial politics – and the contests are only close because the number of black and Latino voters in the state has grown so quickly.

Texas: Testimony Begins in Trial Over Texas Voter ID Law | The Texas Tribune

The U.S. Department of Justice and other plaintiff’s attorneys began their challenge Tuesday in federal court to Texas’ stringent voter ID law, the first national test of such laws that have surfaced following a Supreme Court ruling that cleared the way for such measures. Six plaintiff’s attorneys made opening statements in the case, arguing that the law is designed to neutralize the voting power of Texas’ growing minority population. Lawyers from the Texas attorney general’s office countered that the plaintiffs have offered no proof that minority voters were being unfairly edged out of the voting process and that the law helps stamp out fraud. The trial over the law, which has been enforced through two elections since 2013, is expected to last two weeks before U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos makes a decision. Elizabeth Westfall of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, the first plaintiff’s attorney to make an opening statement, said that 787,000 Texas voters do not have acceptable photo identification to vote now. “And Hispanics and African-Americans make up a disproportionate share,” she added.

North Carolina: Federal judge rejects preliminary injunction on voting law | Winston-Salem Journal

North Carolina’s new voting law that, among other things, reduces early voting hours and eliminates same-day voter registration will be in place for the November elections, a federal judge ruled late Friday. U.S. District Judge Thomas D. Schroeder denied a preliminary injunction barring the use of the laws, saying that the U.S. Department of Justice, the state NAACP and others had failed to show that the law would have such “irreparable harm” to blacks, young people, other racial minorities and poor people that it should be blocked for the November election. That election features the hotly contested U.S. Senate race between Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan and Thom Tillis, the Republican speaker of the House and one of the main architects of the new law. Schroeder also denied a request by the Justice Department to have federal observers in North Carolina for the November election. But Schroeder also declined to dismiss the trio of lawsuits filed last year, which included the League of Women Voters, the state NAACP, the Justice Department and individual plaintiffs such as Emmanuel Baptist Church in Winston-Salem. The lawsuits, which challenge the constitutionality of North Carolina’s voting law, are scheduled for trial in July 2015.

Tennessee: Department of Justice to oversee Shelby County election | WREG

The Department of Justice announced Tuesday afternoon it will oversee the August 7 election in Shelby County. Shelby County Election Commission Chairman Robert Meyers requested federal oversight during a phone call to the Office of the Attorney General Tuesday morning. Federal monitors will be sent to observe the Shelby County general election, as well as the federal and state primary. Polling places will be monitored, and a Civil Rights Division attorney will be in contact with local election officials. Meyers told WREG while he’s sure things will go smoothly Thursday, adding federal monitors should avoid any claims of shady business going on after the results are in. Both Shelby County Democrats and Republicans requested the feds to step in this week.

Ohio: Justice Dept. joins suit challenging Ohio election rules | The Columbus Dispatch

The U.S. Department of Justice made good today on its promise to intervene in Ohio elections, joining an existing lawsuit trying to restore more evening and weekend voting for Ohioans. The federal government filed a “statement of interest” in NAACP litigation against Secretary of State Jon Husted and Attorney General Mike DeWine. A separate filing today challenged changes in Wisconsin voting laws. “These filings are necessary to confront the pernicious measures in Wisconsin and Ohio that would impose significant barriers to the most basic right of our democracy,” said Attorney General Eric Holder in a release.

California: Los Angeles Court Accused of Violating Voting Rights | Courthouse News Service

Los Angeles Superior Court unlawfully strips voting rights from thousands of disabled Americans who are under adult guardianship, an advocacy group claims in a complaint to the Department of Justice. The Disability and Abuse Project of Spectrum Institute, “as next friend of limited conservatees under the jurisdiction of the Los Angeles Superior Court,” sent a formal complaint against Los Angeles Superior Court on Thursday to the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division. Project director Dr. Nora Baladerian said in a statement: “Being told that you are less than other Americans and that you cannot exercise your right to vote has a detrimental emotional and psychological effect on people with disabilities. We trust that Attorney General Eric Holder will take action to protect the rights of these deserving American citizens.” According to the 8-page complaint, thousands of people with developmental or intellectual disabilities lose their right to vote after parents petition probate court to allow them to make legal, financial and medical decisions for their adult children.

Arizona: Federal panel upholds Arizona legislative map | AZ Central

A divided federal court has upheld the legislative map drawn by the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, removing any question about which districts candidates would run in this year. The 2-1 decision by a federal panel came 13 months after the trial, which was sought by a group of Republican voters, including the wife of Senate President Andy Biggs. The plaintiffs argued the map approved by the redistricting commission in 2011 violated equal protections as ensured by the U.S. Constitution because partisanship motivated the creation of some of the 30 districts. But the court assumed that partisanship was not a contributing factor as it weighed the legal arguments in the case, although it conceded that in one district in northern Pinal County, it contributed to a commission decision to shift the boundary lines.

Ohio: Could absentee ballot controversy lead to Ohio voting probe? | The Columbus Dispatch

State Auditor Dave Yost’s comments about the possibility of getting into Cuyahoga County officials’ pocketbooks should increase the odds of a federal probe of voting in Ohio, the county’s law director says. “Going after the personal finances of public officials for trying to promote voter participation is unprecedented,” said Majeed G. Makhlouf. “I think we expect the Department of Justice to take the threat to voting rights pretty seriously.” At issue is a new law passed by the GOP-controlled state legislature and signed by Republican Gov. John Kasich saying that the secretary of state’s office is the only government agency that can send out absentee ballot applications.

Editorials: The Voting Rights Act: 2006 vs. 2013 | The Daily Collegian

In 2006, the Voting Rights Act (VRA) was reauthorized for 25 years by a massive majority of both the House and the Senate. In fact, the Senate reauthorized the bill unanimously by a vote of 98 to 0. In June 2013, the Supreme Court decision Shelby County v. Holder found that Congressional reauthorization by mass majority was not enough to uphold the 48-year-old formula in Section 4(b) of the VRA. Section 4(b) of the VRA is the formula by which states that townships or counties are placed under the jurisdiction and require the consent of the Department of Justice regarding any changes to electoral law. This is called “preclearance,” a power defined in the VRA’s subsequent Section 5. While progressives and liberals across the United States are now up-in-arms over this decision, the truth is that the Supreme Court acted with due deference towards the issue of institutional racism and voting discrimination. Chief Justice Roberts was very clear regarding this issue. His opinion states, “At the same time, voting discrimination still exists; no one doubts that.” As Roberts states in the majority opinion, the major problem is that, “the Act imposes current burdens and must be justified by current needs.” The Supreme Court also agrees that Section 2 of the 15th Amendment provides Congress with the authority to legislate against such discrimination. That is the crux of the problem: Congress.

Alabama: Voting rights for ex-felons: Difficult and rare to get a second chance in Alabama | AL.com

Perrion Roberts, 49, earned a pardon from Alabama this year. That means she can cast a ballot at the next election. But it’s difficult and it’s rare to get a second chance in Alabama. In Alabama and 11 other states ex-felons forfeit the right to vote. But the U.S. Department of Justice has sharply criticized the practice. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder last month called for repeal of such state bans, saying that “the impact of felony disenfranchisement on modern communities of color remains both disproportionate and unacceptable.” Alabama blocks anyone convicted of a crime of moral turpitude from voting. There are exceptions. Ex-felons can regain the right to vote through full and partial pardons. Yet Roberts, who served time in prison on drug-related charges roughly a decade ago, is the first success story Bob Harrison can remember.

Texas: Voter ID Trial Remains On Track Despite Federal Attempt To Postpone | Texas Public Radio

Plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Texas voter ID law applauded a Corpus Christi federal judge’s vigilance to retain a September trial date — the U.S. Department of Justice is now hoping to postpone the case because of logistics issues. This week, Federal District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos in Corpus Christi wanted to know if everyone was still on track for the Sept. 2 trial. Attorneys with the DOJ asked again to have the trial postponed until January 2015 because they say the state of Texas has not begun to exchange information needed for the case. Jose Garza, an attorney with the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, said Gonzales-Ramos is sticking to the pre-general election trial date.

Vermont: Secretary of State: Primary election date must be moved to the first Tuesday in August | Brattleboro Reformer

The Vermont Secretary of State wants the Legislature to move the primary election date to the first week of August. Jim Condos says the state must move the primary date up this year in order to comply with federal law. The Department of Justice sued the state in 2012 when a recount in the governor’s race led to a delay in the mailing of General Election ballots to overseas voters, including military personnel. It’s not the first time Condos has come to lawmakers asking for an earlier primary. Last year, the Senate resoundingly voted down his proposal, 29-0. The defeat was an embarrassment for Condos, but nevertheless, he has brought the provision back, this time to the House Government Operations Committee as the omnibus elections bill, S. 86, goes through round two in the Vermont Legislature. Part of the problem politically is that the primary election date, which for many years was held in mid-September, was changed just a few years ago and lawmakers are loath to move it again. The election is currently held the fourth Tuesday in August. Last session senators said if anything they’d like to move the primary date back to mid-September. But Condos says if lawmakers don’t change the date, the Department of Justice will do it for them.

Florida: Voting Rights Changes Would Not Impact Florida | NorthEscambia.com

A proposed overhaul of the Voting Rights Act that would essentially revive the process of “preclearance” would leave Florida out of the list of states that would have to get federal approval for changes to elections procedures, a scenario that concerns some voting-rights advocates. Voting-rights groups, many of which have been involved in recent legal battles over elections issues in Florida, largely support the bill, introduced by a bipartisan group of U.S. House and Senate members. But they note that the process in the bill for selecting which states are required to gain preclearance would not include Florida or several other jurisdictions that were included under an old formula. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down as antiquated the formula Congress established in the 2006 version of the law to single out so-called “covered jurisdictions.” That formula, based on data from the 1960s and 1970s, was used to decide which parts of the country must submit almost any changes in voting laws or practices to the federal government for approval — the process known as preclearance.

Alabama: Judge Reinstates Federal Oversight of Voting Practices for Alabama City | New York Times

A federal judge in Alabama on Monday reinstated federal oversight over the voting practices of a city there, in what election law specialists said was the first such move since the Supreme Court struck down part of the Voting Rights Act in June. Judge Callie V.S. Granade, of Federal District Court in Mobile, used a mechanism in the law that the Supreme Court had left untouched, Section 3, which allows jurisdictions that have intentionally discriminated against minority voters to be “bailed in” to the oversight requirements. Relying on Section 3, Judge Granade ordered the city, Evergreen, to submit some changes in voting procedures to the Department of Justice or a federal court for review before they can go into effect. “This is a major win for the people of Evergreen,” said John K. Tanner, a lawyer for the plaintiffs and a former chief of the Justice Department’s voting section. But he added that piecemeal litigation under Section 3 was no substitute for a general requirement that states and localities designated by Congress be subject to federal oversight.

Texas: Election Passes, But Litigation Continues | State of Elections

Election Day on November 5 marked the first time Texas’ controversial voter ID laws were affected in the state. And the results were mixed. There is little evidence that the law suppressed voter turnout. Out of the state’s 13.4 million registered voters, only 1.1 million cast ballots in the 2013 election, about 8.5 percent of the electorate. Compare this to 2011 and 2009, other election “off years.” In  2011 when only 5.4 percent of voters showed up. In 2009, about 1 million people cast ballots, about 8.1 percent of the electorate. So as far as the numbers go, voting seemed on par. However, the law lost some PR points with some high publicity hiccups, including several prominent politicians initially being told they couldn’t get a new voter identification card vote because they lacked proper identification. State Senator Wendy Davis, the front-running Democratic candidate for governor next year, had to sign an affidavit because her married name did not match her driver’s license . State Attorney General Greg Abbott, a champion of the law was also flagged because his license listed his name as “Gregory Wayne Abbott” while his voter registration record simply calls him “Greg Abbott.” And former U.S. Speaker of the House Jim Wright couldn’t get his new voter ID at first because his driver’s license had expired.

Editorials: Eyes On The Courts: 2014 Will Be Pivotal For Voting Rights | Rick Hasen/TPM

Fights over the laws governing voting rights are nothing new – but 2014 is shaping up to be a big year for court decisions that will determine whether millions of Americans will face new and unnecessary barriers at the polls. Since the disputed 2000 elections, states have increasingly moved to change voting rules, and litigation on these issues has more than doubled. In June 2013, the United States Supreme Court decided in Shelby County v. Holder to strike down a key provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that had long required states with a history of discrimination to “pre-clear” proposed voting rule changes with the U.S. Department of Justice. Republican-led states have since redoubled efforts to restrict voting – and civil rights groups and the Justice Department have responded by filing new challenges. In 2014, the courts will weigh in, revealing what role, if any, U.S. judges will play in checking moves to make voting harder.

Georgia: Election calendar will shorten legislative session | Online Athens

The legislative session that begins Jan. 13 will be quicker than any in recent years, and that will create a wave of changes that will ripple through Georgia. When the U.S. Department of Justice sued the state for not allowing ample time for voters overseas with the military to get their ballots counted, U.S. District Judge Steve Jones’ decision last year created the tidal wave. He agreed with the DOJ that the primary runoff period wasn’t sufficiently long enough to get ballots from soldiers, sailors and airmen in time to be counted before the runoff voting begins. Jones decreed that the primary must be held no later than June 3 rather than the July 15 date in state law. So, state leaders wanting to avoid low turnouts during the Memorial Day period picked May 24 as the date they’ll ask the legislature to set into law.

National: Lawyers Seek $2M in Fees from Federal Governemnt in Voting Rights Act Challenge | Legal Times

The lawyers who successfully challenged the Voting Rights Act before the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year are seeking $2 million in legal fees from the federal government. U.S. Department of Justice lawyers and attorneys from Wiley Rein, who represented Shelby County, Ala., in the voting rights dispute, are expected to fight over two issues: whether the challengers are entitled to fees in the first place and whether $2 million is too much. The fee request “appears to present novel legal issues,” the attorneys in the case said in a Nov. 4 court filing. The government and civil rights groups involved in the litigation plan to oppose the fee request. U.S. District Judge John Bates will first decide whether Shelby County’s lawyers are entitled to fees before looking at how much compensation is appropriate. In June, a divided U.S. Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the voting rights law, which laid out the formula used to decide which states and jurisdictions should have to take special steps before making changes to their voting procedures. Wiley Rein filed its fee request in late October.

Alabama: Secretary of state issues final voter ID rules | The Montgomery Advertiser

The Alabama Secretary of State’s office Tuesday issued final rules on the implementation of the state’s voter identification law, with an eye toward making voter ID cards available by January. In 2011, the Legislature passed a law requiring voters to present a photo ID issued by a government, tribe, college or university for the 2014 elections. The law initially was subject to preclearance by the U.S. Department of Justice under the 1965 Voting Rights Act, but the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the criteria for preclearance earlier this year. The ID requirement will kick in for the state primary election next June. The new rules will not affect anyone who currently has a government-issued ID, such as a driver’s license. Those who do not will be able to apply for a voter identification at county boards of registrars or at the secretary of state’s office. Additionally, voters will be able to obtain “free nondriver identification cards” at offices where they would get driver’s licenses.

Texas: Why women in Texas may be blocked from voting | MSNBC

Texas’ strict new voter ID law is being put to its first widespread test. Early voting for the November 5 elections began Monday, and there have already been signs of trouble. Under the controversial new legislation, which supporters claim prevents fraud, all voters must supply an approved form of photo identification that exactly matches the name on their voter registration cards. The U.S. Department of Justice slapped Texas with a lawsuit over this issue in August, arguing the law disenfranchises minority voters. But it could hit women particularly hard, especially those who use their maiden names or hyphenated names. Sonia Gill, an attorney at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, warned many voters might be in for an unpleasant surprise on Election Day. “Women in particular are going to have a difficult time because they are more likely to have changed their names and, as a result, the name on their photo ID may not match up to the name listed on their voter registration.”

Montana: DOJ Declares Indian Vote Denial ‘Completely Incorrect’ | ICTMN.com

“May it please the court, Erin Flynn on behalf of the United States.” So began the Justice Department’s presentation in a landmark Native voting-rights lawsuit. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, sitting in Portland, Oregon, heard oral arguments in the suit,Wandering Medicine v. McCulloch,on October 10. The appeals court’s decision, upcoming in the next few months, will turn on whether a Montana district judge misread Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act when he denied requests for satellite registration and early-voting offices on isolated Montana reservations. The local magistrate reasoned that Indians have been elected to office in the state, so Indian voters’ lack of equal rights—which he readily acknowledged—was immaterial. “The district judge held that as long as Indians get to vote at all, what’s the problem,” said plaintiffs’ attorney Steven Sandven, of Sioux Falls. “The law needs to be clarified.”

North Carolina: McCrory: Cooper could be witness against NC in voter ID suit | WWAY

Gov. Pat McCrory says Attorney General Roy Cooper could wind up a witness against the state of North Carolina in a lawsuit the US Department of Justice filed against the state’s new voter ID law. “Political statements by an attorney general of any lawyer can have a detriment(al) impact on their ability to defend our state,” McCrory said. During a visit to Cape Fear Community College, McCrory, a Republican, was asked if he agrees with the opinion of one of his legal advisers that Cooper, a Democrat, compromised his ability to represent the state in the lawsuit.

Editorials: Eric Holder’s Big Voting-Rights Gamble | Abby Rapoport/The American Prospect

Just about everyone who goes through a musical-theater phase at some point falls in love with Sky Masterson of Guys and Dolls. In the movie version, Marlon Brando plays the gambler who will wager “sky high” stakes and finds himself singing “Luck Be a Lady” while rolling the dice to see if he gets the girl. Going all in may be what you’d expect in a fictional singing crapshooter, but it’s a bit more surprising in a U.S. attorney general. Eric Holder’s announcement Monday that the Justice Department was going to bring a lawsuit against North Carolina’s new and wide-sweeping election law, which includes a laundry list of voter restrictions and changes making it harder to vote, showcases just how high he’s willing to make the stakes when it comes to voting rights. His department is now going to be litigating two high-profile cases—one against a voter-ID law in Texas, and the other against the omnibus bill in North Carolina. The DOJ is also involved in a case to show that Texas’s redistricting maps intentionally discriminated. Some legal advocates say he’s taking the only logical course of action. Others say he’s going double or nothing.

North Carolina: Why the 2014 election matters for voting rights | Facing South

Last month, U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) sent a letter to the Department of Justice practically begging them to review her state’s new voter ID law, which elections experts believe will insidiously impact voters of color, elders, college students and many women. Her appeal to the Attorney General comes as she vies for re-election in 2014, one of 33 Senators whose seats will be up for grabs. Until this year, much of North Carolina was protected by the Voting Rights Act because of a history of voter discrimination. Under VRA’s Section Five, 40 of the state’s 100 counties were subject to preclearance, meaning officials there had to submit any proposed elections changes to the Justice Department or a federal court to determine if racial discrimination might result. Since the U.S. Supreme Court threw out the preclearance coverage formula this summer, the state is no longer subject to those federal reviews. Then North Carolina’s Republican-controlled General Assembly passed the Voter Information Verification Act, to Sen. Hagan’s consternation.

Texas: Lawsuits pile up over Texas voter ID law | Facing South

This week the NAACP Texas State Conference and the Mexican American Legislative Caucus of Texas state lawmakers filed a legal challenge to the state’s photo voter ID law. NAACP and MALC join the U.S. Department of Justice, the Texas League of Young Voters Education Fund, the NAACP Legal and Educational Defense Fund, and U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey, a Democrat representing the Fort Worth area, who’ve collectively filed three other suits challenging the Texas law. As with the other challenges, NAACP and MALC claim the law violates Section Two of the Voting Rights Act, which forbids denying voting rights to people of color. All of the challenges want Texas “bailed in” under the VRA’s Section Three preclearance provision, which requires states or counties found to have engaged in intentional discrimination to get federal permission for new election laws before they take effect. The NAACP/MALC suit differs from most of the other cases in that it also argues that the photo voter ID law violates the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment equal protection clause banning racial discrimination. In addition, it claims the Texas law violates the 15th Amendment, which prohibits governments from denying a citizen the right to vote based on race.

National: States, Justice Department girding for battle over voting laws | McClatchy

Now comes the far-flung fallout from a Supreme Court decision in June blowing up a key provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. A federal lawsuit filed Thursday against a Texas voter identification law seems certain to be followed by a similar suit against one in North Carolina. Other states, too, could face federal legal challenges over their actions in the wake of the high court’s decision. Congress, if it’s up to the task, could also get messy trying to partially restore the guts of the landmark 1965 law. The fights to come will span many fronts, including several of the 33 states that have passed voter identification laws. The separate conflicts, moreover, will inevitably cross-pollinate. One key lawmaker, tellingly, believes the federal action in Texas will “make it much more difficult” to get Voting Rights Act revisions through an already divided Congress. And, as in any global conflict, strategic thinking could pay dividends.

Texas: DOJ to Texas: Voter Suppression Will Not Stand | The Nation

In one week last August, federal courts found that Texas’ voter ID law and redistricting maps were discriminatory and violated the Voting Rights Act. The Supreme Court’s recent decision invalidating Section 4 of the VRA, which previously covered Texas, tragically wiped away those rulings. Now the Department of Justice is once again stepping in to fight for voting rights in the Lone Star State. The DOJ announced today that it is objecting to Texas’ voter ID law under Section 2 of the VRA and will also seek to join a similar lawsuit against the state’s redistricting maps. Last month, DOJ asked a court in Texas to force the state to approve its voting changes with the federal government for a period of time under another provision of the VRA, Section 3, based on a finding of intentional discrimination in the restricting case. The federal courts found last year that Texas’ new maps for Congress and the state house were “enacted with discriminatory purpose.”

Editorials: Get to Know Section 3 of the Voting Rights Act | Abby Rapoport/American Prospect

arlier this summer, the U.S. Supreme Court gutted the most potent provision of the Voting Rights Act: Section 5, which had required nine states and a number of individual counties with long histories of voter discrimination to clear any new election law changes with the feds. In the weeks since the decision, voting rights advocates have been searching for new strategies to protect voting rights. And now, in recent days, a previously ignored portion of the Voting Rights Act has become a key tool in the fight. Advocates—as well as Attorney General Eric Holder—are hoping Section 3 will prove to be a powerful tool in the face of an onslaught of voting restrictions from Republican legislatures—and can at least partially replace the much stronger voter protections the Supreme Court took away. Since that Supreme Court decision, the states that had been covered by Section 5 have run roughshod over voting rights. Texas has set about implementing a voter ID law—previously nixed by the DOJ under the Section 5—that would require some people to drive 176 miles round trip on a weekday to get the government-issued photo ID they’ll now need to vote. In Florida, Governor Rick Scott has announced he would re-start a purge of non-citizens from the voter rolls. North Carolina, for its part, passed what is likely the most sweeping set of voting restrictions since the original Voting Rights Act was passed.