There will be no party here this weekend. While thousands are gathering just an hour or so south in Selma to remember one of the high marks of the civil rights movement, black leaders say there is nothing to celebrate. Political leaders, including President Obama, and foot soldiers of the movement are in Selma to observe the 50th anniversary of the “Bloody Sunday” march that helped to propel the passage of the Voting Rights Act. But this is Shelby County, a rural cluster of small towns, modest homes and farmland. It was here in 2013 that local officials won a major victory when the Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the federal law that resulted from those historic marches in Selma, especially the first, on March 7, 1965, when peaceful protesters at the Edmund Pettus Bridge were beaten and tear-gassed.Full Article: North of Selma, black leaders ‘fighting the same battle’ - The Washington Post.
A plan to further slash the availability of early voting is rapidly advancing in Georgia. A committee of state lawmakers voted along party lines last week to slash the state’s early voting days from 21 to 12. The full legislature could call a vote on the cuts at any time, and with Republicans holding a majority of the House seats, the measure would likely pass. More than a third of the state’s voters cast their ballot early in this past election, and demand for early voting was so high that several counties opened the polls on a Sunday for the first time in state history. In 2008, more than half of participants voted early. But the bill’s sponsors say the goal of the cuts is to ensure “uniformity” and “equal access” between counties. Civil rights advocates, including President Francys Johnson of the Georgia NAACP, disagree, and tell ThinkProgress the measure would suppress the votes of the state’s growing minority population. “People of color tend to utilize early voting, and I think at the heart of all of this is an attempt to reduce the opportunities for people to let their voice be heard,” he said. “They’re saying to working Georgians and seniors and communities of color and the young: ‘We’re not interested in your participation.”Full Article: Georgia's New Plan To Make Voting Even Harder | ThinkProgress.
Whether N.C. voters will have to show a photo ID in 2016 will depend on whether opponents can show why they shouldn’t have to. That test begins Friday when critics of the 2013 election law overhaul argue that the ID requirement violates the North Carolina Constitution. North Carolina residents and voting-rights organizations challenging the state’s voter ID requirement contend that voters, not lawmakers, hold the power to make such a change to election law. Voters, they say, would have to approve an amendment to the state Constitution. In a hearing scheduled to take place in Wake County court on Friday, attorneys for the League of Women Voters of North Carolina, the North Carolina A. Philip Randolph Institute and five female voters plan to argue that lawmakers overstepped the bounds of the state Constitution when they overhauled election laws in 2013. Friday’s hearing focuses on the voter ID requirement scheduled to go into effect in 2016.Full Article: Critics of NC’s voter ID law to present their case in court Friday | CharlotteObserver.com.
Proposed legislation requiring Nebraska voters to present government-issued photo IDs attracted a flood of opposition Friday while prompting Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach to travel to Lincoln to support the bill. Kobach, best-known nationally for his activities opposing illegal immigration, told state senators a similar voter ID law is working well in Kansas and early evidence demonstrates that it “does not depress (voter) turnout.” His testimony before the Legislature’s Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee was prompted by an invitation from its chairman, Sen. John Murante of Omaha, he said.Full Article: Voter photo ID sparks opposition : Politics.
A contentious voting rights case involving Fayette County and the NAACP appears headed to trial. The three-judge panel in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals sent the case back to the lower court for trial. “We conclude that this case warrants a limited remand so that the district court may conduct a trial,” the judges said in their 26-page decision. The decision came down late Wednesday afternoon. The appeals court ruling is the latest chapter in a three-and-half-year old legal fight over Fayette’s voting system.Full Article: Appeals Judges: Fayette voting rights case to go to trial | www.ajc.com.
Fayette County residents implored county officials Thursday night to abandon their ongoing fight over the county’s new voting system, calling it a costly waste of time. “I strongly urge the new commission… take another look at what’s going on with district voting,” said Terrence Williams, who lives in District 5, the mostly minority district created under the court-ordered district plan. “Take a deeper look and spend our money wisely. There’s other things we need to spend our money on.” “Don’t – I beg you – don’t step back,” resident Larry Younginer said. “I subscribe to the theory that change is difficult but change is necessary. Change is going to happen whether you like it or not.”Full Article: Fayette residents urge officials to end voting rights fight | www.ajc.com.
Georgia: Fayette County legal fees in voting rights dispute: more than $434,000 and counting | Atlanta Journal Constitution
Taking a stand can be quite an expensive proposition. In the case of Fayette County, it totals more than $434,000 and counting. That’s the latest figure on legal fees the county has spent on its three and a half-year battle with the NAACP over its nearly two-century-old at-large voting system. No blacks had ever served on the county school board or county commission under that system. U.S. District Judge Timothy Batten scrapped the at-large system and told the county to adopt a district voting system to enable blacks to finally have a chance to win county-level seats.Full Article: Fayette legal fees in voting rights dispute: more than $434,000 and counting | AJC Latest News.
After officials admitted to breaking state election law during the Nov. 4 general election, the Hinds County Election Commission is now on the radar of federal, state and local agencies. In late November, the Jackson chapter of the NAACP quietly filed a complaint with the U.S. Justice Department after numerous voters reported being disenfranchised because of ballot shortages at multiple precincts during the election. When questioned by The Clarion-Ledger about the shortages in November, Hinds County Election Commission Chairwoman Connie Cochran admitted that the commission broke state election laws by failing to order the required number of ballots “to save the county some money.” “We took a look at all the options and decided to file the complaint,” said Wayne McDaniels, president of the Jackson NAACP chapter. “We’re also waiting to hear back from the (Hinds County) district attorney’s office.” Mississippi state law requires election commissioners to order enough ballots for 75 percent of registered voters to cast votes.Full Article: NAACP filed federal complaint against Hinds election commission.
The North Carolina Supreme Court on Friday upheld the constitutionality of state voting maps drawn by the Republican-majority legislature in 2011. Critics of the maps filed suit against them, arguing that they violated the constitutional rights of minority voters. A coalition of groups, including the League of Women Voters, the state chapter of the NAACP and the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, argued that Republican mapmakers had packed black voters into a small number of districts, thereby reducing their voting power in neighboring districts that were drawn to favor GOP candidates. Authors of the maps argued that they were following the requirements of the federal 1965 Voting Rights Act, which required mapmakers in states subject to the federal law to create majority-minority districts where possible to ensure the viability of minority candidates.Full Article: High court backs NC voting maps as drawn :: WRAL.com.
Editorials: The SCOTUS Should Reject Alabama’s Legislative Districts | Jim Sleeper/The Washington Monthly
With roughly 80% of Alabama whites voting Republican and 90% of African-Americans voting Democrat, it’s been easy for the state’s legislative leaders to deny they had any explicitly racial intent in compressing black voters into a few electoral districts and “whitening” the neighboring districts to elect more Republicans. Districting along party lines is the prerogative of whatever party controls the process, and if citizens are voting in racial blocs, what can a loyal Republican or Democrat line-drawer do but follow that pattern — and perhaps even intensify it when “voting rights” laws facilitate the design of “majority-minority” districts to enhance non-white voters’ opportunities to elect “candidates of their choice”? That’s the gist of Alabama’s defense this week in a suit brought by the state’s Legislative Black Caucus. The Supreme Court must decide whether the line-drawers acted racially, and therefore unconstitutionally, or for purely partisan purposes. But poor leadership on both sides of this question has intensified racial polarization even when voters have tried to transcend it, even in the Deep South. The Court should rebuff line-drawers in a way that points beyond both racialism and partisanship in districting.Full Article: The SCOTUS Should Reject Alabama’s Legislative Districts | Ten Miles Square | The Washington Monthly.
Liberal and conservative groups are mobilizing armies of poll watchers to battle over the enforcement of voter ID laws on Election Day. The Democratic Party has more to lose if turnout is low on Nov. 4. Liberals want to ensure that the young, black and Latino voters who form a key part of the party’s electoral base are not kept from the polls. Conservatives insist that they just want to uphold the integrity of the electoral process by making sure that all votes cast are legitimate. The Democratic National Committee (DNC) has state directors stationed across the country for its Voter Expansion Project. They help train poll workers, and work with local election officials to clarify how laws will be implemented. “This has been a really big effort,” DNC spokesman Michael Czin said.Full Article: Squadrons form for voter ID fight | TheHill.
The Supreme Court on Wednesday received several last-ditch pleas from opponents of the tough new Texas voter ID law. Acting one day after an appellate court effectively kept the Texas law in place, opponents including the Obama administration filed multiple emergency applications asking the high court to remove the lower court’s stay. “The need to ensure that hundreds of thousands of voters in Texas are able to exercise their right to vote, the need to stamp out intentional racial discrimination, and the need to ensure that elections are administered fairly, efficiently, and equitably, the public interest overwhelmingly favors vacating the stay,” attorneys wrote. The initial emergency application, signed by Houston-based attorney Chad W. Dunn, was submitted to Justice Antonin Scalia, who oversees emergency issues in Texas and other Fifth Circuit states. Scalia has the option of forwarding the application to all nine justices. Scalia gave Texas until 5 p.m. Thursday to respond.Full Article: WASHINGTON: Texas voter ID case flies up to Supreme Court | Suits & Sentences | McClatchy DC.
More than 3,000 people have registered to vote in Ferguson, Mo., since the death of Michael Brown — a surge in interest that may mean the city of 21,000 people is ready for a change. Since a white police officer shot the unarmed black 18-year-old on Aug. 9, voter registration booths and cards have popped up alongside protests in the city and surrounding neighborhoods. The result: 4,839 people in St. Louis County have registered to vote since the shooting; 3,287 of them live in Ferguson. The city’s population is two-thirds African American; five of its six city council members are white, as is its mayor. The St. Louis County Election Board does not record the races of eligible voters, but many believe the increase is a sign that Brown’s death has spurred renewed interest in politics and might mean more blacks will vote in the upcoming election. “It’s a great move when people come out and register in mass like that,” said Anthony Bell, St. Louis 3rd Ward committeeman. “They are sending a signal that we want a change. It doesn’t give justice to the Michael Brown family, but it will in the future give justice to how the administration is run in a local municipality like Ferguson.”Full Article: Voter registration in Ferguson surges after Brown killing.
North Carolina: 4th Circuit Court of Appeals hands NAACP partial victory on voter ID law | Associated Press
The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed a federal district court’s denial of a preliminary injunction on some parts of North Carolina’s controversial new voter ID law. The higher court will delay elimination of same-day registration and prohibition on counting out-of-precinct ballots. “The court’s order safeguards the vote for tens of thousands of North Carolinians. It means they will continue to be able to use same-day registration, just as they have during the last three federal elections,” said Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, in a statement.4th Circuit Court of Appeals hands NAACP partial victory on voter ID law | abc11.com.
This was supposed to be “Golden Week” in Ohio, a prime window one month from the midterm election when the state’s residents could both register to vote and cast their ballots at the same time. In theory, political participation doesn’t get much easier than that. Monday, however, the Supreme Court halted the start of the state’s early voting in another 5-4 order along ideological lines that civil rights advocates fear will harm minority and poor voters in particular. The decision is a win for Republican officials in Ohio who had moved to curtail the state’s early voting with a law passed in February. Civil-rights groups including the ACLU and the NAACP had sued the state to block the law, and the Supreme Court’s order on Monday sets aside a lower-court ruling in their favor. Now, as a result, voting in Ohio that was supposed to start today won’t begin until Oct. 7. And Ohio’s Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted, reacting swiftly to the Supreme Court order, has also rolled back evening hours and a day of Sunday voting that had been required by the earlier court decision.Full Article: Why early voting is about so much more than convenience - The Washington Post.
Jon Husted, Ohio’s Republican secretary of state, is going to the mat to impose cuts to early voting, and he’s asking the U.S. Supreme Court to weigh in on his behalf. His office is framing its fight for the cuts – which already been found to discriminate against blacks and Hispanics – as a matter of “protecting states’ rights.” Late Thursday, Husted and Attorney General Mike DeWine filed documents asking the nation’s highest court for an emergency stay to reverse a ruling by a federal appeals court panel on Wednesday. The decision earlier in the week upheld an injunction blocking the cuts from taking effect during this fall’s elections. Earlier on Thursday, Husted and DeWine filed a separate appeal for a rehearing of the case by the full appeals court. The cuts are being challenged by a coalition of civil and voting rights groups led by the ACLU. A full trial on the cuts is scheduled for next year.Full Article: Husted wants Supreme Court to back Ohio's early voting cuts | MSNBC.
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.
Two groups representing minorities asked the Wisconsin Supreme Court on Friday to block the state’s voter ID law for the Nov. 4 election, seeking a new way to stop the measure. The Milwaukee branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and immigrant rights group Voces de la Frontera asked the court to keep the law from taking effect this fall to prevent “confusion and disenfranchisement.” The groups are not asking that the law be blocked for future elections. In July, the state Supreme Court ruled against the two groups and upheld the voter ID law. But the requirement to show ID at the polls remained block because of an order by U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman in two other cases.Full Article: Groups ask state Supreme Court to block voter ID for Nov. 4.
At a Federalist Society event in Washington D.C. last November, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker called 7th Circuit Judge Diane Sykes “one of our favorite jurists,” and joked about appointing her to the U.S. Supreme Court if elected president. During Friday’s hearing on Wisconsin’s blocked voter ID law, Sykes didn’t disappoint. “We are on the eve of an election,” Sykes said, indicating that she would like to immediately put one of Walker’s signature pieces of legislation in place for November’s vote. “No court has ever allowed voter ID to got into effect this close to an election,” replied NAACP attorney Dale Ho, “even courts that have ultimately upheld” voter ID. Hours after argument wrapped, Sykes and the two other Republican judges on the panel made history, and ordered Wisconsin’s restrictive voter ID law to take effect immediately. The case came to the 7th Circuit from an appeal of district court Judge Lynn Adelman’s decision in April striking down Wisconsin’s voter ID law as violative of the U.S. Constitution and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.Full Article: Scott Walker’s Favorite Judge Rescues Voter ID | The Progressive.
North Carolina: Federal appeals court to weigh in on voter laws before November elections | News Observer
The NAACP and others challenging the sweeping changes to North Carolina election laws in 2013 will have an opportunity to make arguments to a federal appeals court that the November elections should be held under old laws. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals set Sept. 25 as the date for oral arguments on the pros and cons of an emergency appeal filed in late August by the NAACP, the League of Women Voters, registered Democrats in North Carolina and others. The hearing will be in Charlotte, according to documents filed in federal court Tuesday. Nearly a month ago, U.S. District Judge Thomas D. Schroeder rejected a similar request from the organizations and Democrats challenging the election law overhaul. Schroeder ruled the challengers had failed to make the case that voters would suffer “irreparable damages” if elections were held under the 2013 rules.Full Article: RALEIGH: Federal appeals court to weigh in on NC voter laws before November elections | Politics & Government | NewsObserver.com.