The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments Tuesday about why legislative districts in Arizona have unequal population — and whether that matters legally. Republican interests as well as two state GOP officials want the justices to conclude that the Independent Redistricting Commission acted illegally when it drew the lines in 2011 for all of the elections for this decade. They point out that some of the 30 districts have more residents than others. That point is not in dispute. Even the commission’s attorneys concede that there is an 8.8 percent difference in population between the largest and smallest. What the high court will consider is the question of whether the move was justified.
Maryland: Redistricting reform commission reaches consensus on new independent process | Maryland Reporter
The Maryland Redistricting Reform Commission met Tuesday to craft recommendations for ways to fix gerrymandering in Maryland, focusing on establishing an independent group to redistrict both congressional and legislative districts. The commission hashed out intricate rules to limit partisan influence and ensure the independence of the new panel. The commission will recommend that any new independent commission apply current state standards for legislative districts to congressional redistricting. When drawing congressional boundaries in the current system, Maryland’s governor leads the process, which follows a more general federal standard.
Barely one year after Alabama’s voter-ID law went into effect, officials are planning to close 31 driver’s license offices across the state, including those in every county in which blacks make up more than 75 percent of registered voters. It’s ostensibly a cost-cutting effort, but coupled with the voter-ID law, these closings will make it even more difficult for many of the state’s most vulnerable voters to get one of the most common forms of identification now required to cast a vote. Like voter-ID laws elsewhere, Alabama’s version requires voters to bring a government-issued photo ID to the polls. The rationale is that these laws are necessary to stop voter fraud. The problem is that in-person fraud — the only kind that voter-ID laws could conceivably prevent — almost never happens. Still, these laws have proliferated around the country, nearly always enacted by Republican-controlled legislatures at the expense of minorities, the poor and other groups who tend to vote Democratic.
Alabama: Congressional Black Caucus Blasts State’s DMV Office Closures As Discriminatory Toward Minority Voters | International Business Times
A group of African-American lawmakers on Friday blasted a decision by Alabama officials to shutter dozens of driver’s license offices, a move that disproportionately affects government ID services in black Democratic areas of the state. Given the state’s 2011 law that requires voters to show government-issued IDs before casting election ballots, closing the offices potentially disenfranchises thousands of black and minority voters, the Congressional Black Caucus said. “Alabama’s decision to close ID offices reminds us that 50 years after the passage of the Voting Rights Act, the fight for equal access to the polls still continues today,” the caucus said in a statement released Friday. “Having a say in our country’s Democratic process still does not exist for all.” Since a 2013 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated the section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that required federal approval of voting law changes in states with a history of racial discrimination, members of Congress and voting rights activists have pushed for restoration of the law. They did so as some Republican-led states passed laws requiring government-issued IDs and other forms of identification at polling places.
In 1965, Congress passed the Voting Rights Act, one of the most important pieces of legislation in U.S. history. It contained key protections for minority voters, especially blacks, who had been effectively disenfranchised in the South. The act was a remarkable success, increasing minority voter registration and turnout rates within a few years. In 1982, an important amendment made it much easier for minority voters to elect candidates of their choice. Then, following the contested 2000 elections, states started passing new voting rules along partisan lines. As part of these voting wars, conservative states began passing laws making it harder to register and vote, restrictions that seemed to fall most on poor and minority voters. In the midst of all of this, the Supreme Court in 2013 struck down a key component of the Voting Rights Act. It had required states and jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination in voting to get permission from the federal government before making a voting change by proving that the proposed change would not make it harder for minority voters to vote and to elect their preferred candidates. Don’t worry, Chief Justice John Roberts assured the American public in that 2013 case, Shelby County v. Holder. Although states with a history of racial discrimination would no longer be subject to federal “preclearance” of voting changes because preclearance offends the “equal sovereignty” of states such as Texas, there’s always Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. That provision, Roberts explained, is available “in appropriate cases to block voting laws from going into effect. … Section 2 is permanent, applies nationwide, and is not at issue in this case.”
Louisiana’s Terrebonne Parish has never elected a black judge, even though one in five parish residents is African-American. In fact, it re-elected a white parish judge who had been suspended for wearing black-face as part of a racist parody Halloween costume. Lawyers for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund say the problem is the discriminatory voting system the parish uses, and last year they sued Gov. Bobby Jindal under the Voting Rights Act to force a change. On Friday, they filed papers asking a federal judge for a summary judgment in their favor. The lawsuit demonstrates how the Voting Rights Act, which was badly weakened by the Supreme Court in 2013, remains a key tool for stopping not only high-profile statewide laws like voter ID, but also a range of local election rules that often fly under the radar.
When the Voting Rights Act was passed by Congress in 1965, it was intended to outlaw poll taxes, literacy tests and other attempts by state governments to discourage minorities from voting. Over the past five decades, the law has been almost universally praised as an essential tool to not only ensure fair elections, but also to thwart the marginalization of minorities in America. In recent years, however, the law has come under attack as various state legislatures have chipped away at key provisions. “In theory, everybody’s in favor of the right to vote,” President Obama said recently. “But in practice, we have state legislatures that are deliberately trying to make it harder for people to vote.”
A federal appeals panel ruled Wednesday that a strict voter identification law in Texas discriminated against blacks and Hispanics and violated the Voting Rights Act of 1965 — a decision that election experts called an important step toward defining the reach of the landmark law. The case is one of a few across the country that are being closely watched in legal circles after a 2013 Supreme Court decision that blocked the voting act’s most potent enforcement tool, federal oversight of election laws in numerous states, including Texas, with histories of racial discrimination. While the federal act still bans laws that suppress minority voting, exactly what kinds of measures cross the legal line has been uncertain since that Supreme Court ruling.
Editorials: John Roberts has been trying to gut the Voting Rights Act for decades | Scott LEmieux/The Week
In 2013, a 5-4 Supreme Court decision written by Chief Justice John Roberts eviscerated the 1965 Voting Rights Act. In Shelby County v. Holder, the court struck down the most crucial enforcement mechanism in the most important civil rights statute since Reconstruction. How did we get here? A major New York Times Magazine story by Jim Rutenberg provides an invaluable history of the long battle conservatives have fought against the law. And it shouldn’t be surprising that one major player in this movement was John Roberts himself. It’s important to emphasize the spectacular shoddiness of Roberts’ opinion in Shelby County. It fails to make an even remotely coherent argument to justify declaring that Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act — which used a formula to determine which areas of the country required greater federal oversight of voting practices — is unconstitutional. The text of the Fifteenth Amendment explicitly authorizes Congress to pass legislation to address racial discrimination in voting, and the Voting Rights Act does not violate any specific textual provision.
North Carolina: State attorneys rest their case in federal voting rights trial | Winston-Salem Journal
Attorneys representing North Carolina and Gov. Pat McCrory rested their case this morning after calling six witnesses in a federal trial over the state’s controversial election law. The last witness for the state was Brian Neesby, business systems analysis for the State Board of Election. Neesby testified about data analysis he conducted, including an analysis that showed higher mail verification failure rates for same-day voter registration than the traditional registration that occurs 25 days before an election. Several groups, including the N.C. NAACP and the U.S. Department of Justice, are suing the state and McCrory over House Bill 589, which became law in 2013. House Bill 589 eliminated same-day voter registration, reduced the days of early voting from 17 to 10, got rid of out-of-precinct provisional voting and abolished preregistration of 16- and 17-year-olds.
North Carolina: Voting rights trial in North Carolina begins: ‘This is our Selma’ | Los Angeles Times
Lawyers in North Carolina sparred over whether the state illegally weakened minorities’ strength at the polls during what is expected to become a significant test of the voting rights laws. The proceedings, which began in a Winston-Salem federal courtroom Monday, are expected to last several weeks. North Carolina argues that the changes were needed to protect the voting process from fraud. Civil rights activists, with the support of the U.S. Department of Justice, maintain that the law was designed to dilute the power of African Americans and Latinos in the GOP-controlled state. The case is one of several coming after a 2013 U.S. Supreme Court decision invalidated provisions of the federal Voting Rights Act that gave the Department of Justice final say over voting in areas with histories of racial discrimination. The 1965 law was considered a civil rights landmark by helping to ensure minority participation in a political process controlled by the white ruling structure that had evolved from legal segregation in the South.
Congressional Democrats are expected to unveil new legislation this week, possibly as soon as Wednesday, that if passed would restore the requirement for federal approval for voting procedure changes in some states, a provision of the Voting Rights Act struck down by the Supreme Court two years ago. The legislation, titled “The Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2015,” would force any state that has had 15 or more voting rights violations in the last 25 years to be subject to federal preclearance for any change in voting procedure or law. That criterion would initially subject 13 states to preclearance: New York, California, Arkansas, Arizona, Virginia, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Louisiana, and Texas, according to a copy of the legislation obtained by the Washington Post. Those states would be able to free themselves of the preclearence provision by going 10 consecutive years without a voting rights violation.
Supporters and opponents of a Texas law requiring specific forms of photo identification for voters faced close questioning in a federal appeals court on Tuesday on whether the law was meant to discriminate against minorities and whether there are ways to remedy it. The US Justice Department and others oppose the law as an unconstitutional burden on minority voters. The state of Texas says the law was aimed at preventing fraud and is appealing a federal district judge’s ruling last October that struck down the law. Judge Catharina Haynes, one of three judges hearing the Texas case at the fifth US circuit court of appeals, suggested in questioning that the matter should perhaps be sent back to the district court for further consideration. She noted that the Texas legislature currently has several bills that that could broaden the number and types of ID voters could use to cast ballots.
When the Supreme Court struck down the heart of the Voting Rights Act in 2013, its main argument was that the law was outdated. Discrimination against minority voters may have been pervasive in the 1960s when the law was passed, Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. wrote, but “nearly 50 years later, things have changed dramatically.” In this simplistic account, the law was still punishing states and local governments for sins they supposedly stopped committing years ago. The chief justice’s destructive cure for this was to throw out the formula Congress devised in 1965 that required all or parts of 16 states with long histories of overt racial discrimination in voting, most in the South, to get approval from the federal government for any proposed change to their voting laws. This process, known as preclearance, stopped hundreds of discriminatory new laws from taking effect, and deterred lawmakers from introducing countless more. But Chief Justice Roberts, writing for a 5-4 majority, invalidated the formula because “today’s statistics tell an entirely different story.” Well, do they?
If Hillary Clinton is to succeed in her second quest for the presidency, she’ll need to at least come close to matching President Obama’s performance with the groups that made up his most enthusiastic base: minorities and young voters. So over the next year and a half, expect to see Clinton continue to denounce the wave of restrictive voting rules that has often targeted non-whites and students. Already, the former secretary of state—sometimes criticized by progressives as overly cautious—has been relatively outspoken on the subject of voting rights. In a forceful 2013 speech to the American Bar Association (ABA), Clinton slammed the Supreme Court’s Shelby County ruling that year weakening the Voting Rights Act (VRA), called on Congress to fix the landmark law and urged the Obama administration to step up enforcement of voting rights cases.
U.S. Sen. Rob Portman said today that Congress should review the entire Voting Rights Act to evaluate how it is working. But he added that he doesn’t know if parts of it need to be strengthened. This comes after the Ohio Republican was criticized by Democrats for demurring last weekend on whether he supports a House bill to deal with a key section of the act that the Supreme Court struck down in 2013. Portman was asked about new legislation, which civil rights leaders say is necessary, while he was in Selma, Alabama, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the civil rights struggle that helped pass the act. His answer upset some liberal groups and Democrats. He said in Selma, “I haven’t looked at it. Is there a Senate version?”
This month marks the 50th anniversary of the “Bloody Sunday” marches in Selma, Alabama, a time that fundamentally transformed the fight for civil rights in America. On Sunday, March 7, 1965, hundreds of extraordinary people were brutally attacked by Alabama state troopers as they marched from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, to protest racial discrimination in voting. The events of “Bloody Sunday,” as it became known, led Congress to enact the Voting Rights Act of 1965 — one of the greatest pieces of civil rights legislation ever passed. But Selma’s promise remains unfulfilled for all Americans. U.S. citizens in Guam and the other territories still can’t vote for president. We have no representative in the Senate. Our representative in the house can’t vote.
Saying voter discrimination “has not gone away,” House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer called on GOP leaders Tuesday to update the 1965 Voting Rights Act (VRA). The Maryland Democrat said the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision eliminating central provisions of the law “clearly undermined the protections of the right to vote in this country” and urged Republicans to replace those provisions this year. “The majority of the court was simply wrong,” Hoyer said during a press briefing in the Capitol. “Something that had helped solve the problem, and made sure it didn’t reoccur, was jettisoned.” Republican leaders have shown little interest in the issue. And last week, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), head of the House Judiciary Committee, said congressional reforms are unnecessary because “substantial” parts of the VRA remain intact. “To this point, we have not seen a process forward that is necessary because we believe the Voting Rights Act provided substantial protection in this area,” he said Wednesday during a breakfast in Washington sponsored by The Christian Science Monitor.
National: Congressional Black Caucus, Democrats rip lack of voting right protections in Republican agenda | The Hill
The head of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) is teeing off on Republicans over the absence of voting right protections in the GOP’s new congressional agenda. Rep. G. K. Butterfield (D-N.C.) said he’s “deeply troubled” by House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte’s (R-Va.) recent comments that Republicans have no intention of replacing central provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act (VRA) shot down by the Supreme Court in 2013. “If this is indeed the position of the entire Republican Conference, then they have clearly drawn a line in the sand — one in which they are on the wrong side of,” Butterfield said in a statement. Speaking to reporters Wednesday, Goodlatte said congressional action is simply not necessary to improve the VRA because the parts of the law remaining after the Supreme Court ruling are “substantial.”
More than a century after its constitution was drafted, Australia is edging closer to formally recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders as the nation’s first people. Changing the constitution to recognise the nation’s first people is not about politics, says Mike Baird, premier of New South Wales – Australia’s biggest state. It’s about righting a wrong. “It is an important part of who we are, it is an important part of our history,” he says. Earlier, this month, Mr Baird became the first state or territory leader to publicly back a federal government campaign – started by the previous Labor government and adopted by coalition Prime Minister Tony Abbott – to reverse the historical exclusion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people from Australia’s constitution. To do that, the public would have to vote in a referendum.
U.S. voters in 14 states are navigating new laws that critics say make it harder for lower-income and minority voters, who typically back Democrats, to cast ballots in the midterm elections. Advocacy groups across the country are gearing up to help voters contend with cutbacks in early voting and new state requirements for voter identification, which the mostly Republican sponsors say are necessary to combat voter fraud. Democrats and civil rights groups counter there is scant evidence of fraud, and say the measures are a Republican effort to depress turnout by Democratic-leaning demographic groups such as the young, poor and minorities. The laws are the latest in a wave of voting restrictions instituted by Republican-controlled legislatures and Republican governors since the party’s big election gains in 2010. Many are being used for the first time in a national election on Tuesday, after the U.S. Supreme Court in June 2013 invalidated a section of the Voting Rights Act that required areas with a history of racial discrimination, mainly in the U.S. South, to get federal approval for changes to voting laws.
The supreme Court’s weirdly busy October brings to mind an old Cadillac commercial showing a sedan gliding silently down the highway, driver calm and confident in a hermetic, leather-appointed cabin, while the announcer intones, “quietly doing things very well.” Whether the justices are doing their jobs well depends on your point of view. But there is no disputing that they have been doing their most consequential work in uncharacteristic silence in recent weeks. The justices’ moves on gay marriage, abortion and voting rights have been delivered all but wordlessly, as Dahlia Lithwick of Slate recounts. The notable exception to the rule is Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the justice who refused to hold her tongue over the weekend, when six of her colleagues permitted Texas to enforce its new photo identification law in the November elections. The Court’s announcement came down at the ungodly hour of 5am on Saturday. It followed a federal district court decision on October 9th that the Texas law was discriminatory in both intent and effect and “constitutes a poll tax”—a ruling that was stayed by the Fifth Circuit Court on October 11th. The stay prompted an emergency appeal to the Supreme Court via Antonin Scalia, the justice assigned to the Fifth Circuit. The six justices who denied the request to lift the stay before dawn on October 18th were mum as to why; they released no reasoning for the decision, which effectively gives Texas’s questionable voter law a pass. But Justice Ginsburg and her clerks apparently ordered pizza and downed some Red Bull on Friday evening, pulling an all-nighter to compose a six-page dissent, which Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan joined. (Rick Hasen asks why Justice Stephen Breyer, the fourth liberal justice, did not sign on to the dissent; one strong possibility is that he was asleep.)
In a stinging defeat for the Obama administration and a number of civil rights groups in a major test case on voters’ rights, a divided Supreme Court told the state of Texas early Saturday morning that it may enforce its strict voter ID law for this year’s general election, with early voting starting next Monday. Three Justices dissented from the ruling, which was released a few minutes after 5 a.m. folllowing a seemingly lengthy study. This apparently was the first time since 1982 that the Court has allowed a law restricting voters’ rights to be enforced after a federal court had ruled it to be unconstitutional. A U.S. District Court judge in Corpus Christi struck down the ID law last week after a nine-day trial, but it now awaits review by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which temporarily blocked the trial judge’s ruling. The Justice Department has indicated that the case is likely to return to the Supreme Court after the appeals court rules. Neither the Fifth Circuit’s action so far nor the Supreme Court’s Saturday order dealt with the issue of the law’s constitutionality. The ultimate validity of the law, described by Saturday’s dissenters as “the strictest regime in the country,” probably depends upon Supreme Court review. The Saturday order, for which a number of news organizations had kept a vigil through the night in anticipation of its release, did not disclose how six of the Justices had voted. But, because it would have taken the votes of at least five to have reached the result, it was clear that the order had majority support. The majority gave no explanation for its action.
The Supreme Court on Saturday allowed Texas to use its strict voter identification law in the November election. The court’s order, issued just after 5 a.m., was unsigned and contained no reasoning. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg issued a six-page dissent saying the court’s action “risks denying the right to vote to hundreds of thousands of eligible voters.” Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan joined the dissent. The court’s order was an interim move addressing emergency applications filed Wednesday, and a trial judge’s ruling striking down the law will still be appealed. But the Supreme Court’s action set the ground rules in Texas for the current election. Early voting there starts Monday, which helps explain the court’s rush to issue the order as soon as Justice Ginsburg had finished her dissent. The law, enacted in 2011, requires voters seeking to cast their ballots at the polls to present photo identification like a Texas driver’s or gun license, a military ID or a passport.
The Supreme Court is set to decide whether Texas can enforce its new photo-ID rule in time for this year’s midterm election. The case reached the court Wednesday in an emergency appeal. Critics asked justices to block the rule, arguing it discriminates against minorities. Last week, a federal judge decided that the rule could prevent as many as 600,000 registered voters from casting a ballot and that Texas lawmakers who approved the law intended to make it harder for blacks and Latinos to vote. Texas Atty. Gen. Greg Abbott, who is running for governor, quickly appealed. On Tuesday, the 5th Circuit Court in New Orleans lifted the judge’s order and said the photo-ID law can be enforced in this year’s election for the first time. It “is virtually unheard of,” civil rights advocates complained, to permit a state to enforce a new election law “in a case where purposeful racial discrimination has been found in a final judgment after a full trial.”
Editorials: Voting restrictions may reach the Supreme Court: From Ohio, Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Texas. | Rick Hasen/Slate
he fights in our states over how hard or easy it is to vote have been filling the courts and are headed toward the Supreme Court. The cases range from voter ID laws to early voting rules and beyond. Already there is a case from Ohio, with ones from Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Texas potentially on the way in a matter of days or weeks. The stakes are high, not only for the lazy 2014 midterm elections but also for the 2016 presidential election and for the protection of voting rights in the next decade. The fact that the cases are making it to the Supreme Court at about the same time is no surprise. Over the past decade, in the period I have called “the voting wars,” we have seen both an increase in restrictive voting rights legislation passed by Republican legislatures, such as voter ID laws, and litigation from both Democrats and Republicans to manipulate the election system to their advantage. In 2008, the Supreme Court rejected a constitutional challenge to Indiana’s voter identification law, and in 2013, the Supreme Court in the Shelby County case struck down a key portion of the Voting Rights Act providing that states with a history of racial discrimination in voting get approval before making changes to their voting rules and procedures.
Wisconsin’s voter ID law was on, then off, and now back on again—for now. A similar Texas law was blocked by a federal court before going into force last year, and could now be nixed once more. North Carolina’s sweeping and restrictive voting law looks likely to be in effect this November, but there’s no guarantee. Ohio’s cuts to early voting were put on hold recently, but that decision too could be reversed. And no one seems to know what’s going to happen with Arkansas’ ID law. In a slew of states with crucial races this fall, access to the polls is in the hands of the courts. That reality underlines how last year’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that weakened the Voting Rights Act has transformed the legal landscape on the issue — but also how the conservative push to restrict voting is now a national, not a regional, campaign. It’s a situation that is likely to cause confusion for voters no matter the legal outcomes. And looming at the end of the road is the Supreme Court led by Chief Justice John Roberts, no friend of voting rights, which could upend everything if it decides to clear things up by weighing in. “That is the big question right now,” said Myrna Perez, a top voting rights lawyer with the Brennan Center for Justice, who has been arguing the Texas case. “Is this going to get before the court before the 2014 election? It’s certainly something that folks are pondering.”
Friday’s U.S. court ruling that breathed new life into Wisconsin’s voter ID law is a “recipe for chaos” that will cause “extraordinary disenfranchisement” this fall, voting rights advocates are warning as they push for a rehearing of the case. “If this law is not stopped now from being implemented in November, it will cause irreparable harm to the 300,000 plus voters who lack ID,” John Ulin, a lawyer for Arnold and Porter who represents plaintiffs in the case, told reporters Wednesday. Late Tuesday, challengers to the law filed court documents asking that the full 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals take a second look at Friday’s ruling reinstating the law. That ruling, the brief argues, “imposes a radical, last-minute change to procedures for conducting an election that is already underway.” Friday’s ruling was made by a three-judge panel of the court, all of whom were appointed by Republicans. The strict GOP-backed voter ID law had been on hold since not long after being passed in 2012, and was a struck down in April by a federal district court judge, who ruled that it violated the Voting Rights Act’s ban on racial discrimination in voting.
Democracy. Equality. Racial justice. The struggle for voting rights has long been about concepts that go to the heart of the American ideal. But in a sleepy federal courtroom here on the Gulf Coast, access to the ballot for hundreds of thousands of Texans could turn on some far less high-blown concepts: bus schedules, identification cards – and dollars and cents. As the challengers to Texas’s strict voter ID law prepared to rest their case, they presented more evidence Monday in support of the key claims they laid out last week: that a massive number of Texans lack an ID that complies with the law; that blacks and Hispanics are more likely than whites to lack ID; and that getting an ID can be onerous, especially for the poor. The plaintiffs – represented by a team of over a dozen lawyers from the U.S. Justice Department, civil and voting rights groups, and private law firms – will wrap up Tuesday. The case is one of several currently underway that could have major implications both for access to the ballot this fall, and for the the ongoing state of the law protecting the right to vote. Wisconsin’s and Arkansas’s voter ID laws, Ohio’s cuts to early voting, and North Carolina’s sweeping voting law are all being challenged in court.
North Carolina: Court Rules Voting Rights Rollback to Stay In Place Until After Midterm Elections | The Atlantic
A federal judge has temporarily authorized North Carolina to implement a sweeping new law that threatens to reduce access to the polls, particularly for African-American, Latino, and young voters. The ruling by U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder, a George W. Bush appointee, is an early test of the Supreme Court’s Shelby County v. Holder decision, which overturned key parts of the Voting Rights Act. In 2000, North Carolina started rolling out efforts to make it easier to register and vote, only to yank those efforts back thirteen years later. When the state legislature was controlled by Democrats, it authorized counties to conduct up to seventeen days of early voting, including Sunday voting, which enabled black churches to transport parishioners to the polls. It also allowed citizens to register and vote on the same day. Sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds could preregister, often at their high schools, ensuring they’d be on the rolls when they turned eighteen. And voters who showed up at the wrong precinct could still cast ballots in certain races. From 1996 to 2012, the state’s ranking in turnout among voter-eligible adults shot up from 43rd to 11th, according to the United States Elections Project at George Mason University. African-American participation pulled even with white participation.