The Obama administration announced Thursday that it will legally contest a series of laws around the country as part of an aggressive campaign to fight a recent Supreme Court ruling that it says could reduce minority voting. The Justice Department filed its first challenge Thursday, asking a judge to require Texas to seek permission from the federal government before making voting changes because of the state’s history of discrimination. Several states in the South and Southwest could face similar lawsuits. “This is the department’s first action to protect voting rights following the (Supreme Court) decision, but it will not be our last,” Attorney General Eric Holder said at a National Urban League conference in Philadelphia on Thursday. “My colleagues and I are determined to use every tool at our disposal to stand against discrimination wherever it is found.” Civil rights groups and African-American lawmakers welcomed the decision, as did the American Civil Liberties Union and the NAACP.Full Article: Justice Department to take on states over voting rights - Richmond Times-Dispatch: National & World News.
Attorney General Eric Holder’s surprise decision to challenge Texas’s voting laws triggers a huge new fight between the federal government and Southern states dominated by the Republican Party. Legal experts said the decision to seek a court order requiring Texas to obtain federal clearance before changing its voting laws lays the groundwork for an aggressive push to restore as much federal oversight as possible over state voting laws. “I think they’re going to try this wherever they think they have a shot,” Richard Hasen, a law professor at the University of California, Irvine, who specializes in election law, said of the Justice Department. Holder’s move is in response to the Supreme Court’s decision last month to toss out a central part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that determined which states required preclearance from the federal government before changing their voting laws.Full Article: Voting rights challenge in Texas opens up new Obama-GOP fight - The Hill - covering Congress, Politics, Political Campaigns and Capitol Hill | TheHill.com.
The White House pushed back this afternoon against allegations from Texas Republicans that the Justice Department is overreaching its authority by trying to reimpose preemptive U.S. oversight of Texas elections. Not so, Obama spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters traveling with the president aboard Air Force One to Florida. Earnest noted that Texas political maps for years “have attracted quite a bit of controversy… I don’t think it’s a surprise to anybody that’s been following this that that’s attracted the attention of the Department of Justice.” Attorney General Eric Holder’s announced this morning that he would seek a court order forcing Texas to submit any and all election changes for federal review. The Supreme Court lifted that burden last month when it struck down a key part of the Voting Rights Act.Full Article: White House denies Rick Perry’s “end-run” allegation on Voting Rights | Trail Blazers Blog.
The chief legal counsel for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund is applauding Gov. Rick Perry for signing into law the interim voting maps, but said not having a Voting Rights Act leaves minority communities vulnerable. This week the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act. Nina Perales is the chief legal counsel for the MALDEF and said the supreme court has taken away a tool for fair and equitable state voting maps. “While the supreme court didn’t strike down all of the Voting Rights Act, it invalidated the most important tool, which allowed us to fight discrimination and which had been recently re-authorized by Congress in 2006 by a wide bipartisan margin,” Perales said.Full Article: MALDEF: End Of Voting Rights Act Leaves Minorities Exposed | Texas Public Radio.
The special session that ended Tuesday wasn’t a total loss. On Wednesday, Gov. Rick Perry signed all three redistricting bills that lawmakers sent to him. With his signature, Perry set the district boundaries for the U.S. House of Representatives, the state Senate and the Texas House, his office confirmed. Capitol gossipers had been whispering that the governor might try to find a way to shove state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, into a Republican district as punishment for her filibuster that led to the death of a strict abortion measure in the Senate early Wednesday. But by signing off on the redistricting maps, Perry silenced the rumors that he might veto the new state Senate map and seek to put into place the more Republican-friendly maps passed by the Legislature in 2011.
Texas: Supreme Court ruling on Voting Rights Act could renew battle over Texas redistricting | Dallas Morning News
The Supreme Court decision striking down elements of the Voting Rights Act could lead to the Legislature implementing a 2011 redistricting plan that was deemed by federal judges to be discriminatory to Texas minority voters. Soon after Tuesday’s decision, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said that the state’s voter identification plan would immediately take effect, requiring voters to show a photo ID at the polls. “Redistricting maps passed by the Legislature may also take effect without approval from the federal government,” he said. A spokesman for Abbott, a Republican, confirmed he was talking about the 2011 redistricting plan, which is under appeal before the Supreme Court. That plan would give Republicans even more strength in the U.S. House and the Legislature.Full Article: Supreme Court ruling on Voting Rights Act could renew battle over Texas redistricting | Dallasnews.com - News for Dallas, Texas - The Dallas Morning News.
Editorials: Texas Redistricting Fight Shows Why Voting Rights Act Still Needed | Ari Berman/The Nation
The last time Texas redrew its political maps in the middle of the decade, Texas Democrats fled to Oklahoma to protest Tom DeLay’s unprecedented power grab in 2003. Now Texas Republicans are at it again, with Governor Rick Perry calling a special session of the legislature to certify redistricting maps that were deemed intentionally discriminatory by a federal court in Washington and modified, with modest improvements, by a district court in San Antonio last year. Republicans want to quickly ratify the interim maps drawn for 2012 by the court in San Antonio before the court has a chance to improve them for 2014 and future elections. “Republicans figured out that if the courts rule on these maps, they’re going to make them better for Latinos and African-Americans,” says Matt Angle, director of the Texas Democratic Trust. The maps originally passed by the Texas legislature in 2011 personified how Republicans were responding to demographic change by trying to limit the power of an increasingly diverse electorate.Full Article: Texas Redistricting Fight Shows Why Voting Rights Act Still Needed | The Nation.
When three federal judges in San Antonio released interim maps in November 2011, Democrats jumped for joy at how many seats they’d gain in Congress and the Texas House. Their grand plans, though, were short-lived. The U.S. Supreme Court interceded and said the lower-court judges had gone too far. Since neither that court, nor the one hearing another case in Washington D.C. had made a final ruling, the San Antonio judges could only repair the most egregious constitutional violations in the Legislature’s maps for the 2012 election. The San Antonio judges therefore redrew their maps, and Republicans maintained unquestioned control over Texas politics. But earlier this year the court in Washington D.C. ruled that Texas Republican lawmakers intentionally discriminated against minorities in drawing their maps. That clears the way for the San Antonio judges to return to the drawing board, and led Gov. Rick Perry to call a special session on redistricting to do damage control.Full Article: Special session on redistricting is damage control.
After leaving it on the backburner for their regular session, lawmakers are going into overtime to consider one of the most contentious issues in politics: redistricting. The goal of Republican leaders appears to be to quickly adopt the court-ordered boundaries for congressional and legislative districts that a court put in place last year. That would set a ceiling for how well Democrats can do in next year’s elections and beyond. Most analysts expect the Legislature to ram though the maps in a matter of days, though the session could last longer if Gov. Rick Perry adds other matters. The districts, while not what Republicans had hoped for when the once-a-decade process started in 2011, are more palatable than what minorities and Democrats might score in the legal arena. Courts found “intentional discrimination” against minority voters in the Legislature’s original maps, and minority groups and Democrats say the interim maps, which have never been pre-cleared by the Justice Department, contain similar problems.Full Article: GOP lawmakers poised to quickly OK legislative, congressional maps - Dallas News, Sports, Weather and Traffic from The Dallas Morning News.
Texas: GOP lawmakers poised to quickly OK legislative, congressional maps as redistricting session looms | The Dallas Morning News
After leaving it on the backburner for their regular session, lawmakers are going into overtime to consider one of the most contentious issues in politics: redistricting. The goal of Republican leaders appears to be to quickly adopt the court-ordered boundaries for congressional and legislative districts that a court put in place last year. That would set a ceiling for how well Democrats can do in next year’s elections and beyond. Most analysts expect the Legislature to ram though the maps in a matter of days, though the session could last longer if Gov. Rick Perry adds other matters. The districts, while not what Republicans had hoped for when the once-a-decade process started in 2011, are more palatable than what minorities and Democrats might score in the legal arena. Courts found “intentional discrimination” against minority voters in the Legislature’s original maps, and minority groups and Democrats say the interim maps, which have never been pre-cleared by the Justice Department, contain similar problems. Last year, in striking down temporary maps that would have benefited Democrats, the Supreme Court ruled that the will of the Legislature should be the starting point when developing electoral boundaries.Full Article: Texas GOP lawmakers poised to quickly OK legislative, congressional maps as redistricting session looms | Dallasnews.com - News for Dallas, Texas - The Dallas Morning News.
Texas’ redistricting battle is about to heat up again. As the Legislature’s regular 90-day session winds to an end, state lawmakers are girding for Gov. Rick Perry to call a special session that could start as early as Tuesday on congressional and legislative election maps. Meanwhile, a federal court is putting its gears back in motion to again take up a lawsuit by minority and voting rights groups challenging Republican-drawn redistricting maps passed by the Legislature in 2011. A hearing scheduled for Wednesday in San Antonio will mark the first time the three-judge panel weighs in on the case in about a year. The flurry of action on the state level on redistricting comes as the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling next month on a case involving Section 5 of the federal Voting Rights Act.Full Article: Special session imminent for state Legislature - Houston Chronicle.
Believe it or not, it’s not too early to start worrying about whether the 2014 party primary elections might be delayed because of the ongoing court fights over redistricting and other issues. That’s right, the same legal battles that delayed this year’s primaries from early March to late May. That’s not a prediction — just saying it could happen. It’s probably more productive for now to get up to date on where the ongoing court battles stand. A lot has happened since spring. The primaries were held, runoffs came in July and there was a pretty big national election in November.Full Article: Court battles on Texas election issues go on and on | Editorials | Fort Worth, Arlington, Nor....
Hope Andrade, the first Latina to serve as Texas secretary of state, abruptly announced her resignation Tuesday in the wake of controversy over a so-called voter purge. “It has been the highest honor of my professional life to serve as the secretary of state for the greatest state in our nation,” she said in a statement announcing her departure. In a letter to Gov. Rick Perry, who in 2008 named her to the post in which she served as Texas’ chief elections officer, the San Antonio resident said her resignation would be effective Friday. There was no immediate word on her replacement.Full Article: Andrade resigns as Texas secretary of state - Houston Chronicle.
Texas: State wants access to federal database of immigrants to check voter rolls | The Dallas Morning News
Texas officials plan to join a growing number of states across the country seeking access to a massive immigration database to check voter rolls for possible non-citizens, officials confirmed Wednesday. Texas Secretary of State officials were drafting a letter Wednesday formally requesting access to the Department of Homeland Security database, which contains more than 100 million immigration records, said Rich Parsons, an agency spokesman. Texas Secretary of State Esperanza “Hope” Andrade, an appointee of Republican Texas Gov. Rick Perry, is the latest GOP elections leader to request access to the database since Homeland Security officials last week granted Florida permission to use the database. The Obama administration initially opposed granting Florida access, but relented after a judge ruled in the state’s favor on a separate issue related to its efforts to purge non-citizens from its voting rolls. Since then, election leaders in nearly a dozen states have expressed interest in gaining access to the DHS database. But opponents of the move argue the database was never designed to be used as tool to purge voter rolls.Full Article: Texas wants access to federal database of immigrants to check voter rolls | Dallasnews.com - News for Dallas, Texas - The Dallas Morning News.
Voter ID laws face a high-profile test this week as the U.S. District Court in Washington, DC hears arguments about Texas’ controversial new regulations. The case pits Texas against Attorney General Eric Holder, who has earned the ire of Republicans across the country for challenging new voting restrictions. Republicans say the Justice Department should be more concerned about fraud; the DOJ counters that these laws suppress minority turnout. Gov. Rick Perry (R) signed Texas’ voter ID law in May 2011. The state already required an ID to vote; the new law requires a photo ID. Those who don’t have a valid photo ID can apply for a new “election identification certificate.” As a state with a history of voter discrimination, Texas must get preclearance from the Department of Justice for changes in election law. The DOJ blocked Texas’ law under Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, declaring that it would disproportionately affect Hispanic voters.Full Article: Texas case puts voter ID laws to test - The Washington Post.
Texas: Voter ID Law, Which Accepts Gun Licenses But Not Student IDs, Challenged In Court | ThinkProgress
On Monday, the Department of Justice and the Texas Legislature will square off in court over Texas’ contentious voter ID law. A three-judge U.S. District Court panel will hear the case, which could challenge the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Texas is one of nine states that must get any changes to their election law cleared by the DOJ under the Voting Rights Act due to a history of discrimination. Texas flunked the test; as Assistant U.S. Attorney General Thomas E. Perez wrote in his letter to the Director of Elections, “According to the state’s own data, a Hispanic registered voter is at least 46.5 percent, and potentially 120.0 percent, more likely than a non-Hispanic registered voter to lack this identification.” The law, SB 14, requires voters to show one of a very narrow list of government-issued documents, excluding Social Security, Medicaid, or student ID cards. Gun licenses, however, are acceptable. The DOJ found that Texas’s SB 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.”Full Article: Texas Voter ID Law, Which Accepts Gun Licenses But Not Student IDs, Challenged In Court | ThinkProgress.
Texas: State Republican Party Platform Calls For Repeal Of Voting Rights Act Of 1965 | Huffington Post
The Texas Republican Party has released its official platform for 2012, and the repeal of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965 is one of its central planks. “We urge that the Voter Rights Act of 1965 codified and updated in 1973 be repealed and not reauthorized,” the platform reads. Under a provision of the Voting Rights Act, certain jurisdictions must obtain permission from the federal government — called “preclearance” — before they change their voting rules. The rule was put in place in jurisdictions with a history of voter disenfranchisement. Some elected officials, including Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican, have since argued that the rules put an unfair burden on certain places and not others. Texas is one of nine states that must obtain preclearance before changing its electoral guidelines. The declaration by the state’s GOP comes as Texas continues protracted fights over voting rights on several legal fronts. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder blocked the state’s recent voter I.D. law, citing discrimination against minority voters. And a federal judge earlier this month heard motions in a lawsuit filed by Project Vote, a voting rights group that tries to expand voting in low-income communities, that claimed the state’s laws made it illegally difficult to register new voters.Full Article: Texas Republican Party Platform Calls For Repeal Of Voting Rights Act Of 1965.
Allegations of voter fraud fueled the successful push for a controversial voter ID law in Texas last year, making a picture ID necessary to vote despite scant evidence of actual cheating at the polls. Fewer than five “illegal voting” complaints involving voter impersonations were filed with the Texas Attorney General’s Office from the 2008 and 2010 general elections in which more than 13 million voters participated. The Department of Justice has deemed the law in violation of the Voting Rights Act, finding that it would disproportionately affect minorities, who are less likely to have a photo ID.Full Article: Cheating rarely seen at polls - San Antonio Express-News.
Once Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman dropped out of the Republican presidential nomination contest, their South Carolina and Florida backers who cast ballots early, including many military voters living overseas, essentially wasted their votes. They voted for candidates who didn’t want their support. Florida and South Carolina voters are not alone. Several upcoming primary states allow “no excuse required” absentee voting, meaning a far higher percentage of votes are now cast early. More than a quarter of Florida’s 400,000 absentee ballots had already been returned before Perry and Huntsman withdrew, and in 2008 nearly two-thirds of all Tennessee ballots were cast early. If you add in other states, more than a million voters have received ballots with the names of Perry, Huntsman and fellow candidate dropouts Herman Cain and Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.). Although many “early voters” cast ballots close to Election Day, that option isn’t available to service personnel whose ballot may need to traverse 10,000 miles.Full Article: Richie and Gronke: Ranked-Choice Ballot Upholds Voter Rights : Roll Call Opinion.
Florida: Confusion feared since ballots bear names of presidential contenders no longer in race | Palm Beach Post
Only four candidates are facing-off in Tuesday’s Republican presidential primary, but there are nine names to choose from on the ballot. Although five candidates have dropped out of the race, including Minnesota Congressman Michele Bachmann and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, their names are still on the ballot. Palm Beach County elections chief Susan Bucher said Friday she is worried the ballots may confuse voters. She wants to make sure residents don’t “waste” their vote by choosing a candidate who dropped out. “It is a statewide issue,” said Bucher, who has discussed her concerns with the Secretary of State’s office. “I am just concerned that people will waste their vote, in what appears to be a very close election.”Full Article: Confusion feared since ballots bear names of presidential contenders no longer in race.