Section 5

Tag Archive

National: Nine Years Ago, Republicans Favored Voting Rights. What Happened? | Jim Rutenberg/The New York Times

On July 20, 2006, the United States Senate voted to renew the Voting Rights Act for 25 more years. The vote was unanimous, 98 to 0. That followed an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote in the House of Representatives, which passed it by a vote of 390 to 33. President George Bush signed the renewal with apparent enthusiasm a few days later. This bipartisan support for the Voting Rights Act — first enacted into law 50 years ago this month by Lyndon B. Johnson — was not unusual; indeed, it was the rule throughout most of the legislation’s history on Capitol Hill. And if you want to understand how dramatically Congress’s partisan landscape has changed in the Obama era, it’s a particularly useful example. As it happens, two bills introduced in the past two years would restore at least some of the act’s former strength, after the 2013 Supreme Court decision in Shelby v. Holder, which significantly weakened it. And both are languishing, with no significant Republican support and no Republican leader willing to bring them to the floor for a vote. What was, less than a decade ago, an uncontroversial legislative no-brainer is now lost in the crevasse of our partisan divide.

Full Article: Nine Years Ago, Republicans Favored Voting Rights. What Happened? - The New York Times.

National: Lawmakers Push New Longshot Bid to Rewrite Voting Rights Act | Roll Call

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner fell short in his 2014 efforts to convince GOP leadership to take up his Voting Rights Amendment Act, but the Wisconsin Republican is ready to take another stab at passing a rewrite of the historic law. But there’s little indication this year will be any different. For Sensenbrenner and his fellow co-sponsors of the legislation introduced Wednesday, many of the same obstacles remain — along with a few new ones. On the surface, it would seem the time has never been better — nor the political pressures greater — for the Republican-controlled House to take action. The VRA’s 50th anniversary this summer has the landmark civil rights legislation back in the spotlight almost two years after the Supreme Court, challenging lawmakers to update the law for the 21st century, struck down the enforcement section of the act. Sensenbrenner chose to drop his bill on the same day the House considered legislation to award Congressional Gold Medals to the “foot soldiers” of 1965’s bloody civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala.

Full Article: Lawmakers Push New Longshot Bid to Rewrite Voting Rights Act.

Editorials: Ending voter suppression ahead of 2016 | Benjamin Jealous/MSNBC

For far too many Americans, voting became more difficult or, in some cases, impossible in 2014. In Texas, Imani Clark, a Black state college student and client of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund in the lawsuit that declared Texas’s strict voter ID law unconstitutional, was unable to vote with her student ID as she had in the past. Thousands of other students like Imani were also disenfranchised. In Alabama, a 92-year-old great-grandmother was disfranchised by the secretary of state’s last-minute determination that a photo ID issued by public housing authorities is not acceptable ID for voting. She had previously voted with a utility bill. These were familiar stories in each of the 14 states with restrictive voting laws that took effect for the first time during this election season. The new laws include strict photo ID requirements, significant reductions to early voting, limits on same-day registration, and more. All had two things in common: They were reactionary responses to changing demographics and had a disproportionate impact on communities of color. If it were not for the U.S. Supreme Court’s devastating June 2013 decision in Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder, many of these changes likely would have been blocked by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Indeed, Texas’s photo ID measure was previously blocked from going into effect for the 2012 elections by Section 5.

Full Article: Ending voter suppression ahead of 2016 | MSNBC.

Texas: Voter ID Law Goes To Trial : It’s All Politics | NPR

Dozens of lawyers will gather in a federal courtroom in Corpus Christi, Texas, on Tuesday for the start of a new challenge to the state’s controversial voter ID law. The trial is expected to last two to three weeks, but it’s unlikely to be the end of what’s already been a long, convoluted journey for the Texas law — and many others like it. First, some background: Texas’ Republican-controlled Legislature passed new photo ID requirements for voters back in 2011. Supporters said the law was needed to prevent voter fraud, although opponents noted that there was little evidence of such fraud at the polls. At the time, the state was covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which meant it needed federal approval for the law to go into effect, because the state had a history of discrimination against minority voters. The case ended up before a three-judge federal court in Washington, D.C., which in 2012 ruled against the state. It said Texas could not impose the new ID requirement, because the state was unable to show that it would not discriminate against blacks and Latinos. Under Section 5, the burden of proof was on the state to show that the law was nondiscriminatory.

Full Article: Texas Voter ID Law Goes To Trial : It's All Politics : NPR.

Alabama: Justices Enter Into Dispute Over Districts Alabama Set | New York Times

The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to consider challenges from Democratic lawmakers who say the Alabama Legislature packed minority voters into a few districts, diluting their voting power. In another case from Alabama last year, the Supreme Court effectively struck down Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which has required permission from the federal authorities before states may change their voting procedures. In a supporting brief, Alabama had urged the court to rule that way. In the new case, the state argues that Section 5 partly justified the legislative maps, which were drawn using data from the 2010 census at a time when Section 5 still stood.

Full Article: Justices Enter Into Dispute Over Districts Alabama Set - NYTimes.com.

National: Voting Rights Act Fix Stalled in Congress | BillMoyers.com

Nearly one year after the US Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act’s core provision and six months before a crucial midterm election, a bill to restore many of the VRA’s key protections remains stalled in Congress. The primary roadblock is House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), who has yet to hold a hearing on the measure. Reports indicate Goodlatte and other GOP leaders have claimed restoring Section 5 — which required jurisdictions with a history of discrimination to obtain certification that a proposed voting change would not hurt minorities — is unnecessary because the VRA’s Section 2 provides adequate protection, MSNBC reported. Advocates contend Section 2 is not enough for a number of reasons, including that challenges must be done on a case-by-case basis, which is inefficient, costly and will allow some discriminatory changes to fall through the cracks.

Full Article: Voting Rights Act Fix Stalled in Congress | Blog | BillMoyers.com.

North Carolina: Voting law opponents file for preliminary injunction; state asks lawsuits be thrown out | Winston-Salem Journal

A federal judge could decide by this summer whether North Carolina’s new voting laws should be blocked for the Nov. 4 general elections. Attorneys filed motions for a preliminary injunction late Monday in U.S. District Court in the Middle District of North Carolina, which has jurisdiction in Greensboro and Winston-Salem, comparing the new law to past efforts, such as poll taxes, that were designed to disenfranchise black voters. Supporters of the new election changes filed a motion Monday seeking to throw out a trio of lawsuits filed last year challenging the law. The motions ask a federal judge to block the law that Gov. Pat McCrory signed last August. The law, referred to in court papers as House Bill 589, is officially known as the Voter Information Verification Act and includes a number of provisions. The most well-known is a requirement that voters present a photo ID, beginning in 2016. But the law also reduces the number of days for early voting from 17 to 10, eliminates same-day voter registration during early voting and prohibits county elections officials from counting ballots cast by voters in the right county but wrong precinct. In addition, the law gets rid of pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds, increases the number of poll observers that each political party assigns during an election and allows a registered voter in a county to challenge another voter’s right to cast a ballot.

Full Article: N.C. voting law opponents file for preliminary injunction; state asks lawsuits be thrown out - Winston-Salem Journal: Local News.

National: Is the Voting Rights Act making a comeback? | MSNBC

The chances of Congress acting to fix the Voting Rights Act (VRA), which was weakened by the Supreme Court last summer, appear slimmer by the week. But lately, it looks like the landmark civil rights law might end up being strengthened in a different way: by being used. Last Tuesday, a federal judge in Wisconsin struck down the state’s voter ID law, ruling that it violates the VRA’s Section 2, which bars racial discrimination in voting. The state has said it will appeal the ruling. Two days later, voting rights advocates filed suit against Ohio’s recent cuts to early voting, again alleging a violation of Section 2. “I think it’s exactly what the federal courts should be doing,” said Daniel Tokaji, an election law professor at Ohio State University, referring to the Wisconsin ruling, and the potential for a similar verdict in Ohio. “When partisan politicians go too far to restrict the right to vote in an effort to serve their own ends, courts aren’t likely to look on that kindly.”

Full Article: Is the Voting Rights Act making a comeback? | MSNBC.

Editorials: The Supreme Court Gutted the Voting Rights Act. What Happened Next in These 8 States Will Not Shock You. | Mother Jones

When the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 to overturn a key section of the Voting Rights Act last June, Justice Ruth Ginsburg warned that getting rid of the measure was like “throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.” The 1965 law required that lawmakers in states with a history of discriminating against minority voters get federal permission before changing voting rules. Now that the Supreme Court has invalidated this requirement, GOP lawmakers across the United States are running buck wild with new voting restrictions. Before the Shelby County v. Holder decision came down on June 25, Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act required federal review of new voting rules in 15 states, most of them in the South. (In a few of these states, only specific counties or townships were covered.) Chief Justice John Roberts voted to gut the Voting Rights Act on the basis that “our country has changed,” and that blanket federal protection wasn’t needed to stop discrimination. But the country hasn’t changed as much as he may think.

Full Article: The Supreme Court Gutted the Voting Rights Act. What Happened Next in These 8 States Will Not Shock You. | Mother Jones.

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.

Full Article: The Voting Rights Act: 2006 vs. 2013 : The Daily Collegian.

Editorials: Put the right to vote into the Constitution | Jesse Jackson/Chicago Sun-Times

Monday morning I woke up — not with Georgia — but with Selma on my mind. Selma bears witness to the bloody and murderous struggle to end discrimination in voting on the basis of race. The demonstrations there led directly to President Lyndon Baines Johnson signing the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The 1965 Voting Rights Act was historic, designed to redress the unique history of discrimination against African Americans. But it was limited. It did not give each and every American citizen the explicit, constitutionally guaranteed federal right to vote. The 1965 Voting Rights Act has been effective and efficient. Sections 4 and 5 were its heart and soul because they provided for a prior review that prevented racial discrimination in voting. In the recent Shelby decision, a conservative majority of the Supreme Court cut the heart (Section 4) out of the law and left its soul (Section 5) as exposed as a cadaver on a funeral director’s table. Shelby said you can keep the car but you can’t have the keys. The car looks great, but it’s not going anywhere. Now we must all join together in an effort to fix the damage done by Shelby, and revive the heart of the Voting Rights Act.

Full Article: Put the right to vote into the Constitution - Chicago Sun-Times.

Editorials: Voter ID cases could let John Roberts destroy Voting Rights Act | MSNBC

After the Supreme Court wiped out the most important plank of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) last summer, a broad range of experts told msnbc that the law’s key remaining pillar may now be at risk from the court’s conservatives. And lately there’s concern that efforts to stop strict voter ID laws could, perversely, give Chief Justice John Roberts and co. the chance they’ve been looking for.  Striking down or significantly narrowing that key pillar, known as Section 2, would essentially render the most successful civil-rights law in U.S. history a dead letter. In a nutshell, Section 2 prohibits racial discrimination in voting. Though it’s a less effective tool than Section 5—which, until it was neutered by the Supreme Court, required certain regions to get federal approval before their election laws could go into effect—it’s still an important protection. The Justice Department is using it to challenge Texas’ voter ID law, as well as North Carolina’s sweeping voting law.

Full Article: Voter ID cases could let John Roberts destroy Voting Rights Act | MSNBC.

National: Key fights ahead for right to vote | MSNBC

Voting rights advocates are girding for a series of crucial battles that will play out over the next twelve months in Congress, in the courts, and in state legislatures. Victories could go a long way to reversing the setbacks of the last year. Defeats could help cement a new era in which voting is more difficult, especially for racial minorities, students, and the poor. Despite some scattered efforts by states to improve voting access, the right to vote took a big step backwards last year. Republican legislatures in states across the country continued to advance restrictive voting laws, while a major Supreme Court rulingShelby County v. Holder, badly weakened the Voting Rights Act (VRA). Wendy Weiser, who runs the Democracy program at the Brenan Center for Justice, called Shelby “the single biggest blow to voting rights in decades.”

Full Article: Key fights ahead for right to vote | MSNBC.

Editorials: North Carolina Shows Why the Voting Rights Act Is Still Needed | The Nation

A federal judge in Winston-Salem today set the schedule for a trial challenging North Carolina’s sweeping new voter restrictions. There will be a hearing on whether to grant a preliminary injunction in July 2014 and a full trial a year later, in July 2015. This gives the plaintiffs challenging the law, which includes the Department of Justice, the ACLU and the North Carolina NAACP, a chance to block the bill’s worst provisions before the 2014 election. Earlier this year, in July 2013, the North Carolina legislature passed the country’s worst voter suppression law, which included strict voter ID to cast a ballot, cuts to early voting, the elimination of same-day voter registration, the repeal of public financing of judicial elections and many more harsh and unnecessary anti-voting measures. These restrictions will impact millions of voters in the state across all races and demographic groups: in 2012, for example, 2.5 million North Carolinians voted early, 152,000 used same-day voter registration, 138,000 voters lacked government-issued ID and 7,500 people cast an out-of-precinct provisional ballot. These four provisions alone will negatively affect nearly 3 million people who voted in 2012.

Full Article: North Carolina Shows Why the Voting Rights Act Is Still Needed | The Nation.

Editorials: The Year in Preview: Post-Preclearance Voter Protection | American Prospect

Anyone concerned about voting rights will remember 2013 as the year the Supreme Court neutered one of the strongest protections against voter suppression, the “preclearance” requirement of the Voting Rights Act. Sections 4 and 5 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) had required that nine states (as well as dozens of counties) – Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia – all needed to abide by Section 5 preclearance requirements. Three counties in California, Five counties in Florida, three counties in New York, 40 counties in North Carolina, two counties in South Carolina, and two towns in Michigan also needed to have new election laws approved by the Department of Justice until last June. (as well as dozens of counties) with long histories of voter discrimination get any changes in election law approved by the Department of Justice or the D.C. District Court. This preclearance requirement was an invaluable civil-rights protection. It stopped many discriminatory elections laws, including gerrymandered maps and photo-ID requirements, like those in Texas and South Carolina.

Full Article: The Year in Preview: Post-Preclearance Voter Protection.

Alabama: State Board of Education asks judge to dismiss lawsuit challenging Birmingham schools takeover | AL.com

The Alabama State Board of Education has asked a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit challenging its takeover of the Birmingham school system last year. Attorneys for the state board and State Superintendent Tommy Bice filed the motion late Wednesday asking U.S. District Court Judge David Proctor to dismiss the case against them. In February a group of five voters, including then-Birmingham Board of Education members Virginia Volker and Emanuel Ford and Alabama Education Association representative Michael Todd, who lives in the city, filed a lawsuit that says the state’s intervention in the city school system violated Sections 2 and 5 of the Voting Rights Act. 

Full Article: Alabama State Board of Education asks judge to dismiss lawsuit challenging Birmingham schools takeover | AL.com.

National: New IRS rules add both clarity and confusion about the role of advocacy groups in politics | The Washington Post

For the first time since 1959, nonprofit advocacy groups face new Internal Revenue Service rules governing their political activities, an area of the tax code that has been crying out for greater clarity. A proposed regulation unveiled Tuesday by the Treasury Department draws the boundaries more clearly — but instantly kicked off intense debate about whether the lines are in the right place. One phrase in the official notice summed up the imperfect nature of the exercise. The new rules, the department said, “may be both more restrictive and more permissive than the current approach.” That seemingly contradictory statement reflects the muddy zone now occupied by “social welfare” organizations set up under section 501(c)(4) of the tax code. Originally a designation used by civic leagues and homeowner associations, social welfare groups emerged in the past decade as the go-to vehicles for political operatives seeking to influence campaigns without revealing their donors.

Full Article: New IRS rules add both clarity and confusion about the role of advocacy groups in politics - The Washington Post.

Georgia: GOP dusts off Jim Crow tactic: Changing election date | MSNBC

For years, Augusta, Georgia, has held its local elections in November, when turnout is high. But last year, state Republicans changed the election date to July, when far fewer blacks make it to the polls. The effort was blocked under the Voting Rights Act (VRA) by the federal government, which cited the harm that the change would do to minorities. But now that the Supreme Court has badly weakened the landmark civil rights law, the move looks to be back on. The city’s African-Americans say they know what’s behind it. “It’s a maneuver to suppress our voting participation,” Dr. Charles Smith, the president of Augusta’s NACCP branch, told msnbc. The dispute is flaring at a time when Georgia, long deep-red, is becoming increasingly politically competitive, and Democrats have nominated two candidates with famous names for high-profile statewide races next year. Voting rights experts say the events in Augusta may be a sign of what’s to come—or even of what’s already happening. In June, the Supreme Court invalidated Section 5 of the VRA, which had required certain jurisdictions, mostly in the south, to submit election changes to the federal government to ensure they didn’t harm minority voters. Since then, harsh voting restrictions put in place by several southern states have generated national news coverage—Texas’ voter ID law and North Carolina’s sweeping voting bill most prominent among them. But most of the changes stopped by Section 5 weren’t statewide laws. Instead, they were measures adopted at the local or county level.

Full Article: Georgia GOP dusts off Jim Crow tactic: Changing election date | MSNBC.

National: Long voting lines: Not just an inconvenience | MSNBC

Long voting lines were at the top of voters’ complaints in 2012 – and young voters got hit hard by wait times. A study released Monday from Advancement Project and OurTime.org turned the spotlight on Florida and Virginia, two states that experienced the longest wait times in 2012, and found that young voters turned out “in spite of numerous ballot barriers, not because the system worked efficiently.” How’s that for an apathetic youth? The study states: “Florida voters experience some of the longest voting lines in the country, with an average wait time of 39 minutes to cast a ballot. That was three times the national average in 2012, of 13.3 minutes.” Matthew Segal, co-founder of OurTime, calls those extra minutes a tax. Not in a monetary sense, but if time is money (as we’ve heard it is) then young voters are feeling the pinch more than others. “The Time Tax doesn’t cost literal dollars and cents, but it’s certainly costing time,” Segal explained to msnbc.com. Those minutes and hours spent on a voting line means less time for jobs, classes, and homework and more hoops to jump through to obtain proper identification and necessary voting qualifications means more people may give up on voting because it’s too time-consuming.

Full Article: Long voting lines: Not just an inconvenience | MSNBC.

National: How Supreme Court Decision on Voting Rights Act is Affecting State Laws | ProPublica

Last year, we wrote extensively about photo ID laws and the Supreme Court’s decision to strike a key section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Now, with gubernatorial elections in New Jersey and Virginia, and the debt ceiling and healthcare debates already shaping the 2014 midterms, we’re revisiting voting policies to see which states have enacted tougher restrictions since the Supreme Court ruling in June. Under the Voting Rights Act, states and localities with a history of racial discrimination needed to get permission from the federal government to enact any changes to their voting laws, in a process called “preclearance.” As of June 2013, nine states, mostly in the South – Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia – needed to get any new voting laws pre-approved. Some counties and townships in California, Florida, New York, North Carolina, South Dakota and Michigan were also subject to preclearance. Section 5 first applied to states that imposed literacy tests or other unfair devices, and had low voter registration or turnout. Congress later expanded the law to add jurisdictions with sizable minority populations and English-only election materials.

Full Article: How Supreme Court Decision on Voting Rights Act is Affecting State Laws - ProPublica.