In early 2011, when new census figures showed that Evergreen, Alabama, a small city midway between Montgomery and Mobile, had grown from 53 to 62 percent black over the previous ten years, the white majority on the city council took steps to maintain its political dominance. They redrew precinct lines, pushing almost all the city’s black voters into two city council districts. Then, election administrators used utility information to purge roughly 500 registered black voters from the rolls, all but ensuring that whites would maintain their majority on the council and keep control of Evergreen. That kind of voter suppression is exactly what the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed to prevent. For 48 years, its “preclearance” provision barred election officials in states with histories of voter suppression from making changes to election procedures without permission from the federal government. It was far from a perfect system—even with preclearance in place, Evergreen officials were able to purge the rolls—but it did help hundreds of thousands of black Southerners vote. By 1972, black registration rates had reached 50 percent in all but a few Southern states. In 2013, however, in Shelby County v. Holder, the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act, striking down the provisions of the law that defined which states fell under preclearance.
As Florida’s races for senator, governor and agriculture commissioner undergo recounts, David Kendall Casey, watching from Atlanta, feels even more annoyed. The 24-year-old graduate student at Georgia State University said he wanted to vote. He checked in with his local elections office in Pinellas County and believed he had ordered a mail ballot. But it never arrived. “It’s literally mathematically getting more important as it gets closer,” Casey said of his vote. He assumed his preferred candidate, Andrew Gillum, would win easily, but Gillum did not. The Democrat conceded, then didn’t, and the race between him and Republican Ron DeSantis is undergoing a machine recount. “This is exactly why I was super excited to vote this year,” Casey said. “It makes you just so despondent about the process. … That power was sort of taken away from me.”
The governor’s race in Georgia between Stacey Abrams and Brian Kemp has turned into an ugly, drawn-out affair, and we won’t know the final results for a while. Mr. Kemp, the Republican, declared victory and resigned as Georgia’s secretary of state so he wouldn’t be responsible for overseeing the counting of votes in the race — though before he resigned he did make an unsubstantiated claim that Democrats were hacking the election. There is a silver lining in this mess: The new secretary of state could finally fix Georgia’s astoundingly insecure voting system, one of the most poorly protected in the country. This has been a rough election for Georgians. Accusations of racism and voter suppression have abounded. An outside investigation found that more than 340,000 voter registrations had been improperly canceled by Mr. Kemp’s office. A significant number were reinstated by court order, but there is no way of knowing if voter turnout would have been even higher if the Kemp purge hadn’t happened.
Georgia: ‘Textbook voter suppression’: Georgia’s bitter election a battle years in the making | The Guardian
Georgia’s hard-fought and bitter governor’s race still isn’t over. Nor was it just a gubernatorial campaign pitting rightwing Trump acolyte Brian Kemp against insurgent Democrat Stacy Abrams and her bid to become the first African American woman governor in US history. Instead it was a battle years in the making, and it was not so much about who to vote for – but who could vote at all. Kemp has declared victory and handed in his resignation as secretary of state – the very office that oversees this contentious election. The outgoing governor Nathan Deal, has declared him the victor. There’s just one catch. Abrams’ campaign team is still counting the votes. Her campaign manager, Lauren Groh-Wargo, said from the campaign headquarters Thursday: “All of the votes in this race have not been counted. All the voters of Georgiadeserve to be counted before the now-former secretary of state announces his victory.” According to a statement posted on the Georgia secretary of state’s website while Kemp was still in that role, counties have until 9 November to verify provisional ballots and until 13 November to certify the results.
Editorials: Fix Voting Rights Act, end suppression, upgrade equipment before 2020 | Sherrilyn Ifill/USA Today
In many ways, Election Day 2018 was a good one for American democracy. Millions of people turned out to vote. An unprecedented number of women are headed to Congress, including the first Native American women and the first Muslim-American women to serve on Capitol Hill. In Florida, voters restored voting rights to more than a million people who had been disenfranchised for past felony convictions. In Michigan and Maryland, they approved same-day registration. In Colorado, Michigan, Missouri, and Utah, they said yes to fair legislative districts. But at the same time, the election provided evidence of what many activists and experts have been saying for years: the machinery of our democracy needs serious maintenance. Together, aging infrastructure and resurgent voter suppression have jeopardized equal voting rights in the United States, turning what should be a source of national pride into cause for alarm.
Attorneys representing black students at Alabama A&M University filed a federal lawsuit Friday asking that the students’ votes in this week’s mid-term election be counted. As evidence, the lawsuit includes screen shots of the Alabama Secretary of State’s website showing the four students filing the lawsuit as ineligible the day of the election and eligible two days later. Secretary of State John Merrill is the state’s chief election officer responsible for the balloting, and the lawsuit names him and Madison County Board of Registrars Chairman Linda Hairston as defendants. It was filed in federal court in Huntsville Friday by the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund. Hairston and Merrill declined comment early Friday afternoon.
A poll worker in Atlanta hoarded the last of his precinct’s provisional ballots, doling them out to select voters while turning others away. Cobb County wouldn’t let a new resident cast a ballot even though both her driver’s license and her voter registration card displayed her new address. Fulton County still can’t verify that it received an Atlanta woman’s ballot in October. When the woman asked an election official over the telephone whether her vote had counted, she said the official “just kind of snorted.” Such irregularities appear to have occurred across Georgia in this week’s election for governor and other statewide offices, according to interviews by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution with voters, campaign operatives and election officials.
Georgia: Voters Ask a Federal Judge to Bar Brian Kemp from Counting Ballots in Georgia | The New Yorker
Just after five o’clock on Tuesday afternoon, five Georgia voters, represented by the D.C.-based, nonprofit, nonpartisan group Protect Democracy, filed an injunction in a U.S. district court in Atlanta, attempting to prevent Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp “from exercising any further powers of the Secretary of State’s Office in presiding over the 2018 general election, in which he himself is a candidate.” So far, Kemp has resisted numerous calls for his resignation as secretary of state, including, predictably, from Stacey Abrams, his Democrat opponent, and also the former President and Georgia resident Jimmy Carter.
Signs at the polls in Rexburg warning students in the college town, home of BYU-Idaho, against voting there “simply because you failed to register and vote at your true domicile” were taken down Tuesday afternoon, after the American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho charged that they violated the federal Voting Rights Act. Chief Deputy Idaho Secretary of State Tim Hurst said, “They never turned anybody away. I talked to the county clerk over there today.” Nevertheless, the signs, which were headed in big letters at the top, “STUDENTS,” were taken down mid-afternoon. Hurst said the signs originated with the Secretary of State’s office a decade or more ago, but he wasn’t aware of any other counties that were still posting them. “They were displayed just about everywhere a number of years ago,” he said. Hurst maintained the signs accurately reflect Idaho law about establishing residency. However, he said, “If you’ve been a resident for 30 days, you’re entitled to vote.”
Editorials: Brian Kemp, if you’re running in an election, you shouldn’t be running the election | Joshua Douglas/CNN
American democracy is exceptional for many reasons. One of the most concerning but least understood is that partisan, elected officials run our elections. Instead of having nonpartisan, professional election administrators — the norm in most other democracies — self-interested politicians dictate the rules of the game. Elections should be won on ideas, not election rules. Having election officials dictate the rules for the very elections where they are on the ballot is like allowing an umpire in a baseball game to hit cleanup for his or her preferred team while also calling balls and strikes. Three secretaries of state are running for higher office this year while still administering the elections where they appear on the ballot. Republican Brian Kemp of Georgia and Republican Kris Kobach of Kansas are both running for governor in their respective states while also serving as secretary of state. Ohio Secretary of State Republican Jon Husted of Ohio is running for lieutenant governor. These officials have used their offices to promulgate rules that could affect their elections.