Project Vote, a national, nonpartisan, nonprofit that has spent recent years focusing its attention on improving voter registration, especially the enforcement of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) will officially close its doors on May 31. Michael Slater, executive director since 2003, cited the lack of funding as the reason for the closure. “[F]unding for voter registration programs declined precipitously after 2008, and the number of funders supporting voting rights advocacy and litigation slowly decreased as well,” Slater said. “At the same time, more organizations created voting rights programs, which resulted in more competition.” Slater also pointed to the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision to strike down the pre-clearance provisions of the Voting Rights Act which resulted in the donor community focusing available voting rights resources on VRA enforcement, which had the effect of reducing funds for other work, such as Project Vote’s work enforcing the NVRA.
Editorials: The Supreme Court may just have given voting rights activists a powerful new tool | Richard Hasen/The Washington Post
Sometimes the most important stuff in Supreme Court opinions is hidden in the footnotes. In Monday’s Supreme Court ruling striking down two North Carolina congressional districts as unconstitutionally influenced by race, the majority buried a doozy, a potentially powerful new tool to attack voting rights violations in the South and elsewhere. At issue in the case was whether two congressional districts drawn by the North Carolina General Assembly were unconstitutional “racial gerrymanders.”
It seemed like an important victory for voting rights advocates on Monday when the Supreme Court declined to reconsider an appellate decision striking down North Carolina’s restrictive voting law. But those who follow the arcana of election law have another view — that the justices have merely postponed a showdown over what kind of voting rules are acceptable and how much influence partisanship should have over access to the ballot box. And in that struggle, it is by no means certain who will prevail. A parade of voting rights cases is headed for likely review by the Supreme Court — including challenges to gerrymanders in Wisconsin, North Carolina and Texas and a ruling against another restrictive voter law in Texas. At the same time, states controlled by Republican legislatures and governors are continuing to enact stringent election laws, many of them similar to the ones already moving through the courts.
National: How Trump’s new ‘election integrity’ appointee has unleashed chaos on elections in the South | Facing South
President Trump signed an executive order last week creating the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity to promote “fair and honest Federal elections,” following up on his unproven claims that he lost the popular vote to Democrat Hillary Clinton because of widespread voter fraud. The commission will be chaired by Vice President Mike Pence, and its vice chair will be Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, also a Republican. Kobach’s appointment has alarmed voting rights advocates, who point to his record of making unsubstantiated claims about the extent of voter fraud — which study after study has found to be negligible — and using them to promote strict voter ID laws and other policies that make it harder to vote.
The Supreme Court’s refusal to breathe new life into North Carolina’s sweeping voter identification law might be just a temporary victory for civil rights groups. Republican-led states are continuing to enact new voter ID measures and other voting restrictions, and the Supreme Court’s newly reconstituted conservative majority, with the addition of Justice Neil Gorsuch, could make the court less likely to invalidate the laws based on claims under the federal Voting Rights Act or the Constitution. The justices on Monday left in place last summer’s ruling by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals striking down the law’s photo ID requirement to vote in person and other provisions, which the lower court said targeted African-Americans “with almost surgical precision.”
Editorials: Despite today’s Supreme Court ruling, the future looks grim for voting rights | Paul Waldman/The Washington Post
Democrats got a victory in a voting rights case at the Supreme Court today — but don’t get used to that headline. There are dark days ahead for voting rights. In today’s decision, the court didn’t actually judge the case on its merits. It declined to hear a case involving North Carolina’s vote suppression law, which had been struck down by a lower court. In the time since then, Democrats have taken over as governor and attorney general in the state and attempted to withdraw the case over the objection of the legislature, which is still in Republican hands. There’s no question that this is a victory for Democrats and anyone who cares about the right of all Americans to vote. But it’s important to understand that the North Carolina law differs from other voter restrictions Republicans have passed in that its discriminatory intent was so blatant.
California: There were serious problems in 2016 for some California voters who don’t speak English, new report says | Los Angeles Times
California voters with limited English language skills were too often left on their own when it came to getting help casting ballots last November, concludes a sweeping new survey based on eyewitness accounts logged by hundreds of election volunteers. The data raise significant questions about the effectiveness of a long-standing state election law designed to help those voters, and whether they will struggle more as counties are allowed to transition away from traditional neighborhood polling places. “We’re talking about huge chunks of the electorate that are in danger of being disenfranchised,” said Jonathan Stein, a staff attorney with Asian Americans Advancing Justice-California.
Michigan: House Democrat wants ‘voter bill of rights’ added to the Michigan Constitution | MLive.com
A Democratic state lawmaker is reintroducing legislation he says would make voting easier and more accessible to Michigan citizens by changing the state Constitution to include a “voter bill of rights.” The bills, first introduced last session and brought to light again by Rep. Jon Hoadley, D-Kalamazoo, proposes adding several provisions to the existing Constitutional right to vote, including allowing no-reason absentee ballots, allowing people to vote in-person absentee up to 15 days prior to an election, automatic voter registration and automatically sending military and overseas voters a ballot at least 45 days prior to an election.
When voters head to the polls here Saturday, their city council and mayoral picks could have repercussions well beyond this working-class Houston suburb. It will be the first election since a federal judge struck down the city’s 2013 redistricting plan as discriminatory, paving the way for a new balance of power at City Hall. It comes as Texas Democrats redouble their efforts on the local level after a 2016 election that gave them ample reason to be optimistic about their future, especially in Harris County. And it could offer a gauge of just how far down the ballot President Donald Trump, unpopular in even a deep-red state like Texas, is energizing Democrats.
North Carolina: Literacy requirement for voter registration could be removed from state constitution | News & Observer
Decades have passed since any North Carolina voters have been forced to take a literacy test to vote, but the requirement is still in the state constitution today. “Every person presenting himself for registration shall be able to read and write any section of the Constitution in the English language,” Article VI, Section 4 says. The N.C. House voted unanimously Tuesday night to start the process to repeal that line, which was often used to prevent African-American residents from registering to vote.