By the time John Lewis made his exit from this realm, on Friday, his life had been bound so tightly and for so long to the mythos of the movement for democracy in America that it was difficult to separate him from it. For this reason, a friend who texted me “John Lewis is gone, what are we going to do now?” was not only reacting to grief but expressing a real and common sentiment. Lewis, who spoke at the March on Washington, chaired the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, and served seventeen terms in Congress, representing Georgia’s Fifth District, succumbed to pancreatic cancer, a ruthless and efficient plague whose diagnosis is fatal around ninety-five per cent of the time. When he revealed his condition, last December, hope persisted despite those odds, in part because, for many people, the thought of confronting the reactionary, racist, and antidemocratic realities of the Trump era without one of the nation’s most potent symbols of decency was too difficult to countenance. Those contrasts were not merely hypothetical. In 2017, when President Trump announced that he would attend the opening of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, Lewis said that he would not. The then White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, seemed to accuse Lewis of failing to show proper respect for the movement. Months earlier, Trump had attacked the Fifth District as “crime-infested” and suggested that the blame lay with Lewis. I wrote at the time that Trump’s disdain for Lewis betrayed a theme: having never grasped the concept of sacrifice, the President is contemptuous of people whose lives have been defined by it. No criticism that Lewis issued about Trump was as strong an indictment as the simple facts of his life: born to Alabama sharecroppers, stalwart of SNCC, leader, exemplar of humility.
National: John Lewis, front-line civil rights leader and eminence of Capitol Hill, dies at 80 | Laurence I. Barrett/The Washington Post
John Lewis, a civil rights leader who preached nonviolence while enduring beatings and jailings during seminal front-line confrontations of the 1960s and later spent more than three decades in Congress defending the crucial gains he had helped achieve for people of color, has died. He was 80. His death was announced in statements from his family and from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). Advisers to senior Democratic leaders confirmed that he died July 17, but other details were not immediately available. Mr. Lewis, a Georgia Democrat, announced his diagnosis of pancreatic cancer on Dec. 29 and said he planned to continue working amid treatment. “I have been in some kind of fight — for freedom, equality, basic human rights — for nearly my entire life,” he said in a statement. “I have never faced a fight quite like the one I have now.” His last public appearance came at Black Lives Matter Plaza with D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) on June 7, two days after taping a virtual town hall online with former president Barack Obama. While Mr. Lewis was not a policy maven as a lawmaker, he served the role of conscience of the Democratic caucus on many matters. His reputation as keeper of the 1960s flame defined his career in Congress. When President George H.W. Bush vetoed a bill easing requirements to bring employment discrimination suits in 1990, Mr. Lewis rallied support for its revival. It became law as the Civil Rights Act of 1991. It took a dozen years, but in 2003 he won authorization for construction of the National Museum of African American History and Culture on the Mall.
Editorials: I Know Voting Feels Inadequate Right Now – Just hear me out. | Stacey Abrams/The New York Times
Voting feels inadequate in our darkest moments. I recognize that. When you’re watching a man’s death on a video loop, hearing him say “I can’t breathe.” When those words echo what another man said in his last moments, his life also taken by the police. When a woman who saved lives is shot dead in her home in a botched police raid. When a black man is murdered for jogging, his killers left free to celebrate. When you know there is a list of deaths so long that most people can’t keep all the names in their head. To say that the answer is to go cast a ballot feels not just inadequate, but disrespectful. “Go vote” sounds like a slogan, not a solution. Because millions of us have voted. And too many still die. The moment requires many things of each one of us. What I am focused on is the work of showing people, in concrete ways, what voting gets us. And being honest about how much work voting requires.
National: Coronavirus Likely To Supercharge Election-Year Lawsuits Over Voting Rights | Pam Fessler/NPR
Election year legal battles around voting procedures are nothing new. But their scope and intensity are growing this year amid deep partisan polarization and the logistical challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic. The legal fights are expected to heat up in the coming weeks. Exhibit A is a new lawsuit filed by Democrats in Nevada Thursday challenging the state’s plans to conduct a mostly all-mail primary June 2 and to drastically limit in-person polling sites. Democrats say the moves — including automatically sending ballots only to active voters who have taken part in recent elections, but not all registered ones — are an infringement of voter rights. Republicans counter that Democrats want to overturn rules intended to protect the integrity of the state’s elections and would unnecessarily put voters’ health at risk. Both Democrats and Republicans are turning to the courts to try to ensure that rules governing this year’s election don’t disadvantage their side. The litigation campaign has taken on a new urgency with the pandemic and its impact on people’s willingness and ability to go to the polls in person.
Editorials: Why the Supreme Court made Wisconsin vote during the coronavirus crisis | Austin Sarat/The Conversation
When Wisconsin voters had to brave the coronavirus pandemic to vote in their state’s April 7 election, it was the latest phase of a nearly 60-year legal and political fight over who can vote in the U.S. Wearing masks and gloves, Wisconsin residents who voted in person were met by election officials in similar attire. That was new. But it wasn’t new that voters found hundreds of polling places closed and therefore had to wait in line for hours. A U.S. Supreme Court decision just the day before had ordered Wisconsin to hold its in-person election without delay, not allowing extra time for voters to cast their ballots by mail. Critics called the decision one of “raw partisanship,” “an ominous harbinger for what the Court might allow in November in the general election” – and even a “death threat” aimed at voters. As someone who has long studied the complex intersections of law and politics, I saw the ruling as the latest episode in the fight over the franchise and one of a series of decisions under Chief Justice John Roberts that have rejected efforts to protect or extend voting rights.
In her response to President Trump’s State of the Union, Stacey Abrams went through some of the top issues for the Democratic Party. Health care. Climate change. Gun safety. Then she brought up a topic Democrats are planning to spend a lot of time on over next two years: voting. “Let’s be clear. Voter suppression is real,” Abrams said. “From making it harder to register and staying on the rolls, to moving and closing polling places, to rejecting lawful ballots, we can no longer ignore these threats to democracy.” The past two federal elections seem to have been a tipping point.
The Democratically controlled U.S. House Judiciary Committee launched an inquiry on Friday into the Trump administration’s decision to reverse course on several key voting rights lawsuits and its efforts to add a citizenship question to the upcoming 2020 U.S. census. In a letter to acting U.S. Attorney General Matthew Whitaker seen by Reuters, the chairman of the committee, Representative Jerrold Nadler, demanded that the Justice Department turn over any internal records on a number of voting rights issues and said he was concerned by a lack of enforcement of voter rights laws in general. The letter seeks records related to the Justice Department’s decision to drop its opposition to a contentious Ohio policy allowing the state to purge infrequent voters from registration rolls and a Texas voter identification law.
Kansas: Ford County pays more than $70,000 to firm hired in Kansas voting rights case | Topeka Capital Journal
Ford County has paid more than $70,000 in legal fees to the firm representing County Clerk Debbie Cox, who was sued over voting access in one of the state’s few majority-minority cities. In October and November, the county paid $71,481 to the Hinkle Law Firm, which is based in Wichita, a document obtained through an open records request indicates. The money comes from the county’s general fund, Cox said. The ACLU sued Cox in late October after she moved Dodge City’s sole voting location outside city limits because the original location was to undergo construction. The lawsuit alleged that the move disenfranchised voters and in particular, the Hispanic population, who make up about 60 percent of the town.
Madrid and London are negotiating a bilateral treaty to maintain local voting rights for the 280,000 British nationals living in Spain and the more than 115,000 Spaniards residing in the UK, said diplomatic sources. On March 30, 2019, the UK will exit the European Union and British migrants will lose their right to vote in municipal elections. Whether or not British Prime Minister Theresa May secures parliamentary approval for the Brexit deal, UK nationals will no longer be considered EU citizens after that date. If there is agreement on the transition period, UK citizens in Spain will preserve most of their rights intact until December 2020, but this does not extend to voting in the municipal and European elections of May 26, 2019.
When the Supreme Court shot down a key provision of the landmark Voting Rights Act — which required that certain places with a history of discriminating against voters get federal approval before making new changes to their voting laws — lawmakers in North Carolina wasted little time in passing sweeping new rules around voting. The state issued requirements for specific kinds of photo identification, cut back on early voting and preregistration. Supporters of the new laws, who were overwhelmingly Republican, insisted that the measures were necessary to prevent voting fraud. But voting rights experts and advocates said that voter fraud was extremely rare and that the rules would make it much harder for younger voters, poorer voters, and black people — groups that were more likely to vote for Democrats and less likely to have official identification — to cast their ballots.
Rosanell Eaton, a resolute African-American woman who was hailed by President Barack Obama as a beacon of civil rights for her role as a lead plaintiff in a lawsuit against a restrictive North Carolina voting law that reached the Supreme Court in 2016, died on Saturday in Louisburg, N.C. She was 97. Ms. Eaton’s daughter, Armenta Eaton, said she died in hospice care at the home they had shared in recent years. Caught up as a witness to history in one of the nation’s major controversies, Ms. Eaton, an obscure civil rights pioneer in her younger years, became a cause célèbre after Mr. Obama cited her courage in his response to a 2015 article in The New York Times Magazine about growing efforts to dismantle the protections of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. “I was inspired to read about unsung American heroes like Rosanell Eaton in Jim Rutenberg’s ‘A Dream Undone: Inside the 50-year campaign to roll back the Voting Rights Act,’ ” Mr. Obama wrote in a letter to the editor. “I am where I am today only because men and women like Rosanell Eaton refused to accept anything less than a full measure of equality.”
They are questions that are central to democracy: who gets to vote, how accessible is voting and ensuring all ballots are counted fairly. Voting rights and ballot access kept popping up as campaign issues this year. Now they’re post-campaign issues — unavoidable and more urgent than ever. Voter access is and has been central in Georgia, where Tuesday’s run-off for secretary of state will close the books on the 2018 midterms. The race has implications for 2020 and beyond, following a closely contested gubernatorial race where lawsuits still linger. In New Hampshire on Wednesday, the longest-serving secretary of state in the nation could lose his job. Bill Gardner, the Democrat who famously sets the first-in-the-nation primary date every four years, has come under attack because he participated in the now-disbanded voter-fraud commission created by President Donald Trump.
Advocates for Democrat Stacey Abrams filed a federal lawsuit on Tuesday alleging far-reaching U.S. voting rights violations during the Georgia governor’s contest she lost this month to a Republican who ran the election as secretary of state. Abrams, who sought to become the nation’s first female African-American governor, pledged to fight for electoral changes after a protracted vote count saw Brian Kemp win the race by little more than 1 percent of nearly 4 million votes cast. Kemp resigned as secretary of state after the Nov. 6 election. The lawsuit filed by Fair Fight Action, a voting advocacy group headed by Abrams’ campaign manager, said state election officials “grossly mismanaged an election that deprived Georgia citizens, and particularly citizens of color, of their fundamental right to vote.”
Georgia: Lawsuit seeks broad changes after alleged Georgia election problems | The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
A sweeping lawsuit filed Tuesday in the wake of Georgia’s fierce race for governor calls for a federal judge to overturn state laws that resulted in purged registrations, canceled ballots and many other obstacles to voting. Backed by former Democratic nominee for governor Stacey Abrams, the lawsuit continues a fight for voting rights that formed the foundation of her campaign. Abrams isn’t trying to change the result of this month’s election that she lost to Republican Brian Kemp, but the upcoming legal battle could decide the rules for elections in 2020 and beyond. The lawsuit, filed by a new group called Fair Fight Action, demands that Georgia use paper ballots to validate the accuracy of elections, stop canceling voter registrations of those who haven’t participated in a recent election and guarantee enough election equipment so voters don’t have to wait in line for three hours or more. It also seeks to weaken the state’s “exact match” law, which stalled voter registrations of some legitimate voters because they had hyphenated or long names.
Stacey Abrams broke the rules of politics until the very end. The Georgia Democrat who came about 60,000 votes shy of becoming America’s first black female governor refused to follow the traditional script for defeated politicians who offer gracious congratulations to their victorious competitor and gently exit the stage. Instead, Abrams took an unapologetically indignant tone that established her as a leading voting rights advocate. “I acknowledge that former Secretary of State Brian Kemp will be certified as the victor in the 2018 gubernatorial election,” Abrams said in a fiery 12-minute address. “But to watch an elected official … baldly pin his hopes for election on the suppression of the people’s democratic right to vote has been truly appalling.” “So let’s be clear,” Abrams concluded, “this is not a speech of concession.”
Tammie Nakai lives under a vista of red-rock spires and purple sunrise sky that offers arguably some of the United States’ most breathtaking views. But her home lacks what most of the country considers basic necessities: electric lines and running water. “It’s been that way my whole life, almost 31 years,” she said at the jewelry stand she and her husband run with pride in Monument Valley, a rural community near the Utah-Arizona border where tourists stand in the highway to re-create a famous running scene from “Forest Gump.” As she decides how she’ll cast her ballot, Navajo voters like Nakai could tip the balance of power in their county on Nov. 6. It’s the first general election since a federal judge decided racially gerrymandered districts illegally minimized the voices of Navajo voters who make a slim majority of San Juan County’s population. The county overlaps with the Navajo Nation, where people face huge disparities in health, education and economics. About 40 percent lack running water in their homes.
A federal judge is considering ordering Georgia election officials to ensure that hundreds of new U.S. citizens can vote in next week’s election. U.S. District Judge Eleanor Ross heard testimony Monday from voting rights groups who say many newly naturalized Americans have registered to vote but are being turned away at early-voting locations because their citizenship status hasn’t been updated in government computers. Ross said she’ll rule quickly before Election Day on Nov. 6. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit asked Ross to order county election workers to put voters who have proved their citizenship on the state’s list of active registered voters. At least 3,667 voter registration applications are on hold in Georgia because their citizenship couldn’t be verified by state driver’s license records. But those records aren’t often updated until Georgians renew their licenses, so those who became citizens after receiving their licenses are being flagged by the state until they show naturalization papers or a U.S. passport.
A group of students from a historically black university have filed a lawsuit alleging a southeast Texas county is suppressing the voting rights of its black residents. In a lawsuit filed in federal court in Houston on Monday, five Prairie View A&M University students allege Waller County election officials are violating the civil rights of black students and residents in Prairie View — which is predominantly African-American — by not providing any early voting locations on campus or anywhere in the city during the first week of early voting, which started Monday. In the second week of early voting, the county is providing five days in Prairie View, but two of them are off-campus and at a site that is not easily accessible to many students who lack transportation, according to the lawsuit.
Afghan refugees living in Iran and Pakistan continue to face an uncertain future, and the upcoming parliamentary election on October 20 doesn’t seem to solve any of their problems. As these refugees are not allowed to vote in the polls, they feel they will have no influence over the legislators in the next parliament. There is little incentive for these people to return to their homeland. A lack of security in Afghanistan and Kabul’s reluctance to support them hinder their return. Authorities in Islamabad and Tehran urge the Afghan government to take back refugees, as they consider them a burden on their economy. But many of these refugees have been living in the neighboring countries for decades and despite various problems in the host nations, Iran and Pakistan are still a better option for them.
The U.S. Supreme Court has denied review of a lawsuit that sought to expand voting rights to Americans in U.S. territories, including Guam. The Supreme Court met privately in conference on Friday, Guam time, to weigh whether it would review the case. The lead plaintiff, Luis Segovia, is a Guam resident and military veteran who served two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. Segovia appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court after the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decided that ruling in favor of the Segovia plaintiffs would create so-called “super citizens.”
Editorials: Ongoing Denial of Voting Rights in U.S. Territories Incompatible With Our Founding Values | Geoffrey Wyatt and Neil Weare/Civil Liberties Law Review
This week, the Supreme Court will consider a question concerning the voting rights of American citizens residing in U.S. territories – one that goes straight to our nation’s founding principles. Under federal and Illinois overseas voting laws, state citizens who move to a foreign country or to American Samoa or the Northern Mariana Islands are permitted to vote absentee in federal elections in Illinois – but not if they move to Guam, Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands. In our petition to the Supreme Court in Segovia v. United States, we argue that this disparate treatment – and the arbitrary denial of voting rights based on where you happen to live more generally – is irreconcilable with our most cherished values.
U.S. Territories: 2 panels to weigh arguments vs disenfranchisement in US territories | Saipan Tribune
Just weeks after the one-year anniversary of Hurricanes Maria and Irma hitting Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, the issue of disenfranchisement in U.S. territories will be considered by both the U.S. Supreme Court and the Organization of American States Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on the same day. “The opportunity to have either the Supreme Court or the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights take up the issue of voting rights in U.S. territories is momentous in its own right. But to have both do it on the same day is something truly special,” said Neil Weare, president and founder of Equally American, a non-profit organization that advocates for equality and civil rights for the nearly 4 million Americans who live in U.S. territories. This comes as the U.S. Senate considers whether to confirm President Trump’s nomination to the Supreme Court.
U.S. Territories: Supreme Court to consider review of voter rights in U.S. territories | Virgin Islands Daily News
The U.S. Supreme Court will meet privately in conference Friday to consider whether to grant review of Segovia v. United States, a voting rights lawsuit that seeks to expand voting rights in the U.S. territories. Neil Weare, president and founder of Equally American, a nonprofit that advocates for equality and civil rights for Americans living in the territories, said in a Monday press release that the news is “momentous.” “The federal government’s response to hurricanes Maria and Irma has demonstrated just how important it is that Americans living in U.S. territories enjoy the same right to vote as their fellow citizens,” said Weare in the press release. “We hope the Supreme Court will take the opportunity to consider whether voting rights can be arbitrarily protected or denied based on where one happens to live outside the 50 states.”
Brazil’s highest court ruled Wednesday that 3.4 million people cannot vote in next month’s national elections because they failed to register their fingerprints with authorities, a move that could affect the crowded presidential race. All voting is electronic in Brazil, and since 2016 voters have had to register their fingerprints to cast ballots under a biometric voting system. On a 7-2 vote, the justices found it would be impossible to drop the requirement for biometric identification less than two weeks before the Oct. 7 elections. Two judges abstained. Critics say authorities didn’t properly inform Brazilians of the requirement, so many failed to register their fingerprints.
Mississippi: A New Class of Voting Rights Activists Picks Up the Mantle in Mississippi | The New York Times
The first time Howard Kirschenbaum registered voters in Mississippi was during the summer of 1964, when he was arrested and thrown in jail. The second time was on Tuesday, after returning to the Southern state more than a half-century later to support a new generation of voting rights activists. In the quiet of a rainy morning, Mr. Kirschenbaum helped to register students on the campus of the University of Mississippi, and before long, he was in tears. Memories of Freedom Summer 1964, the historic campaign to register African-American voters in Mississippi, came rushing back. “In that moment, there must have been five or six students, all waiting patiently to fill out the registration form,” said Mr. Kirschenbaum, 73, recalling the summer he spent in Moss Point, Miss., 54 years ago. “I am witnessing this moment. They want to vote. They are able to vote. The connection between then and now was so palpable. This is what we worked for all those years ago.”
Following a petition filed 12 years ago, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States (OAS) has finally agreed to hear the petition from former Gov. Pedro Rosselló and pro-statehood lawyer Gregorio Igartúa on Puerto Ricans’ inability to vote for U.S. presidential or congressional elections. However, the United States is objecting to the request, stating that while it is true Puerto Ricans do not vote in U.S. elections, it does not constitute a violation of the American Declaration of the Rights & Duties of Man, an international human rights declaration adopted in 1948. The commission, which meets only four times a year, holds its next meeting Oct. 5 in Boulder, Colo. Previously, in 2003, the IACHR ruled that the United States violated the declaration by denying Washington, D.C. the opportunity to participate in Congress.
National: Protection of Voting Rights for Minorities Has Fallen Sharply, a New Report Finds | The New York Times
Federal actions to enforce voting rights for minorities have declined sharply since the Supreme Court struck down the core of the 1965 Voting Rights Act five years ago, the federal Commission on Civil Rights says in a sweeping new report on voting issues. Even enforcement of the act’s remaining provisions has dropped markedly, the report states. In an interview before the report’s formal release on Wednesday, the head of the commission, Catherine E. Lhamon, called the present state of discrimination against minority voters “enduring and pernicious,” and said it was poorly addressed under federal law. “To be at this point in our history, without either meaningful federal protections in law or in practice from the United States Department of Justice, is a low point” since the passage of the Voting Rights Act, she said. “And that’s dangerous.”
U.S. Territories: U.S. solicitor general: Voting case hinges on state, not federal law | Virgin Islands Daily News
The federal government has rejected any responsibility for a law preventing some territorial residents from voting absentee in federal elections, court documents show. U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco filed a response Wednesday in the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that responsibility for potential harm for territorial residents who wish to vote absentee in other states where they have resided lies instead with an Illinois law. Francisco made the argument in response to a group of residents of the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and Guam who claim they were denied their constitutional right to vote absentee in Illinois because of the tenets of the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act. The case, Segovia v. The United States, seeks a declared right to vote absentee for residents of the territories.
U.S. Territories: Presidential voting rights for veterans on Guam, territories sought | Pacific Daily News
Gov. Eddie Calvo seeks President Donald Trump’s support for veterans on Guam and other territories by granting them the right to vote for president. American citizens on Guam, the CNMI, Puerto Rico, American Samoa and the U.S. Virgin Islands are not allowed to vote for the American president. The governor said it’s a “tragic irony” that so many from Guam laid down their lives and thousands more fought and bled on foreign shores in the service of America’s most cherished ideal of defending democracy, yet they cannot vote for their commander-in-chief, the American president. “American veterans residing in Guam and other U.S. territories have served tirelessly for generations now, advocating with force of arms to protect our rights. Whose voices are raised for their rights?” Calvo said in an Aug. 8 letter to Trump. Copies of the letter were also addressed to members of Trump’s administration and members of Congress.
Santa Monica, Calif., with a “well-being index” to gauge the happiness of its residents and a fleet of city buses powered by natural gas, often lives up to its reputation as a wealthy, liberal enclave on California’s coast. But this month, a trial in a Los Angeles courtroom has put the seaside city on the same side as a conservative legal activist who is challenging the state’s voting-rights law. The fight revolves around the city’s at-large election system for its seven City Council seats. Instead of winning office by capturing the majority in any particular district, council members are elected citywide.