State lawmakers from around the country crowded into a packed room Monday at the meeting of the National Conference of State Legislatures to learn more about the impact of the Supreme Court’s recent decision striking down the Voting Rights Act as activists gear up for a new battle over the ballot box. The panelists that led at the NCSCL gathering in Atlanta said there’s so much interest in possible voting changes that more chairs had to be brought in for the larger-than-expected crowd that topped 100. With legislatures in most states out session at the time, both sides – those who favor additional restrictions and those want to stop any such efforts – are planning for what could be a long and complicated fight in the months ahead – from the Statehouse to the town council. “It’s a quiet before the storm period, and it’s hard to tell when the storm is going to hit,” attorney Jeffrey M. Wice told POLITICO after the panel. “No one expects Congress to act, and there’s also a wait and see approach to see how far think tanks and legal defense organizations go to bring lawsuits to expand [VRA] challenges.”
The high court’s ruling in June means that parts or all of 15 states can now pass laws and make changes to elections without needing pre-approval from the Justice Department – and a handful of them began to act immediately. The Justice Department has moved to stop Texas from going forward and put it back under preclearance, and a similar lawsuit has been filed by a separate group against a small town in southern Alabama.
In the meantime, changes to voting procedures could be small and localized – which may make them even more dangerous, according to activists.
“We may also see changes in the next few months happening at the local level which could impact outcomes in upcoming elections.” said Judith Browne Dianis, co-director of the civil rights group Advancement Project. “When state legislatures come back into session, they may be emboldened …to make significant changes that make voting not only harder, but especially hard for those who turned out in record numbers in 2008 and 2012, namely voters of color and young voters.”
Full Article: The coming war over voting rights – Tal Kopan – POLITICO.com.