Category Archives: Voting Rights Act

Justice Department Calls In The Big Guns To Stop Voter Suppression

Pamela Karlan

Pamela Karlan

This post is a couple of days old but very relevant in the months to come…

Think Progress

It’s difficult to exaggerate the prominence Stanford Law Professor Pam Karlan enjoys within the progressive legal community. Karlan is one of the most active members of the Supreme Court bar — among other things, she co-authored the brief that convinced the justices to strike down the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act last June. She is a former litigator for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and she is among the most widely regarded voting rights experts in the nation. If President Obama had shown more courage in the early years of his presidency, or if Senate Democrats had deployed the nuclear option sooner, she would be a federal appellate judge today. Many Court watchers, including myself, would choose her if we could place only one person on the Supreme Court.

So when the Justice Department revealed on Friday that Karlan would become the nation’s top voting rights attorney, it was as if Marsellus Wallace called up the many voters being disenfranchised in states like Texas and North Carolina, and told them that he’s sending The Wolf.

Karlan will take over as Deputy Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Civil Rights Division’s voting rights section. In this role, she will oversee the Justice Department’s most important challenges to voter suppression laws — including its efforts to restore federal oversight of Texas’ election law and its challenge to the nation’s worst voter suppression law in North Carolina.

As a senior member of the Civil Rights Division, Karlan will work under soon-to-be Assistant Attorney General Debo Adegbile, who President Obama recently nominated as the nation’s top civil rights attorney. Like Karlan, Adegbile is himself a leading expert on voting rights law – indeed, he twice appeared before the Supreme Court to try to save the Voting Rights Act from the Court’s conservative majority.

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Filed under United States Dept. of Justice, Voting Rights Act

Ohio Is Trying To ‘Suppress The Voting Rights Of African Americans,’ Congresswoman Claims

Most Americans knew this already but confirmation from an elected official adds a multitude of weight to the issues of suppressing early voting and the general election in Ohio…

Think Progress

Ohio Congresswoman Marcia Fudge (D) has asked Attorney General Eric Holder to review two voting measures making their way through the state legislature that she claims could “suppress the voting rights of African Americans and other minorities.”

The proposed bills (S. 238 and H.B. 269) would reduce the number of absentee-voting days by six, prevent newly registered voters from voting the day they register, and require voters to present valid identification — a driver’s license, a state or military ID card, or a passport — when casting a ballot.

In her letter, Fudge charges that the legislation violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which “prohibits any voting qualification or practice applied by the state which results in the denial or abridgment of the right to vote based on race.” “Recent estimates indicate that over 900,000 eligible voters in Ohio” lack the necessary ID, including as many as “one in four eligible African Americans,” the letter says. Same-day registration and voting “have recently been used at a higher rate by African Americans and lower-income voters.”

“With no indication that voter fraud is a widespread problem in Ohio, this proposal is a thinly veiled attempt to reduce the number of people able to exercise their right to vote,” she writes. “They are attempts to suppress the voting rights of African Americans and other minorities.”

Supporters of the effort argue that limiting early voting would free-up overstressed election boards “during their busiest time of year” and note that the legislation “allows for free photo IDs for people who can’t afford to purchase one and who are at or below the federal poverty level.”

“I think we can have a reasonable debate about policy here,” said State Sen. Frank LaRose (R), the sponsor of the early voting change. “To invoke the specter of a racial matter, I think, takes it too far. It is kind of shameful to do that. What we are talking about is a very modest reduction in the number of early voting days that still leaves Ohio as a leader in the nation, by far, for early voting.”

On Saturday, The Cleveland Plain Dealer’s editorial board came out against the limitation, writing that “absent compelling evidence of election fraud…there is no good, pro-voter reason to end the practice.” It also condemned a separate measure that would change absentee ballot rules.

During the 2012 presidential election, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted (R) attempted to limit early voting to weekdays, and he defied a court order requiring early voting hours to be restored — although he eventually backed down.

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Filed under Early Voting, Voter Suppression, Voting Rights Act

North Carolina Republicans, Freed By Supreme Court Voting Rights Act Ruling, Push Voter ID, Other Laws

My family came from Wake County, North Carolina.

In fact I’ve traced my ancestry as far back as my great-great grandfather on my mom’s side .  My great-great grandfather who was, according to AfriGeneas and the 1870 Census an “omnibus driver”.   My great-grandfather who was only six at the time of that census became the Dean of a school now known as Winston-Salem State University.  That was back in the early 1900′s.

Based on the way politicians are behaving in that state now and how it must have been more than a century ago,  I can certainly see the need for later generations of my family to leave that town and head north to New York City where I was born.

The Huffington Post

Republicans in North Carolina are wasting no time moving on a controversial slate of voting laws that just a week ago would have first required approval from the federal government.

The Los Angeles Times reported over the weekend that state Republicans have announced plans to push a voter ID law, eliminate early voting days and restrict same-day registration in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act. The provision mandated that changes to voting law in nine states and parts of six others, including 40 of North Carolina’s 100 counties, must first receive preclearance from the Department of Justice. In their ruling, the Supreme Court decided that such a regional standard was no longer appropriate, which provided an opening for state Sen. Tom Apodaca (R), chairman of the state Senate rules committee.

From the Times:

Apodaca said the previous requirements for federal preclearance caused “legal headaches” in passing such measures as voter ID in response to legitimate concerns over voter fraud. It’s time, he told reporters, to bring the Voting Rights Act “into this century, not the last century.”

North Carolina’s voter ID proposal was a hotly debated topic earlier this year. A report released in January showed that up to 613,000 voters, about 9.25 percent of all registered voters in North Carolina, lacked state-issued photo identification. Voting rights advocates have maintained that voter ID measures and new restrictions on early voting disproportionately affect minorities, the elderly and college students, who tend to vote Democratic. Former Gov. Bev Perdue (D) vetoed a voter ID proposal passed in 2011, but the new bill appeared to have support now that both chambers of the state legislature and the governorship were held by Republicans following the 2012 elections.

After being passed easily by the state House, the voter ID law, which would require voters to present one of several forms of state-issued photo ID starting in 2016, had been held up in the state Senate, awaiting a decision from the Supreme Court. After the court’s ruling, Apodaca told WRAL that he expected an omnibus voting bill to be presented in the state Senate as early as this week. On Monday, he said Republicans were still working on the legislation, and that it would be introduced next week instead.

Similar moves are taking place in other states recently freed from Section 4 restrictions. Officials in Texas and Mississippi quickly announced plans to move forward with stalled voting laws in their states, while measures in parts of Florida and Georgia look likely to advance thanks to the ruling.

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Filed under Voter Suppression, Voting Rights Act

Ken Cuccinelli Proposes State Be Exempted From Voting Rights Act Because Virginia Has ‘Outgrown’ Racism

In my opinion, the headline above is absolutely absurd.  Racism is alive and well in this country and around the world.  To insist that the Voting Rights Act be exempted to the state of Virginia because they have “outgrown” racism is pure hyperbole and an unwanted trip down the rabbit hole of the Virginina Attorney General, Ken Cuccinelli.

Think Progress

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) declared on Tuesday that his commonwealth had “outgrown” institutional racism and no longer needed to be subject to the Voting Rights Act’s redistricting requirements. Speaking to a group of reporters in Richmond, Cuccinelli argued that Congress ought to remove Virginia from a group of nine southern and western states who must get their redistricting maps pre-approved by the Department of Justice in order to prevent discrimination against minority voters:

Cuccinelli also addressed the issue of redistricting, saying he thought it was time for Virginia to be released from its federally mandated oversight by the U.S. Department of Justice under the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Under that law, Virginia’s redistricting plan every 10 years must be “pre-cleared” by the Justice Department, which is meant to ensure that Southern states are not discriminating against racial minorities with their new political boundaries.

Cuccinelli, however, said Virginia has “outgrown” that requirement, as the state — which he acknowledged originated Massive Resistance — is no longer marked by institutionalized bigotry.

“I think as a state, as a commonwealth, we have outgrown that,” he said. “We have grown as a commonwealth a great deal in my lifetime.”

Despite Cuccinelli’s insistence that the Voting Rights Act is antiquated and dispensable in Virginia, discrimination remains an unfortunate but major aspect of our society. Over the past 30 years, hundreds of new state schemes to discriminate against minority voters have been blocked by the Department of Justice. Recently, Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) came under immense criticism for for attempting to undermine a candidate preferred by Hispanics by scheduling the special election during a Mexican religious festival.

Continue reading here…

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Filed under Racism, VA. Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, Voting Rights Act