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Voting Rights

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Isgrimnur
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Voting Rights

Post by Isgrimnur »

Catch-all for all of the voting rights, voter suppression, etc news.

Pasadena, TX
A Texas city violated the Voting Rights Act and the 14th Amendment by purposefully trying to dilute Latino votes, a U.S. district judge ruled Friday.

Pasadena, Texas, will become the first jurisdiction to have to clear changes to its election laws with the Department of Justice since the Supreme Court’s 2013 Shelby County v. Holder ruling, according to the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, which brought the Texas lawsuit.

The 2013 Supreme Court ruling freed states with a history of voter discrimination from having to get DOJ approval to change election laws. Following the decision, scores of states and localities rushed to pass voter ID and other measures that voting rights advocates say disenfranchise minorities.

The Texas lawsuit, filed on behalf of Latino voters in Pasadena, accused Mayor Johnny Isbell and members of the City Council of manipulating the districting system in order to keep Latinos from gaining seats on the City Council.

Latinos make up 62 percent of the population of Pasadena, a city of 150,000 outside Houston, but turnout lags behind white voters. Isbell, a Republican, faced challenges in recent years to his party’s hold on power as the city’s Hispanic population grew. With only a one-vote majority on the City Council, he led an effort four years ago to change the electoral system.

Instead of electing City Council members by districts, which gave areas with a Hispanic majority a better chance of electing Latino officials, Isbell pushed a hybrid system with six single-member districts and two-at large districts, which would be elected by the public as a whole.

Voters approved the redistricting changes in a tight referendum election in 2013. An estimated 99.6 percent of the city’s Latino voters opposed the changes, according to Friday’s ruling by U.S. Chief District Judge Lee Rosenthal.

The ruling also describes how after the referendum, Council Member Pat Van Houte, a Democrat, criticized the changes before the City Council. Isbell had police escort her out of the building for violating a new rule limiting floor speeches to three minutes on any given topic.

In addition to requiring DOJ clearance, Friday’s ruling forces Pasadena to abandon the redistricting plan and go back to its previous system — a map used in the 2013 election made up of eight single-member districts.

Rosenthal called that the “less intrusive remedy” that gives the Pasadena City Council a chance to course-correct in time for its May 2017 election.

But the pre-clearance requirement is indeed the heavier burden.

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Re: Voting Rights

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Texas
A federal court has dealt Texas another loss over voting rights, finding that Republicans racially gerrymandered some congressional districts to weaken the electoral influence of the state's booming minority population.

The ruling late Friday by a three-judge panel in San Antonio gave Democrats hope of new voting maps that could give them more seats in Congress. But the 2-1 decision didn't mandate an immediate fix and Texas could appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Republicans currently hold two of the three congressional districts ruled newly invalid. The maps were originally drawn by the GOP-controlled Texas Legislature in 2011.

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Re: Voting Rights

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North Carolina
The Supreme Court on Monday announced that it would stay out of a fight over a restrictive North Carolina voting law. The move left in place a federal appeals court ruling that struck down key parts of the law as an unconstitutional effort to “target African Americans with almost surgical precision.”

As is the court’s custom, the justices gave no reason for declining to hear the case. But Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. issued a statement noting that there was a dispute about who represented the state in the case and that nothing should be read into the court’s decision to decline to hear it.
...
The case challenging the North Carolina law was brought by civil rights groups and the Obama administration. A trial judge rejected arguments that the law violated the Constitution and what remained of the Voting Rights Act. A three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, in Richmond, Va., disagreed.

The appeals court ruling struck down five parts of the law: its voter ID requirements, a rollback of early voting to 10 days from 17, an elimination of same-day registration and of preregistration of some teenagers, and its ban on counting votes cast in the wrong precinct.

The court found that all five restrictions “disproportionately affected African-Americans.” The law’s voter identification provision, for instance, “retained only those types of photo ID disproportionately held by whites and excluded those disproportionately held by African-Americans.”

That was the case, the court said, even though the state had “failed to identify even a single individual who has ever been charged with committing in-person voter fraud in North Carolina.” But it did find that there was evidence of fraud in absentee voting by mail, a method used disproportionately by white voters. The Legislature, however, exempted absentee voting from the photo ID requirement.

The court also found that the early voting restrictions had a much larger effect on black voters, who “disproportionately used the first seven days of early voting.” The law, the court said, eliminated one of two “souls-to-the-polls” Sundays when black churches provided rides to polling places.
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In December, state officials asked the Supreme Court to hear their appeal in the case, North Carolina v. North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP, No. 16-833. Two months later, in an unusual last-minute procedural maneuver, two newly elected Democratic officials — Gov. Roy Cooper and Attorney General Josh Stein — asked the court to dismiss the state’s petition seeking review. Lawyers for the General Assembly opposed the motion.

In his statement on Monday, Chief Justice Roberts said the Supreme Court’s decision to decline to grant the petition seeking review, or petition for certiorari, turned on that dispute.

“Given the blizzard of filings over who is and who is not authorized to seek review in this Court under North Carolina law,” the chief justice wrote, quoting an earlier decision, “it is important to recall our frequent admonition that ‘the denial of a writ of certiorari imports no expression of opinion upon the merits of the case.’”

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Re: Voting Rights

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NYT, Dec 9
The House voted on Friday to reinstate federal oversight of state election law, moving to bolster protections against racial discrimination enshrined in the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the landmark civil rights statute whose central provision was struck down by the Supreme Court.

Representative John Lewis, Democrat of Georgia, who was beaten in 1965 while demonstrating for voting rights in Alabama, banged the gavel to herald approval of the measure, to applause from his colleagues on the House floor. It passed by a vote of 228 to 187 nearly along party lines, with all but one Republican opposed.

The bill has little chance of becoming law given opposition in the Republican-controlled Senate and by President Trump, whose aides issued a veto threat against it this week.

The measure is a direct response to the 2013 Supreme Court decision in the case of Shelby County v. Holder, in which the justices invalidated a key portion of the law.
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On Friday, just one Republican, Representative Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, voted “yes.”

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Re: Voting Rights

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NBC News
A conservative law firm on Thursday asked a judge to find the Wisconsin Elections Commission in contempt and impose $12,000 a day in fines until it immediately purges more than 200,000 voters from the rolls, a move Democrats are fighting in the key battleground state.

A judge last month ordered the purge of voters who may have moved and didn't respond within 30 days to notification sent by the elections commission in October. The bipartisan commission has deadlocked twice on attempts by Republicans to do the purge immediately while an appeal to the court order is pending.

Rick Esenberg, leader of the conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty that brought the lawsuit, said the commission must purge the voters now. The judge in December ruled that the commission was breaking state law by not removing voters who did not respond to the October mailing asking that they confirm their address.
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The case is currently before a state appeals court. The commission has asked the appeals court to put the original ruling on hold, but it has not yet acted. The Supreme Court has not said yet whether it will take the case.

The League of Women Voters of Wisconsin also has filed a federal lawsuit to stop the purge. That lawsuit argues that it would be a violation of constitutional due process rights to deactivate the registrations of the voters without proper notice.

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Re: Voting Rights

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Florida
A federal court struck down a Florida law which denied individuals with prior felony convictions the right to vote if they could not afford to pay certain fees and fines. Tuesday’s decision will restore the right to vote for some 1.4 million Floridians who would have otherwise been eligible to vote but for the law making that right contingent upon their ability to pay off outstanding fines, fees and restitution.

That law, SB 7066, is now enjoined and cannot take effect. The state defendants seeking to enforce SB 7066 only have recourse to the Supreme Court–which is unlikely to take up their case during the present term; meaning that the ruling probably won’t be overturned or even considered before the 2020 general election.

The 78-page opinion by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit is an all-but total victory for voting rights and Civil Rights advocates who have long complained that Sunshine State Republicans had effectively resurrected Florida’s racist poll tax of the Jim Crow Era under a poorly-disguised legal garb.

“The court unanimously ruled that a person’s right to vote cannot be contingent upon their ability to pay,” said Julie Ebenstein, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project in a press release. “This law is a modern-day poll tax. This ruling recognizes the gravity of elected officials trying to circumvent Amendment 4 to create roadblocks to voting based on wealth.”

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Re: Voting Rights

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CNN
The Supreme Court on Thursday said Florida can enforce a law barring ex-felons from voting if they still owe court fines or fees that they are unable to pay associated with their convictions.

The unsigned order likely means the law will be in effect for the November election, although the court did not declare the law to be unconstitutional or limit ongoing court challenges.

Liberal Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan dissented.
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This is the latest legal battle for voting rights in Florida. Earlier this month, a federal appeals court in Atlanta blocked a judge's order from May that had cleared the way for hundreds of thousands of felons in the state to register to vote.

In response, the American Civil Liberties Union, along with the Campaign Legal Center and other voting rights groups, filed an application last week asking the Supreme Court for an order overturning the appeals court decision.

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Re: Voting Rights

Post by Holman »

How is that not a poll tax and a violation of the 24th amendment?

If people who owed legal fees were forbidden from publishing in the newspaper, would that not violate the 1st amendment?
Much prefer my Nazis Nuremberged.

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Re: Voting Rights

Post by El Guapo »

Holman wrote:
Thu Jul 16, 2020 5:39 pm
How is that not a poll tax and a violation of the 24th amendment?

If people who owed legal fees were forbidden from publishing in the newspaper, would that not violate the 1st amendment?
You lose at least temporarily certain constitutional rights when you commit a crime and are duly convicted of it (e.g., freedom of movement and association, for example). That's part of why Florida (and other states) were able to deny the right to vote to convicted felons to begin with. The constitutional amendment that passed barred restricting the right to vote once you served your sentence - all "terms of sentence". The Florida legislature has defined fines (tied to convictions) as part of the "terms of sentence".

Anyway, point is the authority to impose what would otherwise be an unconstitutional poll tax stems from the loss of liberty that accompanied criminal convictions.

But in reality, it's because Florida doesn't want likely non-Republicans to vote.

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Re: Voting Rights

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So all it would take to allow them to vote is paying their fees or fines? A Gofundme could be setup to provide funding, right?

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Re: Voting Rights

Post by El Guapo »

Alefroth wrote:
Thu Jul 16, 2020 5:57 pm
So all it would take to allow them to vote is paying their fees or fines? A Gofundme could be setup to provide funding, right?
Yes, I believe that's right. Though I'm not sure what the process is or any registration deadlines, so it could conceivably be (or soon become) too late for some of them. Plus of course (in the absence of a GoFundMe) ex-felons are traditionally not swimming in cash.

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