Remove the 25-year renewing of our Voting Rights Act


Overview


Members of Congress have attempted to introduce legislation that would resurrect the key protections shot down by the Supreme Court, but have not yet been successful. And none of this is great news for Democrats, who could lose the Senate in 2014. Vice President Joe Biden denounced the GOP effort and urged Democrats to stand up for voting rights. He said, “If someone had said to me 10 years ago I had to make a pitch for protecting voting rights today, I would have said, ‘You got to be kidding.'”


In 1965 Congress enacted major amendments to the Voting Rights Act which they call the basic provisions of the Fifteenth Amendment.

Congress enacted major amendments to the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in 1970, 1975, 1982, 1992, and 2006. Each of these amendments coincided with an impending expiration of some of the Act's special provisions, which originally were set to expire by 1970.


The Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution

This amendment prohibits the federal and state governments from denying a citizen the right to vote based on that citizen's "race, color, or previous condition of servitude". It was ratified on February 3, 1870, as the third and last of the Reconstruction Amendments.

Click here to read more information regarding Congress re-authorizing the Voting Rights Act for 25 years

* note - Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and Shelby County v. Holder
This is 2019 and these time limits for renewing our VRA are biases:
  Congress extended the coverage formula and special provisions tied to it, such as the Section 5 preclearance requirement, for five years in 1970, seven years in 1975, and 25 years in both 1982 and 2006. The history shows that it is a on going battle for the Voting Rights Act. Which includes as a special provision for minorities that includes women of all races the right of being treated equal in property-ownership requirements and the right of being treated equal in any court of law, at is in our nation.


VRA Overview....

From 1865 to 1965 discrimination was unchecked. There was a lot of violence at the polls with literacy test, poll tax and other voter qualifications laws had became a common act in many states. Voting Rights Act renewed for 25 years by President
By - The Washington Times - Thursday, July 27, 2006[1]

President Bush yesterday signed a 25-year extension of the 1965 Voting Rights Act and vowed to 'vigorously enforce' the law, which outlawed racist voting practices in the South and cleared the way for millions of black Americans to vote.

At a packed ceremony on the White House South Lawn attended by members of Congress, civil rights leaders and family members of deceased civil rights leaders, the president said the landmark legislation had broken the “segregationist lock on the ballot box.”

"Today, we renew a bill that helped bring a community on the margins into the life of American democracy. My administration will vigorously enforce the provisions of this law, and we will defend it in court," Mr. Bush said. "The right of ordinary men and women to determine their own political future lies at the heart of the American experiment."

The extension of the law bears the names of three women who were active in the early civil rights movement: Fannie Lou Hamer, who was jailed in Mississippi in 1962 for trying to register to vote; Rosa Parks, who was arrested in Montgomery, Ala., in 1955 for refusing to give up her seat on a bus; and Coretta Scott King, the late wife of Martin Luther King.

Mr. Bush said he was signing the bill "in honor of their memory and their contribution to the cause of freedom."

But Mr. Bush has not always been a fan of the Voting Rights Act. When he was governor of Texas, he opposed a section of the law that said Texas and other states still practiced voting discrimination.

That part of the original law was designed to target six Southern states that had a history of discrimination against black voters. In the early 1970s, the section was broadened to cover nine states — Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia — and parts of seven others — California, Florida, Michigan, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina and South Dakota.

Those states and localities must get Justice Department approval every time they change voting laws or procedures — right down to moving a polling location. With Mr. Bush’s signature, that requirement will last through 2032.

There were more than 600 guests on the South Lawn yesterday, including the Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson; friends and relatives of the Kings and Mrs. Parks and Dorothy Height, the longtime chairwoman of the National Council of Negro Women.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi used the occasion to criticize Mr. Bush, saying his administration had failed to enforce key provisions of the Voting Rights Act.

“The president must now ensure that his words are met in the deeds of his administration so that the voting rights of all Americans are truly enhanced by today’s action,” the Democrats said.

By a Vote of 98-0, Senate Approves 25-Year Extension of Voting Rights Act
By CARL HULSE

JULY 21, 2006


WASHINGTON, July 20 [2] — The Senate voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to extend the landmark Voting Rights Act for another 25 years, as lawmakers of both parties said federal supervision was still required to protect the ability of minorities and the disadvantaged to cast ballots in some regions of the country.

“Despite the progress these states have made in upholding the right to vote, it is clear the problems still exist,” said Senator Barack Obama, Democrat of Illinois.

Approval of the measure, on a 98-to-0 vote, came on the day that President Bush made his first presidential visit to a convention of the N.A.A.C.P., where he promised to sign the bill.

The House passed the measure last week after a flurry of rebellion from several Southern lawmakers. Republicans had made renewal of the law a cornerstone of party efforts to reach out to minority groups, particularly blacks, and leaders of both parties promised its passage in a rare joint event on the steps of the Capitol this year.

But progress was slowed by objections from some Republicans in the House that the law unfairly singled out Southern states for special federal oversight when they have eradicated the rampant discrimination that spurred enactment of the law in 1965.

VRA History


Passed by Congress February 26, 1869, and ratified February 3, 1870, the 15th amendment granted African American men the right to vote [3]

Voting rights were one issue addressed by the African-American Civil Rights Movement (1896–1954). Black women did not gain the legal right to vote until passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution in 1920.

Background: On September 9, 1957, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed into law the Civil Rights Act of 1957. Originally proposed by Attorney General Herbert Brownell, the Act marked the first occasion since Reconstruction that the federal government undertook significant legislative action to protect civil rights.[4]

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Pub.L. 88–352, 78 Stat. 241, enacted July 2, 1964) is a landmark civil rights and US labor law in the United States that outlaws discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was introduced in Congress two days later while civil rights leaders, now under the protection of federal troops, led a march of 25,000 people from Selma to Montgomery.

In Alabama, the highly publicized Selma to Montgomery marches in 1965 met with a violent response, bringing more scrutiny to suppression of Black voters. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 prohibited a range of discriminatory state voting practices. The Supreme Court upheld this law in South Carolina v. Katzenbach (1966).

The American Civil Rights Movement, through such events as the Selma to Montgomery marches and Freedom Summer in Mississippi, gained passage by the United States Congress of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which authorized federal oversight of voter registration and election practices and other enforcement of voting ...

This act was signed into law on August 6, 1965, by President Lyndon Johnson. It outlawed the discriminatory voting practices adopted in many southern states after the Civil War, including literacy tests as a prerequisite to voting. It outlawed the discriminatory voting practices adopted in many southern states after the Civil War, including literacy tests as a prerequisite to voting.

The legislation was enacted on June 17, 1970 as the Voting Rights Act Amendments of 1970. President Nixon signed it into law on June 22. Through this legislation, Congress extended the special provisions for five years. Congress enacted major amendments to the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in 1970, 1975, 1982, 1992, and 2006. Each of these amendments coincided with an impending expiration of some of the Act's special provisions, which originally were set to expire by 1970.

The Reconstruction Amendments are the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth amendments to the United States Constitution, adopted between 1865 and 1870, the five years immediately following the Civil War. The last time the Constitution had been amended was with the Twelfth Amendment more than 60 years earlier in 1804.

The Thirteenth Amendment(proposed and ratified in 1865) abolished slavery.Jul 11, 2012

The 14th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified on July 9, 1868, and granted citizenship to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States,” which included former slaves recently freed.

The Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits the federaland state governments from denying a citizen the right to vote based on that citizen's "race, color, or previous condition of servitude". It was ratified on February 3, 1870, as the third and last of the Reconstruction Amendments. Congress enacted major amendments to the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in 1970, 1975, 1982, 1992, and 2006. Each of these amendments coincided with an impending expiration of some of the Act's special provisions, which originally were set to expire by 1970.

The Snyder Act of 1924 admitted Native Americans born in the U.S. to full U.S. citizenship. Though the Fifteenth Amendment, passed in 1870, granted all U.S. citizens the right to vote regardless of race, it wasn't until the Snyder Act that Native Americans could enjoy the rights granted by this amendment.

Court strikes down part of historic voting rights law[5]
By Bill Mears and Greg Botelho, CNN
Updated 6:42 AM ET, Wed June 26, 2013


Story Highlights



The law passed at the height of America's civil rights movement, when citizens in parts of the country were fighting each other and sometimes authorities over how skin color impacts a person's place in a democracy.

Now, its present and future are in doubt after the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision Tuesday that key parts of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 are no longer valid. The prevailing opinion leaves it to a divided Congress to revise the law, so that it's constitutional in the minds of a majority of justices.

The main reason for the ruling, Chief Justice John Roberts explained, was that "our country has changed" for the better. Deplorable conditions that spurred Congress five decades ago to require certain parts of the United States to "preclear" changes to voting laws "no longer characterize voting in the covered jurisdictions."

The formula that Congress enacted as recently as 2006, to determine which areas are covered by the act, has "no logical relation to the present day," Roberts wrote in the majority opinion.

"While any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy the problem speaks to the current conditions," he said.

Officials hailed the decision in places such as Selma and Shelby County, Alabama, which raised the case when it sued the federal government. But President Barack Obama did not, nor did civil rights leaders.

John Lewis is one of them. Born to sharecroppers in Alabama in 1940, he became a leader in the civil rights movement, working with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and others. In March 1965, he led hundreds protesting voting rights in Alabama when they were confronted by Alabama authorities after crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma -- an incident that became known as "Bloody Sunday."

Long a U.S. representative from Georgia, Lewis said what happened then is relevant now, and he claimed "numerous attempts to impede voting rights" nationwide still need to be addressed. To him, the high court decision -- which he said "stuck a dagger into the heart of the Voting Rights Act" -- is personal.

"These men never stood in unmovable lines," said Lewis of the justices, referring to voter registration ques that never moved. "They were never denied the right to participate in the democratic process. They were never beaten, jailed, run off their farms or fired from their jobs.

"No one they knew died simply trying to register to vote. They are not the victims of gerrymandering or contemporary unjust schemes to maneuver them out of their constitutional rights."

What the ruling says
Tuesday's ruling doesn't change the fact it's still illegal to discriminate against a person when it comes to voting. But it does change how some governments have been singled out. Unlike the rest of the nation, these municipalities, counties and states have had to get the federal government's approval first before they made any changes to their voting laws and regulations.

Civil rights groups say the Voting Rights Act -- specifically Section 5, the mechanism for the special treatment for some locales -- has been an important tool in protecting minority voters from governments with a history of setting unfair barriers to the polls. Lewis recalled some Tuesday, such as devious "literacy tests" or asking people to figure "the number of jelly beans in a jar."

"My own father, my own mother, my grandparents could not register to vote simply because of the color of their skin," he told CNN.

In her dissenting opinion, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg pointed out that Congress passed the latest installment of the Voting Rights Act with "overwhelming bipartisan support," saying the representatives legitimately exercised their constitutional powers in doing so.

"The sad irony of today's decision lies in (the court's) utter failure to grasp why the (law) has proven effective," Ginsburg wrote.

Opinion: How segregation got busted


But her view didn't rule the day. Instead, the ruling decision overturned critical aspects of the law. Specifically, Section 4 -- the formula the federal government uses to determine which states and counties are subject to continued oversight -- was struck down. Roberts said that formula, which was devised in 1972 and later reauthorized by Congress, is outdated and unworkable.

That means Section 5 effectively cannot be enforced. It relies heavily on the coverage formula to determine which governments must still run any changes by the U.S. Justice Department.

In his ruling opinion, Roberts faulted Congress for not updating "the coverage formula" last decade to reflect changing times.

"Its failure leaves us today with no choice but to declare Section 4 unconstitutional," he wrote. "The formula in that section can no longer be used as a basis for subjecting jurisdictions to preclearance."

As Roberts noted, this doesn't make discrimination against voters legal, all of a sudden. But it does lift a key barrier to authorities in some states to make changes independently.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, for one, announced Tuesday that after the decision "the state's voter ID law will take effect immediately (and) redistricting maps passed by the legislature may also take effect without approval from the federal government."

"That basically gives a green light to these nine Southern states and a handful of other jurisdictions to change the law any way they want and basically say to the Justice Department, 'Catch me if you can,'" explained CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

"It looks like these Southern states are going to start making changes. And we'll see how that's going to affect the right to vote in the relatively near future."

Should every state, county be treated the same?


The Obama administration points out some governments have gotten out of Section 5 under the now old rules. For example, 31 cities and counties and Virginia successfully petitioned to be exempt from the preclearance requirements in recent years, though the rest of the state remains under federal oversight.

The law had been working in preventing "discriminatory voting changes," Attorney General Eric Holder said. Specifically, he mentioned how it blocked Texas from adopting a new congressional redistricting map that would have "discriminated against Latino voters."

Holder also said the Voting Rights Act changed how South Carolina will implement a law requiring photo identification before being allowed to vote. Those changes, he said, protected black voters who would have been "disproportionately" affected.

Obama characterized Tuesday's ruling as a "setback," even as he vowed his "administration will continue to do everything in its power to ensure a fair and equal voting process."

Voting discrimination, he said, still exists, and the decision "upsets decades of well-established practices that help make sure voting is fair."

Others offered even stronger language.


Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York called Tuesday's decision a "devastating blow for civil rights and voting rights;" New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo described it as "deeply troubling;" and NAACP President Ben Jealous called the decision "outrageous," because it makes minority voters "more vulnerable to the flood of attacks we have seen in recent years."

Rep. Marcia Fudge, chairwoman of the Black Congressional Caucus -- in a statement that included remarks from the heads of Hispanic and Asian groups in Congress -- slammed the high court for its choice "to ignore" reports that" racial discrimination in voting districts continues to exist."

But the sentiments were markedly different in Alabama, where Gov. Robert Bentley said the decision "reflects how conditions have improved."

"The justices correctly acknowledged that the covered jurisdictions should no longer be punished by the federal government for conditions that existed over 40 years ago," said Frank Ellis, the county attorney for Shelby County, where 11% of residents are African-American compared to 28% statewide. "The South is an altogether different place than it was in 1965." Edward Blum, a conservative and director of the Project on Fair Representation, said Tuesday he's happy that no government is now singled out.

"This decision restores an important constitutional order to our system of government," he said. "And that requires that all 50 states and every jurisdiction have the laws applied equally to them."

Everything That's Happened Since Supreme Court Ruled on Voting Rights Act
By Kara Brandeisky, Hanging Chen, and Mike Tigas
November 4, 2014, 12:31pm EST
[6]

Ahead of the November midterms, we take stock of the state of voting rights across the country.

This post has been updated. It was originally published Nov. 1, 2013.


As voters head to the polls this November, citizens in more than a dozen states will face shifting voter policies in wake of the Supreme Court's 2013 decision weakening protections of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Several states — such as Texas, North Carolina and Ohio — are facing legal challenges to new restrictions around voter ID, early voting or same-day registration.

Meanwhile, some have moved to loosen voter restrictions. Oregon and Florida have dropped out of the Interstate Cross-Check Program, an effort to purge duplicate voter registrations from voter rolls in different states. Also, as of June 2014, online voter registration has been made available in 20 states.

With the midterms approaching, here's an updated look at the state of voting rights around the country.

Remind me – what is Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act?

Under the Voting Rights Act, states and localities with a history of racial discrimination needed to get permission from the federal government to enact any changes to their voting laws, in a process called “preclearance.” As of June 2013, nine states, mostly in the South – Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia – needed to get any new voting laws pre-approved. Some counties and townships in California, Florida, New York, North Carolina, South Dakota and Michigan were also subject to preclearance.

Section 5 first applied to states that imposed literacy tests or other unfair devices, and had low voter registration or turnout. Congress later expanded the law to add jurisdictions with sizable minority populations and English-only election materials. States and localities could “bailout,” or get off the preclearance list, after 10 years of elections without any problems. Several smaller jurisdictions bailed out over the years, including parts of Connecticut, Idaho, Maine, Massachusetts, Wyoming, Hawaii, and Colorado.

Of course, some of the biggest voting law battles of the 2012 election were in states not covered by Section 5 at all, such as Pennsylvania and Ohio.

What did the Supreme Court rule in Shelby County v. Holder?

The Supreme Court decided, 5-4, that the preclearance formula was now unconstitutional under the 10th Amendment, which gives states the power to regulate elections. The Court ruled that the coverage formula was “based on 40-year-old facts having no logical relation to the present day.”

From the decision:

One important technical point: the Supreme Court actually left Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act – the part of the law that describes how preclearance works – intact. Instead, the Court struck down Section 4, which explains which states and localities are subject to preclearance. If Congress amends Section 4, the Justice Department can start enforcing Section 5 again.

Why does this matter?

Takeaways



While literacy tests are a thing of the past, voting rights advocates say that statutes that limit early voting and registration, require voters to show photo ID, and purge voter rolls still disproportionately affect poor and minority voters.

The Supreme Court’s June 2013 decision also effectively shifted the burden from states to citizens. Before, a state subject to preclearance had to demonstrate that a new voting law was not discriminatory and let voting law experts in the Justice Department evaluate it before it could be implemented. Now it is up to voters to challenge voting laws by filing lawsuits under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits racial discrimination.

But most court cases involving Section 2 have been limited to redistricting, not other controversial voting measures, says Yale University law professor Heather Gerken.

“With redistricting, there’s always one very wealthy political party or another who can hire some very good lawyers and go into court and challenge it,” Gerken said. “But a lot of the types of things that were challenged under Section 5 were smaller questions, like, ‘Can you change a polling place? Can you shut down early voting hours in ways that might affect the black community?’ There are things smaller than redistricting that can fall through the cracks.”

What have preclearance states done since the Supreme Court ruling?


NORTH CAROLINA: Two months after the Supreme Court decision, North Carolina passed a number of measures, including strict new photo ID requirements. The law also eliminates same-day voter registration, shortens the early voting period by seven days, and specifies that ballots cast at the wrong polling station will be thrown out. Some changes will be phased in starting in 2014, and the photo ID provision goes into effect in 2016.

The North Carolina NAACP and a civil rights group called the Advancement Project have filed a lawsuit challenging the changes. The Justice Department also filed a suit of its own. But the suits venture into some new legal territory. “What North Carolina did was definitely at the extreme of practices in this country,” Gerken said. “So if anything is vulnerable to a suit, it’s likely to be the North Carolina law. But again, the case law was built around redistricting cases. It wasn’t built around this kind of work.” 2014:

September: Last month, a federal judge refused to order an injunction against North Carolina's voting law, which eliminates same-day voter registration, shortens early voting and introduces new voter ID requirements at the polls. The judge ruled that the new measures did not demonstrate "irreparable harm" to North Carolina voters. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear challenges to the law Sept. 25.

October: In October, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked a federal appeals court decision that would have allowed same-day voting.


TEXAS: Last year, a federal court rejected Texas’ voter ID law, calling it “the most stringent in the country.” The panel also rejected the state’s redistricting maps, finding that they protected white incumbents while altering districts with minority incumbents. But on the very day of the Supreme Court ruling, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said the state would “immediately” enact both measures.

The photo ID law requires voters to present an approved form of photo identification, where before they could present mail, utility bills or other proof of voter registration. The Justice Department had refused to approve the law based on the state’s findings that Hispanic registered voters were far less likely to have the approved photo IDs. The new law also requires the photo ID presented on voting day to match the state’s voter rolls — complicating voting for some married women and others with name changes.

The Justice Department has filed a lawsuit against the newly enacted photo ID requirements and joined an ongoing lawsuit against the disputed redistricting maps.

October 2014: A federal judge had blocked the state’s voter ID law in early October, but a panel of three judges in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals stayed the decision in an Oct. 14 ruling, keeping the law in place for November elections. The Supreme Court also upheld the Lone Star State’s ID law in an order issued Oct. 18.


FLORIDA: After the Supreme Court ruling, Florida resumed its plans to remove non-citizens from its voter rolls using the federal SAVE (Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements) database. The Department of Homeland Security database helps government agencies check the immigration statuses of people applying for government benefits like drivers’ licenses, housing assistance, or Medicaid.

But opponents of Florida’s measure say that SAVE data is faulty and not meant for elections, and that using the database to verify voter rolls will disenfranchise eligible voters. (Colorado legislators rejected a bill to purge rolls based on SAVE data for this very reason, but that didn’t stop Secretary of State Scott Gessler from moving ahead with the plan.) The Miami Heraldfound that Florida voters flagged for verification were disproportionately Hispanic, and most turned out to be citizens. The Department of Justice has also said that SAVE is not meant to be “a comprehensive and definitive listing of U.S. citizens,” especially since it doesn’t include data about people born in the United States.

A nonprofit group has challenged the law, but a federal court dismissed the lawsuit after the Supreme Court ruled that Florida was no longer subject to preclearance. Another group has appealed a similar case to the 11th Circuit.

September 2014: The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 in April that Florida's 2012 voter purging violated the National Voter Registration Act. The ruling came as the state decided to postpone further purging efforts until 2015. In a memo to county election supervisors, Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner said the state was awaiting a new federal database on ineligible voters to be up and running.

Meanwhile, Florida has expanded voting accessibility on other fronts, expanding early voting this election season. The state also dropped out of a controversial inter-state voter registration cross-check project.


VIRGINIA: Virginia passed a number of voting laws this spring that seem likely to go into effect in wake of the Supreme Court ruling. The Virginia legislature passed a photo ID law last year (which the Justice Department approved), but the more recent measuregoes further to limit what kinds of voter identification are acceptable. Voters can no longer show utility bills, bank statements, government checks or paychecks before they vote, but they can get an ID for freeif they don’t already have one.

The new laws also require the Virginia State Board of Elections to remove ineligible voters by comparing state voter rolls with the SAVE database and other states.The Democratic Party of Virginia has sued the state over the interstate crosschecks, contending that the database has erroneous information and the law will disenfranchise poor, elderly and minority voters, but a federal judge rejected the suit for lack of evidence. As of Oct. 17, the Board of Elections had already purged more than 38,000 voters.

September 2014: The Virginia State Board of Elections decided in August that voters must now present a current photo ID or one that is within one year of its expiration date. "We believe it's a compromise and gives people a reasonable grace period," said election board member Donald Palmer. The state also implemented an online voter registration system last year.


SOUTH CAROLINA: In October 2012, a federal court blocked the implementation of South Carolina’s photo ID law until 2013. The court found that although the law was not discriminatory, there was not enough time to implement changes before the 2012 election. South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson said the Supreme Court ruling now allows states to “implement reasonable election reforms, such as voter ID laws similar to South Carolina’s.”


MISSISSIPI: Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said Mississippi will enact a strict photo ID law by 2014. The state says it will provide free transportation to government offices where voters will be able to obtain free photo IDs.

September 2014: According to the Clarion-Ledger, Mississippi's latest photo ID requirements caused "few problems" when implemented for the first time during June primaries.


ALABAMA: Secretary of State Beth Chapman said Alabama would also enact changes to its photo ID law by 2014. Like Virginia, Alabama used to accept other kinds of non-photo identification, such as utility bills and Social Security cards. But the new law requires voters to present photo IDs (the state will also provide free voter IDs to those who don’t have them). Legislators passed the measure in 2011, but Alabama stalled in submitting the law for preclearance.

September 2014: Alabama moved ahead with plans to enforce proof-of-citizenship for potential voters after a federal court upheld similar laws in Arizona and Kansas this past March.


ARIZONA: The Supreme Court issued another significant ruling on voting laws this summer: In Arizona et al. v Intertribal Council of Arizona, Inc. et al., the Court ruled that Arizona, formerly a preclearance state, could not unilaterally require voters to show proof of citizenship before registering to vote in a federal election. But the Court said Arizona could sue the Election Assistance Commission to get the federal voter registration form amended to require proof of citizenship. Now, both Arizona and Kansas have sued the commission.

In case their legal challenges are unsuccessful, the states are setting up two-tiered systems of voter registration, requiring proof of citizenship for state and local races but not federal ones. So far, Kansas has suspended registration for about 17,500 voters until those they submit proof of citizenship.

September 2014: This past March, a federal judge ruled that the federal government must help Arizona and Kansas enforce proof-of-citizenship laws for potential voters. Civil rights groups appealed the decision, and the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard their case in August. Two other states with similar proof-of-citizenship laws, Georgia and Alabama, also filed a friend-of-court brief in support of Arizona.

Meanwhile, Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett told the Arizona Capitol Times that only 21 voters who registered using the new two-tiered system were ineligible to vote in state and local races during the state's Aug. 26 primary.


SOUTH DAKOTA: Four Directions Inc., a Native American voting rights group, has asked the Justice Department to investigate why Secretary of State Jason Grant has so far refused to use federal money to fund satellite voting centers for registration and early voting on some Native American reservations.

What about non-preclearance states?


The 35 states that were not subject to any kind of preclearance were unaffected by the Supreme Court decision. But several of those states have also moved to tighten voting rules this year.


ARKANSAS: This spring, Republican legislators overrode the governor’s veto to pass a law requiring voters to show photo IDs. If voters don’t have them, they can cast provisional ballots and return with IDs by the Monday after the election. The state will also provide free IDs to people who do not already have them.

September 2014: The Arkansas ACLU sued the state over the photo ID law on behalf of disenfranchised voters, and the Arkansas Supreme Court is slated to hear arguments in the case on Oct. 2.


IOWA: In late March, Iowa implemented an administrative rule allowing Secretary of State Matt Schultz to begin a voter roll purge using the SAVE database. Activists have sued Schultz in an attempt to stop the purge.

September 2014: In March, a Polk County judge permanently struck down Iowa Secretary of State Matt Shultz's plans to purge voter rolls.


INDIANA: In May, Indiana enacted a law requiring officials to check voter rolls for individuals registered to vote in other states. The advocacy group Project Vote worries that the measure could lead to voter purges.

September 2014: In May, Indiana began the process of purging inactive voters by sending postcards to all registered voters. For any marked undeliverable, the state will attempt a second post card before deeming voters inactive. If the voter doesn't vote in the next two federal elections, he or she will be struck from voter rolls. The state has so far moved almost 700,000 voters to its "inactive" list according to the Indianapolis Star.


MONTANA: After Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock vetoed a measure that would have eliminated same-day voter registration, the legislature decided to let the people decide. In 2014, Montana citizens will vote in a referendum on whether to keep same-day registration. Backers of the measure say it will cut down on lines at the polls.


NEBRASKA: This spring, Nebraska shortened early voting by 10 days. Voters will still be able to vote in the 25 days leading up to an election.


NORTH DAKOTA: North Dakota is the only state without voter registration. In April, the state strengthened its voter IDlaw to no longer allow people without photo ID to vote by affidavit.

TENNESSEE: This spring, Tennessee passed a bill restricting the kinds of IDs that can be used to vote. Previously, voters could show student IDs, out-of-state IDs, library cards, or any other IDs issued by counties or municipalities. Now only photo IDs issued by the state of Tennessee or the federal government are acceptable. The Green Party of Tennessee has sued the stateover the law. September 2014: A federal district court dismissed the Green Party's case in February, after a state court also upheld the ID law. States to watch:


WISCONSIN October 2014: The U.S. Supreme Court blocked Wisconsin’s voter ID law, originally slated to go into effect this November, in an Oct. 9 ruling.


OHIO In February, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted proposed cutting the state's early voting period. The changes would have eliminated Sunday and some weeknight voting hours, as well as a six-day "golden week" when potential voters could register and vote on the same day. In September, a federal district judge issued a preliminary injunction ordering Ohio to restore these early voting periods. The state has asked the court to stay their decision ahead of the November election.

A separate suit challenged a 2012 Ohio directive that would have eliminated early voting on the weekend before to the election only for non-military voters. A federal district court ruled the directive unconstitutional in June 2014, and Husted has since restored the early voting period.

However, on Sept. 29, hours before early voting was scheduled to begin for the Nov. 4 elections, the U.S. Supreme Court issued an order blocking a “golden week" of early voting in the state. The court was responding to an emergency appeal from Husted. Early voting in the state began on Oct. 7 instead of Sept. 30.


So, where does all of this leave the Voting Rights Act?


The Supreme Court left it up to Congress to write new preclearance criteria. In a July hearing, House Republicans showed little interest in rewriting Section 4. But Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., says there’s actually quiet Republican support for the issue. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., made headlines when he publicly supported restoring the law.

“There is at least one Republican, and you’ll find out in the future a lot more, that is committing to putting life in this most important civil rights act that got a stab in the back from the Supreme Court,” Sensenbrenner said.

Gerken, the law professor, isn’t optimistic that Congress will come up with a new Section 4 formula. But she said there are other actions Congress could take. For example, she has advocated that Congress adopt an “opt-in” approach and allow civil rights groups to file simple complaints for the Justice Department to investigate. Then the agency could halt the implementation of discriminatory laws as necessary.

Yale law professor Travis Crum has also suggested a “bail-in” measure, by which Congress could instead strengthen Section 3 of the Voting Rights Act, letting courts put states under preclearance if their voting laws violate the 14th or 15thamendments. As part of the Justice Department’s lawsuits against Texas and North Carolina, the federal agency has asked the courts to put those states back under preclearance.

September 2014: As of March, an amendment was introducedin both the House and Senate that would make Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas the only remaining preclearance states. Once the states are "bailed in," their voting and election laws would be subject to review for 10 years.

The Supreme Court Gutted the Voting Rights Act.


What Happened Next in These 8 States Will Not Shock You

When his court weakened the civil-rights-era law last year, Chief Justice Roberts wrote that ” our country has changed.” We crunched the numbers. He was wrong.
Dana Liebelson
April 8, 2014 - 10:00am
[7]

When the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 to overturn a key section of the Voting Rights Act last June, Justice Ruth Ginsburg warned that getting rid of the measure was like “throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.” The 1965 law required that lawmakers in states with a history of discriminating against minority voters get federal permission before changing voting rules. Now that the Supreme Court has invalidated this requirement, GOP lawmakers across the United States are running buck wild with new voting restrictions.

Before the Shelby County v. Holder decision came down on June 25, Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act required federal review of new voting rules in 15 states, most of them in the South. (In a few of these states, only specific counties or townships were covered.) Chief Justice John Roberts voted to gut the Voting Rights Act on the basis that “our country has changed,”and that blanket federal protection wasn’t needed to stop discrimination. But the country hasn’t changed as much as he may think.

We looked at how many of these 15 states passed or implemented voting restrictions after Section 5 was invalidated, compared to the states that were not covered by the law. (We defined “voting restriction” as passing or implementing a voter ID law, cutting voting hours, purging voter rolls, or ending same-day registration. Advocates criticize these kinds of laws for discriminating against low-income voters, young people, and minorities, who tend to vote for Democrats.) We found that 8 of the 15 states, or 53 percent, passed or implemented voting restrictions since June 25, compared to 3 of 35 states that were not covered under Section 5—or less than 9 percent. Additionally, a number of states not covered by the Voting Rights Act actually expanded voting rights in the same time period.

States that were previously covered in some part by Section 5 moved quickly after it was invalidated. Within two hours of the Shelby decision, Republican Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott announced that the state’s voter identification law—which had previously been blocked by a federal court—would be immediately implemented. Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange, another Republican, also immediately instated his state’s voter ID law. About one month after the Shelby decision, Republicans in North Carolina pushed through a package of extreme voting restrictions, including ending same-day registration, shortening early voting by a week, requiring photo ID, and ending a program that encourages high schoolers to sign up to vote when they turn 18.

In October, Virginia purged more than 38,000 names from the voter rolls. Mississippi’s Republican secretary of state, Delbert Hosemann, told the Associated Press in November that the state was going to start implementing its voter ID law by the June 2014 elections. (This proposal was undergoing Justice Department review when the Shelbydecision came down.) In January, Republican Gov. Rick Scott attempted again (unsuccessfully) to purge noncitizens from Florida’s voting rolls, a move he had tried previously in 2012, before being blocked by Section 5. And thanks to the Supreme Court ruling, South Carolina was able to implement a stricter photo identification requirement.

But as Wendy Weiser, director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University, notes, “Perhaps the biggest impact of Section 5 has always been at the local level.” And there’s been a lot of movement there, as well: After Shelby, Jacksonville, Florida, allegedly moved a voting center that had one of the highest African American voter turnouts in the state to a new site that’s not near public transportation. In Texas, Galveston County eliminated virtually all of the black- and Latino-held constable and justice positions in the county, a move that was previously blocked under Section 5.

Data shows that the law really did work at preventing voting restrictions: Between 1982 and 2006, the Justice Department blocked more than 700 voting changes on the basis that the changes were discriminatory. But experts say it’s hard to say definitively whether all of these new laws would have been blocked if Section 5 had still been in place. The new birth certificate requirements in Arizona and Kansas, for example, would likely have gone forward regardless of the Shelby decision. But Katherine Culliton-González, a senior attorney and director of voter protection for Advancement Project, notes, “There is a heavier concentration of voting restrictions in those states that were previously covered.”

Three outliers are Kansas, Ohio, and Wisconsin, all of which passed or implemented voting restrictions this year, and were never covered under Section 5. But Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s voting rights project, argues that they could have still been influenced by the Supreme Court decision. “When you see half a dozen or more states immediately passing laws to restrict voting after Shelby, that spreads to other parts of the country,” he says. “It’s not like Vegas. What happens in one state doesn’t stay there.”

Members of Congress have attempted to introduce legislation that would resurrect the key protections shot down by the Supreme Court, but have not yet been successful. And none of this is great news for Democrats, who could lose the Senate in 2014. On Monday, Vice President Joe Biden denounced the GOP effort and urged Democrats to stand up for voting rights. He said, “If someone had said to me 10 years ago I had to make a pitch for protecting voting rights today, I would have said, ‘You got to be kidding.'”

References


[1] The Washington Times. (2006). Voting Rights Act renewed for 25 years by president. Retrieved from https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2006/jul/27/20060727-112152-3659r/

[2] Hulse, C. (2006). By a Vote of 98-0, Senate Approves 25-Year Extension of Voting Rights Act. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/21/washington/21vote.html

[3] ourdocuments.gov (n.d.). 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: Voting Rights (1870) Retrieved from https://www.ourdocuments.gov/doc.php?flash=false&doc=44

[4] Civil Rights Digital Library (n.d.). Civil Rights Act of 1957. Retrieved from http://crdl.usg.edu/events/civil_rights_act_1957/?Welcome

[5] Mears, B., Botelho, G. (2013). Outrageous or overdue?: Court strikes down part of historic voting rights law. Retrieved from https://fox13now.com/2013/06/25/outrageous-or-overdue-court-strikes-down-part-of-historic-voting-rights-law/

[6] Brandeisky, K., Chen, H. & Tigas, M. (2014). Everything That's Happened Since Supreme Court Ruled on Voting Rights Act. Retrieved from https://www.propublica.org/article/voting-rights-by-state-map

[7] Liebelson, D. (2014). The Supreme Court Gutted the Voting Rights Act. What Happened Next in These 8 States Will Not Shock You. Retrieved from https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/04/republican-voting-rights-supreme-court-id/25/