Voting Rights

6/10

Something for celebration and potential concern in GA, the Supreme Court affirms a lower court order striking down NC state maps as racial gerrymander. On the surface this looks like a positive step, but the lower court also ordered special elections to take place this year, to remove officials elected under this illegal map. The Supreme Court did not include any provision for or against holding special elections. The NC map was drawn back in 2011 and now – 6 years later – it’s finally being officially declared illegal. That’s after 3 elections have already been held under the old gerrymandered map. With the courts moving this slowly to right wrongs with illegal voting maps, GOP held states like GA may be emboldened to continue to commit these illegal acts, knowing they won’t have to worry about it for several elections to come.

5/27

In a massive win for Voting Rights this week, the Supreme Court struck down North Carolina’s racial gerrymander. Conservative Justice Clarence Thomas joined the 4 ‘liberal’ justices in a 5-3 vote decision that found that the state unconstitutionally packed African American voters into two districts, in violation of the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. Justice Elena Kagan wrote the decision with Justice Thomas not only joining the vote, but also signing Kagan’s opinion – giving it precedential value. The controversially appointed Justice Neil Gorsuch did not participate in the ruling. This decision will make it even harder for southern states like Georgia to defend their gerrymandering, if it can be found that lines were drawn based on race and not party.

The next test of this ruling will be when a case comes to the court in the next term from the state of Texas. In March, a three-judge district court panel found that the Texas Legislature had unconstitutionally used race in drawing its congressional map. But one dissenting judge argued that what Texas had done was in fact a constitutional partisan gerrymander. The dissenting opinion given in the North Carolina case opens the door to argue that lines are drawn based on party and not race, so this case will be one to watch.

Regardless, Voting Rights champions are heralding this decision as an important win. We can only hope that more cases against this illegal practice will start to fall like dominoes on the side of giving more access to the vote and returning to the idea of constituents actually choosing their leaders, instead of politicians cherry picking their constituents.

5/14

Another damaging piece of legislation was up for a vote in the house today, House Bill 268 which reviews the process for candidates to run for office, but also includes limiting what type of ID can be used for voting in elections. Among other things, this bill seeks to remove Tribal ID cards as a valid form of ID for voting. This is a violation of both the National Voter Registration Act and Voting Rights Act of 1965 – potentially disenfranchising up to 30k Native Americans living in Georgia.

According to Democrats who argued against the bill in the house today, this legislation is in direct conflict with recent agreements made by the Secretary of States from recent court cases in Hancock County and Georgia. The bill is also engrossed, which prevents members of the Senate from proposing amendments which may help protect voting rights in Georgia. GA Senator Elena Parent is working on two such measures in the Senate currently, SB 6&7.

Unfortunately, HB 268 was passed 32-18 today and will now go to the Senate. More news to come.

 

MORE:

 

GA District 6 candidate Karen Handel is flying off the handle in response to the recent Federal court ruling that voter registration for the 6/20 runoff election be re-opened until 5/21. Despite the fact that the ruling is in accordance with the National Voter Registration Act, which requires voters the opportunity to register to vote for 30 days leading up to any federal election. Handel is crying foul, saying this is a partisan attempt to change the rules mid-election. The ruling allows ALL voters in District 6 the opportunity to register for the election, which it is the least partisan ruling ever. Sounds like Handel is already making up excuses for a potential loss to Jon Ossoff.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/karen-handel-georgia_us_5911c248e4b0d5d9049ff68a

5/8

In a big win for Voting Rights in Georgia, U.S. District Judge Timothy Batten has ordered voter registration to re-open ahead of the June 20th GA District 6 run off election between Jon Ossoff and Karen Handel. The ruling was in response to the recently reported lawsuit that argued that not allowing voters to register 30 days before this election, violates the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who swore to fight this lawsuit and called it a partisan play, has now agreed to open voting registration in accordance with the ruling. GA voters in District 6 now can register up until May 21st, effective immediately.

Score one for the good guys and a loss for those who would seek to disenfranchise GA voters.

5/6

The continued effort by the GOP to disenfranchise Americans of their ability to vote is in the form of House Bill 2090, proposed by Indiana Republican Luke Messer. H.B. 2090 requires valid photo ID to vote in Federal elections. California Secretary of State Alex Padilla has already come out against the bill, citing that it “seeks to radically amend the bipartisan Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) by imposing unnecessary and harmful obstacles to voting.”

A recent study by the University of California, San Diego found that photo identification laws have a differentially negative impact on the turnout of Hispanics, Blacks and mixed-race Americans in primaries and general elections. Members of racial and ethnic minorities are less likely to have valid photo ID, while turnout among whites in states with Voter ID laws is largely unaffected, according to this study.

Hopefully more states will come out against this new bill, which was recently introduced in the house, but hasn’t been called yet for a vote.

 

http://www.ajc.com/news/state–regional-govt–politics/federal-judge-orders-georgia-reopen-voter-registration-ahead-6th-district-runoff/ZeJBoBDNllqHU7JGtnUzcN/

4/30

Georgia civil rights and voting organizations filed a lawsuit last week challenging a law that effects the GA District 6 runoff election. The current GA law states that voters would have had to be registered by 3/20 to vote in both the primary election on 4/18 *and* the runoff election in June. This law violates Section 8 of the National Voter Registration Act, which allows all voters to participate in any election for federal office, as long as they register at least 30 days prior. With the District 6 seat being a hotly contested one between Jon Ossoff and Karen Handel, every vote would be important and the GOP are worried about minority and younger voters turning out to #flipthe6th.

4/23

As an update from previous posts, a federal judge has found that the 2011 Texas Legislature’s voter identification law was enacted with the intent to discriminate against black and Hispanic voters, raising the possibility that the state’s election procedures could be put back under federal oversight. The judge, Nelva Gonzales Ramos of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, found that the law violates the Voting Rights Act. Limiting the forms of ID approved to use at the polls and registering to vote, has been a tactic conservative states (GA included) have rushed to employee to disenfranchise the elder, poor and people of color, who may not have access to those forms of ID. It’s not a good look for the Department of Justice, who recently withdrew their support against this discriminatory law under the direction of new AG Jeff Sessions.

Texas will of course try to appeal again, but this ruling is a benchmark and perhaps a cautionary tale to Governor Deal, who has HB 268 – the “Exact Match” voter registration bill on his desk to sign or veto.

 

Georgia Voting Rights

3/25

A half success – House Bill 515, the Gerrymandering Bill, was modified when the 4 most contentious districts were dropped from the plan on Friday.

3/18

Another damaging piece of legislation was up for a vote in the house today, House Bill 268 which reviews the process for candidates to run for office, but also includes limiting what type of ID can be used for voting in elections. Among other things, this bill seeks to remove Tribal ID cards as a valid form of ID for voting. This is a violation of both the National Voter Registration Act and Voting Rights Act of 1965 – potentially disenfranchising up to 30k Native Americans living in Georgia.

According to Democrats who argued against the bill in the house today, this legislation is in direct conflict with recent agreements made by the Secretary of States from recent court cases in Hancock County and Georgia. The bill is also engrossed, which prevents members of the Senate from proposing amendments which may help protect voting rights in Georgia. GA Senator Elena Parent is working on two such measures in the Senate currently, SB 6&7.

Unfortunately, HB 268 was passed 32-18 today and will now go to the Senate. More news to come.

3/11

Georgia Bill, HB 515, passed the House and will be moving on to the Senate after Crossover day.  The bill will amend the state House districts 34, 35, 36, 40, 47, 49, 53, 73, and 111.

http://www.legis.ga.gov/Legislation/20172018/167347.pdf

This bill makes changes to nine House of Representatives districts, including shameless efforts to “shore up” the districts of vulnerable Republican Representatives by moving Democratic-leaning voters out of those districts. HD-40, held by Rich Golick, and HD-111, held by Brian Strickland, are both districts that have been trending Democratic.

Instead of trying to fairly win re-election by virtue of providing good representation of the people in those districts, these Representatives just want to rig the districts to ensure their re-election.

The voters whose districts are impacted were not consulted. In fact, the bill was filed the last day of February and then it was rushed out of committee the next day and on to the floor of the House the next legislative day. NO PUBLIC COMMENT was permitted at the committee hearing, despite request.

Now we expect this shameful anti-democratic effort to be heard by the Senate Reapportionment and Redistricting Committee. Please email and/or call the members of this committee (focusing on the Republicans, who I list below), as well as the Senate Republican leadership team, to tell them that you are watching and you oppose this sneaky, shameless effort to rig districts and squelch the will of the voters. Tell them the voters get to choose their representatives — the representatives don’t get to choose their voters!

Committee Members

Dr. Ben Watson, Chairman (Republican, Savannah) (404) 656-7880, ben.watson@senate.ga.gov

William Ligon Jr., Vice-Chairman (Republican, Brunswick) (404) 463-1383, william.ligon@senate.ga.gov

Matt Brass (Republican, Newnan) (404) 656-6446, matt.brass@senate.ga.gov

Bill Cowsert (Republican, Athens) (404) 463-1366, bill.cowsert@senate.ga.gov

Marty Harbin (Republican, Tyrone) (404) 656-0078, marty.harbin@senate.ga.gov

Hunter Hill (Republican, Smyrna) (404) 463-2518, hunter.hill@senate.ga.gov

David Shafer (Republican, Duluth) (404) 656-0048, david.shafer@senate.ga.gov

Other members of Senate leadership to contact:

Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle: (404) 656-5030

Senate Republican Whip Steve Gooch, Dahlonega: (404) 656-9221, steve.gooch@senate.ga.gov

Senate Republican Chairman John F. Kennedy, Macon: (404) 656-0045, john.kennedy@senate.ga.gov

We’ll keep you posted on when this bill comes up for a vote in the Reapportionment & Redistricting Committee.

(posted on Common Cause Georgia’s Facebook page)

Three new pieces of legislation have arrived that are positive for voter rights. House Bill 20 proposes an automatic registration of voters who obtain, renew, or change their name or address on a driver’s license or identification card issued by the Department of Driver Services.

For those who thought this was already happening, we have reached out to bill sponsor Sandra Scott for some details on how this will update existing laws. Regardless, this is a positive action and should be something that is automatic.

Senate Resolution 6 is all about combating gerrymandering. SR 6 proposes an amendment to the GA Constitution that legislative and congressional reapportionment be done by an independent bipartisan commission instead of the General Assembly. The GOP has gathered position over the years by choosing their voters instead of the other way around. With this SR passed – there is now a chance for fairness in determining voting districts.

Senate Resolution 7 – Fair District Amendment. This resolution goes hand and hand with SR 6 and would propose a constitutional amendment to prohibit gerrymandering to favor a political party or incumbent or disfavoring minorities from being able to elect candidates of their choice. All plans would be subject to judicial review by the Supreme Court before implementation. Should the plan fail, the General Assembly would be called back into special session to try again. Should that plan fail, the Supreme Court would draw maps.

GA House Bill 268 is sponsored by Republican Rep. Barry Fleming and was just passed by the house. It will go to the Senate for review – timing for that vote is being determined. The Georgia Democractic Caucus has opposed H.B. 268 and here’s a snapshot of the issues with the bill.

Two of the most important elements of this bill include removing recent reforms concerning ‘Exact Match’ and limiting what IDs can be used for voter registration.

“Exact Match” has previously been determined by successful litigation against the Secretary of State as proven way to cancel minority applications. “Exact Match” means that your voter registration has to exactly match your ID. In the past, clerical typos have resulted in more than 34k valid applications being cancelled. The recent litigation against the SoS removed the stricter forms of “Exact Match”, but H.B. 268 seeks to have them reinstated.

For example, the absence of a hyphen in a hyphenated name on one record, but not the other, would cause an application to fail the “Exact Match” protocol. These errors, not made by the voter, would result in their application being cancelled or denied. Also registered voters could update these errors at the polls on Election Day with the current list of ‘suitable forms of ID’.

Currently GA will accept many forms of ID when registering to vote, including a GA driver’s license, GA state ID cards, SSA card, student ID cards, valid out-of-state driver’s licenses, public transit issued photo ID cards, US passports, valid federal, state, county, or city photo ID cards, valid military photo ID cards, and valid tribal photo ID cards are all acceptable under the terms of the recent settlement by the SoS.

This new bill seeks to limit the forms of ID usable for registration and will prevent eligible Georgians from successfully completing the registration process, unless they can provide a GA driver’s license, GA state ID card, or SSA card. By not allowing Tribal Photo IDs, which are recognized at the federal level and are deemed ‘acceptable’ by TSA for boarding a plane, violates both the National Voter Registration Act and Voting Rights Act of 1965 – potentially disenfranchising up to 30k Native Americans living in Georgia.

Also, this means that thousands of college students would be unable to register to vote in GA if they have an out of state issued ID and it would be required to get one of the three forms of ‘acceptable’ IDs to be able to register to vote.

The bottom line is that this is just another way the GOP are attempting to limit who can register to vote in the State of Georgia and deny voting rights at the polls. If passed, this bill will immediate have a lot of litigation filed against it, but perhaps those suits may take some time to resolve – meanwhile many will lose their ability to register to vote in our state.

 

 

 

National Voting Rights

In one of his first acts as the newly appointed Attorney General, Jeff Sessions is back to his old habit of voter suppression. As reported by the New York Times, among other national outlets, the Department of Justice has dropped crucial opposition to the Texas’ strict voter identification laws. In 2011 the Texas legislature passes a law that only three forms of ID could be used before casting a ballot – a valid driver’s license, passport of other government issued ID. The Justice Department under Obama sued to block this restriction in 2013, citing voter suppression for minorities – who have a harder time obtaining these types of IDs. Now that the Justice Department has officially dropped their suit/opposition – this restrictive law will be reinforced.

What this means for GA and the rest of the US is that conservative run states will see this action and be emboldened to propose similar restrictive voter ID legislation, knowing they now won’t be opposed by the Justice Department. We’ve seen this in GA House Bill 268, that also is attempting to limit the forms of ID that can be used for registration and at at the ballot.

Laws governing U.S. elections date back to Article 1 of the Constitution which gave states the responsibility of overseeing federal elections. Numerous Constitutional amendments and federal laws have been passed in the years since to ensure all Americans have the right to vote and the ability to exercise that right.

Currently, 2/3 of states require some form of ID in order to vote. This can result in lower registration among the elderly, poor and minorities.

 A big talking point from the new administration involved Voter Fraud. The Brennan Center for Justice, which is part of the NYU School of Law, published an article debunking the Voter Fraud Myth in Jan 2017. A review of the 2016 Election found only 4 cases of voter fraud. With more than 127 million people voting in the 2016 election, that’s pretty impressive. The less exciting number to note is that less than 60% of eligible voters turned out for the 2016 election, which was on par with the 2012 election. This makes it more important than ever to get more people registering to vote and to the polls.

Important Amendments:

15th – Ratified in 1870, declares the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude. This doesn’t include women, just men of color, but Southern states created several hurdles to prevent those of color from voting. It would take the 24th Amendment and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to eliminate these barriers.

19th – Ratified in 1920, gave American women the right to vote.

24th – Ratified in 1964, eliminated poll taxes, which had disproportionately affected African Americans as a barrier to voting in federal elections.

26th – Ratified in 1971, lowered the voting age for all elections to 18.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.