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Check out this new report by Pro Publica on what’s happened to voting rights across the country since the U.S. Supreme Court last June struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder.

It’s the visual that gets you. Two maps, showing the movement of voting laws across the country from less restrictive to more (from light yellow to red), reveal how quickly lawmakers reacted to the court’s ruling and passed restrictive voting measures.

Here’s the country, pre-Shelby County:

before-shelby2

And here’s the country post-Shelby County:

AfterShelby

 

North Carolina’s change has been most striking, moving clear across the spectrum.

“What North Carolina did was definitely at the extreme of practices in this country,” Yale University law professor Heather Gerken said in the report. “So if anything is vulnerable to a suit, it’s likely to be the North Carolina law. 

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In an order released late today in the voting rights cases pending in federal court in Winston-Salem, U.S. District Judge Thomas D. Schroeder upheld an earlier magistrate’s ruling which rejected state lawmakers’ efforts to withhold emails relating to the passage of the voting law changes last session under a claim of absolute legislative privilege.

In that prior ruling, Magistrate Judge Joi Elizabeth Peake adopted a flexible approach to the disclosure of emails and other communications created during the time that lawmakers were considering the voting law changes ultimately enacted last session. Peake found that at least some of the communications sought were not absolutely protected — communications with constituents or other third-parties, for example – and should be produced. The judge also held that other documents might likewise have to be disclosed if the need for them in the voting rights context outweighed any intrusion on the legislative process.

That’s an approach that courts elsewhere have adopted — in Florida, Texas, and Wisconsin, for example — weighing the need of legislators to be free from harassing questions about their decision-making processes with the needs of citizens suspicious of those lawmakers’ motives – and in the end, ordering the disclosure of at least some information.

“This is a place where courts have rarely spoken, but clearly the concern that legislative officials might not be acting with the best interests of their public in mind has caused this issue to arise more frequently,” said Justin Levitt, a voting law expert and professor at Loyola Law School.

Attorneys for the parties challenging the voting law changes called today’s ruling a victory for the integrity of elections and the transparency of the legislative process.

“This ruling means lawmakers will no longer be allowed to hide behind a veil of secrecy,” Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, said in a statement. “If politicians are going to tamper with people’s fundamental right to vote, we deserve to know why.”

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In case you missed it, the Charlotte Observer has reprinted a fine column authored by Al Hunt of Bloomberg News under the headline: “Voter suppression is the greater racist outrage.”

As Hunt aptly notes:

“The widespread condemnation of the vile prejudice expressed by a professional-basketball-team owner and a Nevada rancher underscored the progress America has made on race.

On the same day Donald Sterling, the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, was banned from the game for life for making racist comments, another story with more important racial implications was unfolding: A federal judge in Wisconsin struck down a law passed by that state’s Republican legislators that would have made voting harder by requiring state-approved photo identification at polling places.

More than 30 states have sought to impose voting restrictions over the past three years. Supporters of the measures claim they are aimed at preventing voting fraud. Critics say they are designed to disenfranchise, particularly black Americans and members of other minorities, and are the greatest threat since the Voting Rights Act was passed almost a half century ago….. Read More

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Good government advocate Bob Hall of Democracy North Carolina has a great new column out in which he spells out 15 important tips that shed some important light on tomorrow’s primary election.

“All kinds of myths and rumors circulate during elections. Don’t be discouraged; a scary story may be aimed at making you think voting is too difficult to do.

As an independent watchdog group, Democracy North Carolina receives all kinds of reports on our hotline at 888-OUR-VOTE. We encourage voters to review the candidates at www.ncvotered.org and call the hotline if you have any problems as you vote.

Here are 15 tips to make your voting experience easier:

1. You don’t lose your right to vote if you have an outstanding traffic ticket, warrant, bankruptcy or fine. No elections official will ask you about these….”

Read (and share) the rest of Hall’s 15 tips by clicking here.

15 tips to make your voting experience easier
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In a decision released today, U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman struck down Wisconsin’s voter ID law, saying that it disproportionately impacted poor and minority voters, and blocked the state from requiring ID at the polls.

In Frank v. Walker, Adelman wrote:

Act 23 has a disproportionate impact on Black and Latino voters because it is more likely to burden those voters with the costs of obtaining a photo ID that they would not otherwise obtain. This burden is significant not only because it is likely to deter Blacks and Latinos from voting even if they could obtain IDs without much difficulty, but also because Blacks and Latinos are more likely than whites to have difficulty obtaining IDs. This disproportionate impact is a “discriminatory result” because the reason Black and Latino voters are more likely to have to incur the costs of obtaining IDs is that they are disproportionately likely to live in poverty, and the reason Black and Latino voters are disproportionately likely to live in poverty is connected to the history of discrimination against Blacks and Latinos in Wisconsin and elsewhere. Finally, Act 23 only tenuously serves the state’s interest in preventing voter fraud and protecting the integrity of the electoral process, and therefore the state’s interests do not justify the discriminatory result. Accordingly, the photo ID requirement results in the denial or abridgment of the right of Black and Latino citizens to vote on account of race or color.

Read the full decision here.