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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

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

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.

 

This morning’s Greensboro News & Record is spot on in an editorial regarding the efforts of Republican lawmakers to keep communications related to the monster voting law secret. Here’s the conclusion:

“Just as literacy tests were really intended, not to make sure voters could read, but to limit voting by blacks, so might similar motives underlie newer forms of voting restrictions. Since federal courts have jurisdiction over state voting laws, they can compel the release of evidence that otherwise might be protected by legislative immunity. Many of the documents sought are communications between legislators and outside parties that normally would be considered public under the state’s open records law. Greater protection can be allowed for communications between legislators and their lawyers or those circulated only among legislators and their staffs.

The judge directed plaintiffs and defendants to confer in more detail about specific documents and issue a status report. A final decision will follow eventually — the case isn’t scheduled to go to trial until next year — but [Judge] Peake indicated she will order legislators to turn over at least some of the documents requested.

The way to get to the truth of the matter is to see what legislators were saying among themselves about the new voting laws.

Read the entire editorial by clicking here.

Voter IDThe battle over the disclosure of information relating to the passage of controversial voting law changes last summer continues in federal court, as state lawmakers yesterday filed an objection to a magistrate’s  order requiring them to produce at least some documents they’d claimed were absolutely protected under the doctrines of legislative immunity and legislative privilege.

In that order, U.S. Magistrate Judge Joi Elizabeth Peake  adopted a flexible approach, finding that at a minimum, certain documents — communications with constituents or other third-parties, for example  – were not protected and should be produced, and 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.

The lawmakers’ objection means that disclosure of their documents will be further delayed as U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder, who is presiding over the three cases pending in Winston-Salem,  reviews the magistrate’s ruling and affirms, overrules or modifies its terms.

The court has been pushing the parties in the cases to hasten the disclosure of information with a view towards the filing of papers seeking to delay implementation of the voting changes so that, at least during the upcoming November elections, voters will maintain the full range of voting options they previously had — extended early voting and same-day registration, for example.

Those papers are tentatively scheduled for filing in May, with a hearing to be held some time in July.