A 93-year-old African-American woman named Viviette Applewhite, a wartime welder and civil-rights marcher who cast her first vote for John F. Kennedy in 1960, is the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit filed this week by the American Civil Liberties Union challenging Pennsylvania’s new voter ID law. Applewhite has never possessed a driver’s license and lost her other IDs years ago when her purse was stolen. Because the state can’t find a copy of her birth certificate, she can’t get the photo ID required to vote in the November elections. “It stinks,” she says of the new law. Here’s what else is happening in redistricting and voting rights news.
Arkansas: A federal judge has denied a motion from the state to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the newly drawn boundaries of an east Arkansas state senate seat, Helena-Arkansas.com reports. The lawsuit was filed by Sen. Jack Crumbly, who is African-American, and other east Arkansas residents and alleges that the reconfigured district lowers the percentage of voting-age Blacks and is therefore discriminatory. A trial begins next Monday. Crumbly is supposed to face off with another state senator, who is white, in a May 22 primary.
Mississippi: The Mississippi state senate has approved a new redistricting map that increases the number of number of majority-Black districts from 12 to 15. The plan must be pre-cleared by the U.S. Justice Department because of the state’s history of racial discrimination. In addition, sunherald.com reports, the NAACP or other interested party may decide to pose a legal challenge calling for more majority-black districts.
Florida: The U.S. Justice Department and a Florida county circuit judge have approved a redistricting map produced by the state’s Republican-controlled legislature, The Palm Beach Post reports. Democrats had challenged the map because they say it favors Republicans and protects incumbents and cited the oddly drawn district of Rep. Corrine Brown, an African-American as an example of gerrymandering. Brown had a different opinion. The new and approved map will have an effect on Rep. Allen West, who is running in a new but Republican-leaning district.
Pennsylvania: The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania filed a lawsuit on May 2 challenging Pennsylvania’s new voter ID law that is set to go into effect in November. The ACLU argues that the law will prevent thousands of residents, particularly African-Americans, from voting. “Voters now have to jump through costly and burdensome hoops to get the required ID; they must either produce a raised-seal birth certificate or an official Social Security card. But some people simply cannot obtain a birth certificate either because one was never issued, records were destroyed, or because of clerical errors when recording the birth,” the organization states.
Mississippi: Racial tension and tempers flared this week when the Hattiesburg, Mississippi city council debated a proposed redistricting plan. Opponents of the plan say it packs too many Black voters in too few wards. “That is not going to fly,” said council member Deborah Denard Delgado.
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