Redistricting and Voting Rights Roundup

The latest efforts to combat actions that could disenfranchise African-Americans and other voters.

Posted: 06/11/2012 11:19 AM EDT

At a House Judiciary hearing last week, Rep. Dan Lungren (R-California) criticized Attorney General Eric Holder over Department of Justice (DOJ) objections to new voter ID laws in Texas, South Carolina and other mostly Southern states. He presented the frequently heard argument that an ID is required for travel by plane and should also be required to vote. But Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) noted there are ways to travel without showing an ID, but once a person is denied the right to vote, "there is no alternative."

Here is the latest in the battle for and against voter ID.

Virginia: Virginia recently became the latest state to enact a new voter ID law, but it does not go into effect until July 1. That means voters will not be required to present a state-issued voter ID card when they head to the polls July 13. Those who don't have an ID will have to sign an affidavit swearing they are who they say they are. In November, however, voters will be required to present a state voter registration card; a Social Security card; a valid Virginia driver’s license; other state, local or federal identification; a valid Virginia college student ID; a valid employee identification card; a current utility bill; a current bank statement; a current government check; a paycheck that shows the voter's name and address; or a concealed-handgun permit.

Texas: The state of Texas and the U.S. Justice Department will have their day in court July 9 when they will argue for and against a new voter ID law. DOJ says the law was passed to suppress African-American, Latinos and other voters. The state's lawyers are challenging the agency's authority to pre-clear changes to its voting and elections rules because of a history of past discrimination, and say Texas should "have the same authority to protect the integrity of our elections."

Florida: The American Civil Liberties Union, the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and a local law firm are mounting a legal challenge to Republican Gov. Rick Scott's voter purge, which the governor says is necessary to remove noncitizens from the voter rolls. But according to the civil rights groups, it is forcing legally registered voters to re-verify their citizenship or lose their right to vote. In addition, they say the purge violates the National Voter Registration Act of 1963 requirement that such adjustments be made more than 90 days before an election. Florida's primary election is scheduled for Aug. 14.

Michigan: Michigan lawmakers will this week consider a trio of bills that proponents say will make it more difficult for people to vote and for third parties such as the League of Women Voters to conduct registration drives. All groups, including those that have been registering voters for decades, will have to attend mandatory training sessions and volunteers must "sign forms threatening them with criminal prosecution for registration offenses that are not clearly defined," wrote Sue Smith, president of the League of Women Voters of Michigan, and Diana Kasdan, a Brennan Center for Justice attorney, in an op-ed. Noting that a federal judge has blocked Florida from implementing similar changes, Smith and Kasdan said lawmakers should instead focus on the two million Michiganders who are eligible but not registered to vote.

Wisconsin: A higher number of voters than anticipated turned out to cast ballots in Wisconsin Democrats' controversial and failed effort to recall Gov. Scott Walker. Election Protection also received a high number of calls from voters who reported problems, including robo-calls that aimed to deceive voters into believing that if they'd signed a recall petition they didn't have to vote. Voters also were asked to present ID in order to vote even though the state's voter ID law was not yet in effect. One voter and his wife reported being intimidated at the polls and told they'd "better not" vote for Walker.

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(Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)


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