Redistricting and Voting Rights Roundup

The latest news on efforts that could disenfranchise African-American and other voters.

Posted: 06/26/2012 10:28 AM EDT

Time and legal challenges are putting up roadblocks to the implementation of new voting laws in some states. In Mississippi, lawmakers must find a way to pay for educating voters about its new law if it passes muster with the Justice Department. In Pennsylvania, where voters will be required to present a photo ID in November, one lawmaker has acknowledged what many opponents of the mandate have long suspected: the law will help Republicans win more elections. Keep reading to learn the latest on redistricting and voting rights.

Mississippi: The state's proposed new voting law also faces obstacles although voters "overwhelmingly" voted in favor of the initiative, WJTV.com reports. As is the case with other states, it still awaits pre-clearance from the U.S. Justice Department. In addition, the state must still figure out how to foot the bill and the cost of providing allegedly "free" state-sanctioned IDs, as they might come at the cost of more vital services like public safety.

Pennsylvania: Opponents of strict new voting laws frequently say that the Republicans who are leading those efforts are in search of a solution to a problem that doesn't exist. But Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Mike Turzai has articulated the problem: getting Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney elected. "Voter ID, which is gonna allow Gov. Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done," he said. But according to Turzai spokesman Stephen Miskin, the lawmaker was "speaking at a partisan, political event," and simply noting that "for the first time in a long while, the Republican presidential candidate will be on a more even keel thanks to voter ID" because the election will be "more fair."

North Carolina: Passage of a new voter ID law is looking unlikely, WRAL.com reports. "It's gone," said Republican state Rep. David Lewis, because it likely won't be cleared in time by the U.S. Justice Department or the courts and the state legislature has other business to wrap up before the session ends or voters head to the polls in November. North Carolina is one of several battleground states.

Wisconsin: A new voter ID law is on hold in Wisconsin because of four legal challenges and the conventional wisdom is that it won't be in effect by the state's August primary or in November, reports WUWM News. Some predict that years could pass before the debate over the law ends. "The hurdles and barriers and difficulties, some smaller and some pretty significant, that voters experience — for people who have those barriers, something like voter ID can be prohibitive and can really have the effect of keeping them from voting," said Karyn Rotker, an ACLU attorney, whose organization has mounted a legal challenge to the proposed law. Meanwhile, voter advocacy groups are working to educate voters and help them get IDs to fend off any efforts to keep them from casting ballots this fall.

Minnesota: Former Republican Gov. Arne Carlson and ex-Sen. Walter Mondale, a Democrat, are united in their objection to Minnesota's proposed voter ID amendment. "Frankly, it is hard to understand why we would cast aside election-day registration, institute a highly complicated two-ballot system that will cost millions and increase taxes — all to solve a problem that does not exist," the pair wrote in an op-ed. "Our preference is for a return to a legislative process that studies a problem first and then creates a sensible and affordable bipartisan solution. This amendment falls short on all counts."

Maryland: The U.S. Supreme Court upheld on Monday Maryland's new congressional redistricting map, "which counts inmates as living at their last-known addresses instead of their prison cells," The Baltimore Sun reports. Republican lawmakers who oppose the plan are facing a Saturday deadline to get enough signatures to allow voters to weigh in on the issue on the ballot in November. "The Supreme Court's ruling is a huge victory for the national campaign to end prison-based gerrymandering," said Brenda Wright, vice president for legal strategies at the liberal group Demos. "This decision sets an important precedent that will encourage other states to reform their redistricting laws." African-Americans and Latinos also objected to the map because they believe it splits majority-minority districts.



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