Redistricting and Voting Rights Roundup

The latest news about efforts that could disenfranchise African-American voters.

Posted: 07/30/2012 11:30 AM EDT

With just 99 days before the November elections, voting rights advocates continue to fight new, more restrictive laws that threaten to disenfranchise certain voting blocs. The day before a hearing began for a challenge to Pennsylvania's new voter ID law, hundreds of protesters descended on the state's capital. One state representative said that Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett had "manufactured fake problems for partisan purposes." Republican Mitt Romney's campaign has entered the debate and is calling foul on voter registration forms inadvertently addressed to family pets and deceased relatives of voters in Virginia. Here's the latest news.

Pennsylvania: The Keystone State took center stage in the voter ID debate on July 25 when its new law, set to go into effect in November, headed to court in a suit filed by the ACLU. The lead plaintiff is Viviette Applewhite, a 93-year-old African-American woman whose handbag was stolen, leaving her without ID. The great-great grandmother, who has voted in almost every election in the past 50 years has tried three times to obtain a copy of her birth certificate and failed. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, the new law could prevent 186,830 voters in Philadelphia from casting ballots. President Obama won Pennsylvania in 2008 with 55 percent of the vote. The ACLU is asking that the law be put on hold until the court has made its decision. But at least one election official isn't waiting. Christopher Broach, an elections inspector in Colwyn, Pennsylvania, told the Philadelphia Enquirer that he won't enforce the bill because it violates civil rights, even though he could be punished with fines or prison. “Rosa Parks made the same decision,” he said.

Alabama: The state of Alabama, one of several Southern states that must have new redistricting maps and voting laws pre-cleared by the Department of Justice, has asked a federal three-judge panel to approve its new map, according to a Wall Street Journal report.  The state claims that the map not only doesn’t disenfranchise voters based on race or color, but also that the rule requiring preclearance should be declared unconstitutional. It also wants an injunction preventing Attorney General Eric Holder from enforcing the preclearance provision, the Associated Press reports.

Virginia: Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's campaign has asked Virginia's attorney general to investigate voter registration forms that have been sent to children, family pets and dead relatives of Virginia residents, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports. The campaign is claiming that the mailings violate "at least one and maybe several Virginia laws aimed at ensuring a fair election. The mailings were sent by the Voter Participation Center (VPC) mainly to Democratic-leaning voters, including young adults, African-Americans and Latinos, which Romney's campaign says, "amount to, or at the very least induce voter registration fraud." But according to VPC, the pre-populated forms have been approved by the State Board of Elections.

Florida: Rep. Corrine Brown has joined the Jacksonville chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Duval County Democratic Executive Committee and some local residents in a federal lawsuit challenging changes to early voting procedures that will be implemented during the state's August primaries. "Since 2004, Floridians have had access to the polls for eight hours a day, for 15 days right up until the last Sunday before Election Day," the lawmaker's office said in release. "The new law reduced early voting to 10 days, gave county supervisors arbitrary discretion over the number of hours polls are open and eliminated voting on the last Sunday." The group says the changes violate the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Florida constitution.

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(Photo: REUTERS/Gary I Rothstein /Landov)


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