Redistricting and Voting Rights Roundup

Lawmakers around the nation clash over new maps and voting rules.

Posted: 02/24/2012 03:50 PM EST

Civil rights organizations and other groups are on hyper-alert as new redistricting maps and voter ID laws are considered and in some cases go into effect. Many redistricting maps at all levels of government are being challenged in court and in one Texas county, voters have received emails falsely claiming that they must re-apply for voter registration cards. Here’s a roundup of what happened this week.


Maryland: The Maryland Republican Party and Fannie Lou Hammer, an African-American political action group, formed an unlikely alliance in a legal challenge to Maryland’s new redistricting map, which they say violates the Voting Rights Act and a section of the state’s constitution. The effort failed in federal court and the map became law today, but the groups say they will challenge the map in the Maryland Court of Appeals, Southern Maryland Online reports.


Texas: Court challenges to Texas’s redistricting map has placed the state’s May primary in limbo and is preventing the voter registrar in Harris County, Texas, from sending out new registration cards when all cards expired on Dec. 31, 2011. But an ugly rumor has been circulating that everyone will have to re-register to vote. "We found out that there was a email circulating that was telling voters that since their cards had expired on December 31 of 2011, that they would have to reapply for voter certificates. And this is not true,” said registrar Don Summers. "Voters should just sit tight. We'll get their new certs to them as soon as we can and they'll have them in time for the primary."


California: Los Angeles city council redistricting maps have come under fire from two members because it would move Black voters out of the city’s only majority-Black district. The members say that the maps “placed undue and illegal emphasis on race” and they are threatening to challenge them in court, Contra Costa Times reports.


Wisconsin: The nonprofit Advancement Project has filed a lawsuit against Wisconsin’s new voter ID law because it allegedly discriminates against African-Americans and Latinos. According to a report in the Leader Telegram, these groups will be disenfranchised by the law, which took effect this week, because they are less likely to have one of the Wisconsin-issued forms of identification that are required to vote.


South Carolina: The American Civil Liberties Union requested permission on Friday to join a lawsuit over South Carolina’s new voter ID law because it represents three voters who haven’t been able to get the photo identification card the law requires in order to vote. The Department of Justice rejected the law in December, but the state is suing to have it overturned, the Associated Press reports.


Florida: Black leaders in Broward County, Florida, filed a federal lawsuit this week, the Sun Sentinel reports, because they believe that the proposed new county commission districts restrict the chances of Black candidates getting elected. They’re arguing that Black voters were packed into an already heavily Black district represented by a Black commissioner, limiting their ability to influence races for two seats opening up because of term limits.


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