Redistricting and Voting Rights Roundup

Justice Department and states continue to battle over voting rights.

Posted: 04/02/2012 01:35 PM EDT
Lacy Clay, U.S. Department of Justice, voting rights, Voting Rights Act of 1965, redistricting, Politics News, voter ID, Congressional Black Caucus

South Carolina and Texas are not giving up on the fight to preserve their new voting laws and when it comes to redistricting, no one is truly safe. As Florida Rep. Corrine Brown has learned, sometimes political parties will even turn on their own. Here are the winners and losers in this week's redistricting and voting rights roundup.


Missouri: A Missouri court last week struck down a ballot summary for a proposed amendment to the Missouri constitution that would require voters to show state-issued photo IDs. According to U.S. Rep. William Lacy Clay, the amendment could have disenfranchised up to 350,000 registered voters. The ruling, he said, “blocks a blatant attempt” to prevent seniors, students, the disabled, minorities and the rural poor from casting ballots.


South Carolina: The NAACP wants to join a federal lawsuit over South Carolina’s voter ID. It would represent five students from the HBCU Benedict College who wouldn’t be able to vote this fall under the law because it prohibits the use of school-issued IDs. “These students’ voting rights are threatened in the very state where they live and are, or have, registered to vote,” the civil rights group wrote in a letter to a three-judge panel. The Department of Justice in December blocked the law because it would prevent tens of thousands of minorities in the state from voting. South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson is challenging the DOJ’s decision.


Texas: Do Texas Republicans have something to hide about how they crafted the state’s new voter ID law? The Department of Justice has blocked Texas’s law, a decision that the state is challenging in court. The DOJ’s Civil Rights Division wants to depose legislators who supported the legislation but the state is arguing that it shouldn’t have to share materials concerning lawmakers’ deliberations. Samuel Bagenstos, a former official in the division, told Talking Points Memo that their argument likely won’t fly in court. “How can you look at intention without asking them questions?” he asked. The case will be heard in Washington, D.C., on July 9.


Florida: The Florida Democratic Party is challenging in court the new redistricting map created by the state legislature and is using one of its own members to make its case. The party says the district is “the most gerrymandered in the country.” Changing the district won’t be easy, however. Florida’s congressional maps are not supposed to favor political parties, but must provide racial and language minorities “opportunity districts” that would allow them to elect the candidate of their choice.


New York: A diverse coalition of advocacy groups have prevailed in their challenge to New York City’s newly drawn congressional district map. A three-judge panel has approved a new map that they say respects the voting rights of New York City’s Black, Asian and Hispanic populations. Members of the Center for Law and Social Justice at Medgar Evers College, the Asian-American Legal Defense and Education Fund, Latino-Justice PRLDEF and the national Institute for Latino Politics say the map approved by a three-judge panel closely resembles the “unity map” they created.


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