New voter ID laws will get test runs this week in Pennsylvania and Rhode Island, while opponents of proposed voter ID bills and redistricting plans continue their fight against laws that would dilute African-American voting power. One city in Alabama no longer has to get permission from the U.S. Justice Department before making election changes.
Pennsylvania: The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania will hold a primary election on April 24, and it will be a “soft rollout” of the state’s new voter ID law. Voters who turn up at the polls will be asked for a driver’s license, military ID, passport or government work ID, or a college or care-facility ID with an expiration date. Voters who don’t have the requisite identification will be given a provisional ballot and six days to fax, email or show up with the photo ID. "We were in total opposition to the bill, and we are in total opposition to the law," said John Jordan, director of civic engagement for the Pennsylvania NAACP. "But now that it is the law, we will have teams of volunteers in the street Tuesday to pass out literature on what is required for November."
Florida: Challengers to Florida’s Senate redistricting map had their day in court on April 20. Allison Riggs, an attorney for the Social Coalition for Social Justice, argued before the state’s Supreme Court that the new map isolates Black voters and dilutes minority voting strength. The district represented by state Sen. Chris Smith, an African-American, was drawn so that the Black voting population is just 43 percent. As a result of the state’s history of “racially polarized voting,” she said, a Black candidate could lose to a white candidate because white Democrats won’t vote for Black Democrats, The Minority Herald reports.
North Carolina: A group of about 100 protestors headed to the North Carolina state capitol on April 23 to protest a proposed voter ID law and encourage lawmakers to not override the governor’s veto of the legislation, a local NBC affiliate reports. The group had a petition with more than 4,000 signatures opposing a photo ID to vote. It included Courtney Scott, a Shaw University student, who said, “We are saying no to voter ID. We don’t agree with it and we don’t like it.” Another student, Anthony Ross, from Saint Augustine’s College, said, “Our elected officials should be doing more to encourage people to vote, not make voting more difficult.”
Connecticut: Martin Luther King III participated in an April 23 event to promote legislation that strengthens voting rights in Connecticut “This is the only state that I’m aware of that has taken this position, providing legislation that is going to be voted on, to increase access to voting,” King said. Proposed legislation in the state would remove restrictions on absentee voting and increase penalties for voter intimidation and vote tampering.
Alabama: The city of Pinson, Alabama, received an exemption from the Voting Rights Act requirement that it seek clearance from the U.S. Justice Department before making election-related changes, al.com reports, after successfully arguing that it doesn’t have a history of voting discrimination. Pinson Mayor Hoyt Sanders is getting calls from officials in other jurisdictions that want to pursue a similar exemption, which can cost them $8,000 to $15,000.
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