Redistricting and Voting Rights Roundup

Redistricting and Voting Rights Roundup

A weekly update on redistricting and voting rights news from around the nation.

Published May 16, 2012

As Rep. John Lewis (D-Georgia) noted in a fiery speech on the House floor last week, people died during the civil rights movement so that African-Americans could vote. That's not stopping states around the nation from defending efforts that would make it more difficult for Blacks and others to use their power of the vote. Texas continues its battle with the Department of Justice to prove a new voting law would not have a discriminatory effect. Mississippi may soon find itself in a similar position if its governor signs into a new voter ID law this week. As these and other voting rights laws are debated, the NAACP has launched a new initiative, called "This Is My Vote!" to help voters in states that have already implemented new rules. Here are the details.

Mississippi: Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant has until May 18 to sign into law his state’s new voter ID legislation. But the local NAACP has asked federal officials to intervene because opponents of the bill believe it diminishes minority voting strength and would suppress turnout among poor, elderly or minority voters, The Associated Press reports. Mississippi is one of several mostly Southern states that must pre-clear any changes to election laws with the Department of Justice to ensure they don’t discriminate or disenfranchise. NAACP attorney Carroll Rhodes says the organization feels “certain the state cannot meet that burden of proof.” Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann told the AP that he may try to instead seek approval of the law from a U.S. district court in Washington. He also said that the Mississippi legislation is much like Indiana’s law, which the U.S. Supreme Court upheld.

Pennsylvania: Opponents of voter ID laws frequently cite the difficulty that some individuals face acquiring birth and marriage certificates and other documentation as a compelling argument against such laws. In Berks County, Pennsylvania, help is on the way. The local bar association is offering voters assistance with securing the documents, even for those who were born outside of the state. It is offering the aid cost free and also will work to help educate people about the state’s new requirements, which will go into affect in November.

Texas: Texas lawmakers are standing firmly behind their voter ID law but doing the two-step around court orders to provide information that would prove the law isn’t discriminatory. A court order issued last week requires the state to agree by May 16 to provide the information or its July 9 trial date could be rescheduled and the voter ID law would not be in effect until after the November elections. "The attorney general's office refuses to get the courts the information they've requested because they know that the information would prove that the voter ID law violates the Voting Rights Act and was intended to disenfranchise Texans," Texas Democratic Party spokesperson Rebecca Acuna told KVUE.com.

Arkansas: State Sen. Jack Crumbly, who is African-American, and a group of east Arkansas residents suffered a setback May 11 in their lawsuit that alleges the state’s redistricting board improperly decreased the Black voting population in the district Crumbly represents. A three-judge panel decided it won’t postpone the primary for the seat scheduled to take place on May 22, while it makes its decision on the case because early voting has already begun.

“This is My Vote!”: The NAACP on May 9 launched a nationwide initiative to register and educate hundreds of thousands of African-Americans. In addition to local voter registration drives and educational campaigns, the NAACP has a toll-free number, 866-MY-VOTE-1, and the website www.thisismyvote.org that people can use to get information about any new rules in their states and what they need to bring to the polls. They also can text the word “vote” to 62227 for voting details.

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(Photo: Diane Macdonald / Getty Images)

Written by Joyce Jones

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