Democracy and Voting

  • November 5, 2014

    by Caroline Cox

    At Salon, Luke Brinker considers the implications of the midterm elections on the fight for marriage equality.

    Sarah Kliff at Vox reports on the five personhood defeats for abortion opponents throughout the country.

    Today the Supreme Court hears oral arguments for Yates v. United States. Nina Totenberg of NPR previews the case, which considers whether a fisherman violated the anti-shredding provision of an act passed after the Enron scandal when he threw undersized fish from his boat.

    At the blog for Southern Poverty Law Center, Booth Gunter interviews a 94 year-old Alabama woman on her reflections on poll taxes, literacy tests, and the new measures to limit voting.

    Leslie Griffin writes for Hamilton and Griffin on Rights about the oral argument in DHS v. MacLean, a case that will help define when federal employees are prohibited by law from revealing information that they believe shows a “substantial and specific danger to public safety.”

  • November 4, 2014

    by Paul Guequierre

    Today your Facebook and Twitter feeds are likely full of posts from your friends telling you to vote. This morning when I turned on my computer I was instantly bombarded with ads and posts telling me who to vote for and others saying it doesn’t matter who I vote for, as long as I vote.  Admittedly I shared the first post I saw, which depicted a big button that said “Vote.” I added my own little commentary saying I hope my friends in D.C. and back home in Wisconsin vote today. I voted early last week, so in my mind I had done my civic duty. I smiled at my Facebook post thinking all my friends will see how civic-minded I am. Then reality hit.

    It was easy for me to vote early last week. I had the luxury of taking a long lunch hour and walking to the early polling place with two colleagues. As I walked in I was a tad annoyed when I was told there would be about a five minute wait. There was no line, how could there be a wait, I thought. But it was no big deal, for me anyway. I’m paid salary, not hourly, and I have an understanding boss who encourages me to vote. I didn’t have to worry about missing work, not making money while I took the time to walk to the polling place and cast a ballot. My biggest worries were the sudden drop in temperature which made it a rather chilly day and the ridiculous five minute wait, which actually ended up being only about a three minute wait. Still I rolled my eyes.

    But I voted and my vote will be counted, there’s no question about that. Regardless of whether the people I voted for win, I know I wasn’t disenfranchised. I never even had to worry about that. That’s not the case for far too many people in this country.

  • November 4, 2014

    by Caroline Cox

    Justice Watch, the blog for Alliance for Justice, explains why a Republican-controlled Senate does not necessarily doom the judicial confirmation process for Obama-nominated judges.

    Jeffrey Rosen has a less optimistic view, and argues in The New Republic that the death of a justice during a Republican Congress would lead to disaster.

    Russel Berman reports in The Atlantic that a challenge to the filibuster survived a recent Supreme Court challenge.

    At SCOTUSblog, Amy Howe discusses Zivotofsky v. Kerry, the Jerusalem passport case, and what yesterday’s oral argument signals about how the Supreme Court will decide the case.

    Irin Carmon of MSNBC reports on the numerous ballot measures that challenge reproductive rights throughout the country.

  • November 3, 2014
    Guest Post

    by Atiba R. Ellis, Associate Professor of Law, West Virginia University College of Law. Follow Professor Ellis on Twitter @atibaellis

    The debate over voter identification laws in this election season has shown once again that the voter fraud debate has shaped the right to vote over the last decade.  Recently, voter identification laws in Wisconsin, North Carolina and Texas – passed on the belief that the integrity of elections must be defended against the imminent threat of voters who will impersonate other voters and otherwise commit fraud—has spurred substantial litigation and, most recently, generated a hotly contested denial of a stay of the Texas voter ID law over a scathing dissent from Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. 

    Scholars like Lorraine Minnite, Richard Hasen, Justin Levitt and others, have shown that this voter fraud claim is a myth. Yet, right-leaning pundits like Hans von Spakofsky and Mona Charen have argued that voter fraud will likely occur in the 2014 election. Thus, some pundits, politicians and grassroots organizations like True the Vote see rampant voter fraud as real and looming, despite all research to the contrary.

    This voter fraud claim is often seen as partisan-motivated propaganda or a means perpetuating racial subordination – some call it the return of Jim Crow. Yet, as I argue in an article recently published in the Catholic University Law Review, these claims must be connected to the long saga of voter suppression in the United States. In The Meme of Voter Fraud (also available here), I explain that the voter fraud myth is the latest step in the evolution of the American ideology of exclusion – the belief that “unworthy” citizens should be excluded from the electorate. 

    A meme (an idea based on evolutionary theory) is any idea, belief, concept or behavior that spreads and replicates in the culture. Memes replicate through, among other ways, the sharing of narratives, teaching, or posting on the Internet (think cat videos!). Memes are appealing because they play into a person’s experiences, and on some level people identify with them. This fact prompts a person to share the idea, and the most attractive memes spread virally. As a meme spreads, people often modify it to attract a broader audience.  The new recipients will in turn transform the meme again and replicate it, causing it to evolve (and the changes that fail cause that particular meme to die off). A meme’s appeal and its ability to meet our psychological needs – for instance, for political or social power – causes people to spread memes, not the truth or falsity of the meme.

    People can connect one meme with other memes to develop a complex set of ideas – an ideology – which we use to view the world. And, as scholar J.M. Balkin has observed, ideologies that spur us to action to subjugate the rights of others inevitably result in injustice. Memes can enable power plays, and those most invested in maintaining that power maintain the meme to this end, despite any oppression that might occur.

  • November 3, 2014

    by Caroline Cox

    Geoffrey R. Stone, the former ACS Board Chair and current co-chair of the Board of Advisors for the ACS Chicago Lawyer Chapter, explains in The Daily Beast the importance of Senate elections for the courts.

    Shailia Dewan reports in The New York Times on the judicial race in Montana in which record amounts of money are being spent.

    In Slate’s “Amicus” podcast, Dahlia Lithwick looks at judicial elections, state voter ID laws, and the voting problems expected in the upcoming election.

    The Brennan Center for Justice provides stories of voting in Texas, a state with one of the strictest voter ID laws in the country.

    Jenée Desmond-Harris provides a list in Vox of ways voters’ rights could be violated on Election Day and how voters can respond.