voter ID laws

  • August 11, 2015
    Guest Post

    by Julie Ebenstein, Staff Attorney, Voting Rights Project, American Civil Liberties Union

    *This post is part of ACSblog’s symposium regarding the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

    Just days before the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, we completed a three-week trial challenging North Carolina’s sweeping anti-voter law. 

    In 2013, soon after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act - and with it, the preclearance protections of Section 5 - North Carolina passed an election law shocking in its lack of a valid purpose and its extensive abridgement of citizens’ right to vote.  The challenged provisions of the law reduced the number of days for early voting, eliminated same-day-registration, and prohibited out-of-precinct Election Day voting.  Cumulatively, the law is one of the most repressive elections bills seen in decades. The law exemplifies a “second generation” barrier to voting.  It created broad, structural impediments to electoral participation, in part on the basis of race, and will likely impact hundreds of thousands of voters in the upcoming presidential election.

    In the pre-2013 world, the law would not likely have survived Section 5 preclearance, and thus, would never have been implemented.  But the absence of Section 5’s protection has created a severe disadvantage for voters challenging state’s vote denial measures. Our lawsuit, filed the day the law was implemented, illustrates some of the obstacles to protecting voting rights in the post-Shelby era.

    Section 2’s prohibition on racial discrimination is one of the remaining tools to protect the franchise, but it requires that litigation take place after a law has already gone into effect. As such, the advantages of time and inertia have shifted back to the perpetrators of voter suppression and away from its victims.  Section 2 cases are fact intensive, time-consuming and resource-intensive undertakings.  With constant election cycles, there is no guarantee that the legality of state election laws will be determined before voters are irreversibly disenfranchised.

    The 2014 federal election provides numerous examples. In late 2014, we saw rapid-fire orders by the U.S. Supreme Court, instructing the Sixth, Fourth, Seventh and Fifth Circuits to put election-related decisions on hold until after the election.  Over the course of three weeks, the U.S. Supreme Court made four determinations that affected voting rights in key federal elections.  On September 29, 2014, the Court stayed an Ohio district court decision, upheld by a Sixth Circuit appeals panel, enjoining the state’s cuts to early voting.  The following week, on October 8, the Court stayed the Fourth Circuit mandate to reinstate same-day registration and out-of-precinct voting, after the district court declined to enjoin the practices.  The next day, the Court vacated the Seventh Circuit’s stay of a Wisconsin district court’s permanent injunction of the state’s strict voter ID law.  On October 18, the Court denied applications to vacate the Fifth Circuit’s stay of a decision enjoining Texas’s voter ID law. 

  • 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.

  • October 27, 2014

    by Caroline Cox

    On the Media discusses the recent ACS-sponsored “Skewed Justice” report with Joanna Shepherd, co-author of the study and Professor of Law at Emory Law School.

    In The Boston Globe, Martha Minow writes about the large number of Americans who cannot afford legal counsel and the risk that this poses to the principle of “equal justice under law.”

    Adam Liptak reports in The New York Times on the recent Yale Law School visit of Justice Clarence Thomas, Justice Samuel Alito Jr., and Justice Sonia Sotomayor where the justices discussed the Court’s wariness of new technology, diversity, and salsa dancing.

    In USA Today, Richard Wolf previews Zivotofsky v. Kerry, a case that considers which branch of government has the authority to recognize foreign countries.

    Dahlia Lithwick of Slate questions the Supreme Court’s eagerness to protect First Amendment rights and ignore the rights to vote and obtain an abortion.

    The Editorial Board of the Los Angeles Times laments the new era of voter suppression. 

  • October 20, 2014

    by Caroline Cox

    David Savage of the Los Angeles Times provides analysis of the Supreme Court’s action on the Texas voter ID law and its record on voting rights.

    In Slate, Richard Hasen praises Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s dissent in the Texas voting rights case.

    Heather Digby Parton discusses in Salon the stakes of the Fair Housing Act case the Supreme Court will decide later this term.

    The cultural shift on same-sex marriage has changed responses to new court rulings and altered campaign rhetoric, reports Mara Liasson of NPR.

    Irin Cameron of MSNBC looks at the Personhood amendment in Colorado and what it could cost the GOP.

  • October 15, 2014

    by Caroline Cox

    Irin Carmon of MSNBC reports on the Supreme Court’s temporary reversal of Texas’s restrictive abortion law that closed all but eight abortion clinics in the state.  

    In Politico, Jost Gerstein examines the possible reasoning behind the Supreme Court’s recent rulings on voter ID laws. 

    Jamelle Bouie argues in Slate that while voter ID laws disproportionately impact people of color, the main motivation for voter ID laws is hyper-partisanship, not racism.

    On the blog for the Brennan Center for Justice, Jonathan Brater praises Colorado for expanding voting access.

    Joe Davidson of The Washington Post argues that a Supreme Court case on a federal whistleblower could have enormous implications.