Voting Rights

  • September 29, 2014
    Guest Post

    by Judy Appelbaum, Visiting Professor of Law, Georgetown University Law Center; Acting Assistant Attorney General and Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Legislative Affairs, 2009-2013.

    When Eric Holder testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in January 2009 on his nomination to serve as Attorney General, he pledged to faithfully execute his duties by adhering to the precepts and principles of the Constitution, and to do so in a fair, just and independent manner. He also promised to reinvigorate the traditional missions of the Department of Justice and emphasized that one of his top priorities would be to safeguard what he called our precious civil rights.  He has lived up to those commitments, and he will leave office with an extraordinary record of accomplishment. 

    I was privileged to have a close-up view of Attorney General Holder’s stewardship of the Department when I helped lead DOJ’s office of legislative affairs for the first four years of his tenure. Right at the beginning, I saw the determination and energy he put into passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which gave the Department new tools to address violent hate crimes and for the first time enabled DOJ to protect LGBT victims.  After the bill became law, he made sure that the Department aggressively investigated and pursued such crimes wherever warranted by the facts and the law. 

    Demonstrating his commitment to fairness in the criminal justice system, early in his term Attorney General Holder also pressed Congress to pass the Fair Sentencing Act to reduce crack-powder sentencing disparities that disproportionately penalized African American offenders.  He didn’t rest on that legislative success, either. He then launched the Smart on Crime Initiative, which led to a series of path-breaking reforms. These include a change in the Department’s charging policies to avoid triggering excessive mandatory minimum penalties for low-level, non-violent drug offenders, and measures to reduce barriers faced by ex-offenders as they re-enter society. Under Holder’s innovative Access to Justice Initiative, the Department has found ways to help ensure that indigent criminal defendants receive adequate legal representation. 

  • September 25, 2014

    by Caroline Cox

    The Constitutional Accountability Center offers a review of Chief Justice John Roberts’ tenure on the Court with an introductory chapter penned by Brianne Gorod.

    Amy Davidson argues in The New Yorker that Democrats should stop focusing on Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s retirement.  

    Geoffrey R. Stone finds evidence of a more politically polarized Supreme Court in The Huffington Post.

    In Rolling Stone, Tim Dickinson profiles the Koch brothers and how they acquired both their fortune and political influence.

    The Editorial Board of The New York Times decries the long lines at polling places in black and Hispanic neighborhoods, arguing that these areas are systematically deprived of resources. 

  • September 24, 2014

    by Caroline Cox

    In The New York Times, Bob Kocher and Farzad Mostasharib write about McAllen, Texas, an Affordable Care Act success story.  

    Jonathan Topaz explains in Politico why Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg believes she cannot retire now.

    At Hamilton and Griffin on Rights, Erwin Chemerinsky explains his reasons for writing his new book, The Case Against the Supreme Court.

    Jonathan Bernstein writes for Bloomberg View on the importance of fixing voter registration to make it easier for citizens to vote.

    Patrick Marley of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports on a Wisconsin judge’s refusal to follow a Supreme Court order to dismiss a voter ID case.

    At Cornerstone, Leslie Griffin argues against the Court’s decision to make a cost-free First Amendment in Thomas and Hobby Lobby.

  • September 23, 2014
    Guest Post

    by Liz Kennedy, Counsel, Demos

    Today is National Voter Registration Day. Almost 2,000 partners around the country - student groups, educational institutions, unions, faith groups, civic leagues, libraries, worker centers, and elections agencies - are promoting opportunities for individuals to register to vote. Volunteers will spend hundreds of hours doing face-to-face outreach, technology will help voters find registration drives or, if available, register online, and tens of thousands of voters are expected to register to vote in a single day. This is a wonderful testament to civic organization in America.

    But even with these laudable efforts, too many unnecessary bureaucratic barriers block the ability of eligible persons to register to vote. Our voter registration systems are outdated and poorly functioning. Many today will ask their fellow citizens “would you like to register to vote?” but we should also ask why we don’t yet have a system of universal voter registration in 2014, when we have an urgent need and the technical capabilities to make it a reality.

    Universal or automatic voter registration shifts the burden of voter registration from the individual to the state. A democratic government has a duty to facilitate and promote civic participation, since it receives its legitimacy through the consent of the governed. A universal voter registration program ensures that eligible persons can exercise their freedom to vote unless they opt-out, rather than putting the burden on the majority of citizens who want to and do participate in the political life of the country to opt-in. That is the correct balance to strike in a democracy.

    Our electoral process serves crucial functions, including choosing elected representatives, setting the course for public policy, and allowing individuals to express their views on the public issues that impact their lives, families, and communities. But elections don’t serve these purposes well if we don’t all participate, and we have a voter participation problem in this country. In 2012, almost 61 million Americans voted for Mitt Romney, and almost 66 million Americans voted for President Obama, but over 90 million eligible American citizens did not vote at all.

  • September 22, 2014

    by Caroline Cox

    Walter Shapiro argues for the Brennan Center blog that the U.S. Court for the Seventh Circuit’s decision on the Wisconsin voter ID law is judicially ordered chaos.

    In the Los Angeles Times, David G. Savage discusses Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s difficult retirement choice.

    The Economist’s Democracy in America blog explains the unlikely alliance of pro-choicers and pro-lifers in the Young v. United Parcel Service case.

    Lisa W. Foderaro reports in The New York Times on the People’s Climate March protest in New York City.

    ACS Board Member, Judge Nancy Gertner (Ret.) writes in the National Law Journal on U.S. District Judge John Bates’ letter to the Senate Judiciary and Intelligence Committee.

    Zephyr Teachout argues in Salon that through decisions such as Citizens United, the Supreme Court has legalized corruption.