Voting Rights

  • 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 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 break 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 that 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 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. 

  • October 30, 2014

    by Caroline Cox

    Linda Greenhouse asserts in The New York Times that the Supreme Court has taken a misstep on voting rights.

    James C. Nelson examines the “Skewed Justice” report in the Billings Gazette and argues against dark money in campaigns.

    At CNN, Bill Mears previews the November 3 oral arguments for Zivotofsky v. Kerry, a case that will examines whether “Israel” can be listed on a passport for a U.S. citizen born in Jerusalem.

    In The New York Times, Eric Lipton reports that lobbyists are pursuing attorneys general.

    Michael McGough in the Los Angeles Times provides a solution to the lack of educational diversity on the Supreme Court.

  • October 30, 2014
    Guest Post

    by Sarah Moncelle, SCSJ Researcher

    Recognizing that new technology has revolutionized the way we share data, Southern Coalition for Social Justice has launched Election Collection, a data gathering initiative that uses a location-based mobile data collection app to document, track, and rapidly respond to voting irregularities and instances of voter suppression at polling places nationwide for the 2014 General Election. The app’s design was guided by community geography principals and is directly informed by the array of needs communicated by litigators, organizers and researchers in attendance at the inaugural convening of the Southern Leaders for Voter Engagement in May of this year.

    Election Collection is a free app designed to help voting rights advocates record instances of voter suppression for use by election protection volunteers as well as voting rights litigators, social scientists, and other voting rights advocates. This app allows users to nimbly relay the status of Election Day events in real time to both in-house legal response teams and to fellow volunteers on the ground. On Election Day, trained volunteers will be able to log in to personalized accounts and record incidents of voter suppression using its listed forms. The intuitive app is easy to navigate as it follows a simple design that should be familiar to those who have ever filled out a form on a website. Volunteers can select from a wide range of text fields, drop-down menus, multiple-selection buttons, and photo and audio file attachments to relate a highly accurate and comprehensive account of voter suppression events.