Category Archives: Civil Rights

SCOTUS to review partisan gerrymandering in Whitford v. Gill

I gave you the background on this case earlier this year. Whitford v. Gill: Partisan gerrymandering case before SCOTUS.

On Monday, the Supreme Court granted review of this case in its next term, while also staying the lower court’s order requiring new maps be put on hold until they can resolve the state’s appeal.

This case has the potential to be a landmark opinion, for good or for bad, depending upon how the court rules.

We currently have a system in which the voters do not choose their elected representatives; elected representatives choose their voters through partisan gerrymandering, which can be done with mathematical precision to ensure “safe” districts. This destroys any notion of competitive elections in a democratic society. It is the way in which elections truly are “rigged.”

Amy Howe at SCOTUS blog explains, Today’s orders: Court to tackle partisan gerrymandering:

The Supreme Court will once again wade into the world of partisan gerrymandering – that is, the practice of purposely drawing district lines to favor one party and put another at a disadvantage. The justices announced today that they will review Wisconsin’s appeal of the decision by a three-judge district court striking down, as the product of partisan gerrymandering, the redistricting map that the Republican-controlled legislature created after the 2010 census. The lower court also ordered the state to create a new redistricting plan by the fall, but a deeply divided Supreme Court today put that order on hold. The Supreme Court’s ruling in the case, which is likely to come next year, will almost certainly be a major one that could affect redistricting efforts for decades to come.

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Another GOP voter suppression plan

Why is it every time I see a piece of bad legislation in the Arizona legislature, this guy’s name appears to be attached to it? What the heck is wrong with voters living in legislative district 6 (specifically in Navajo, Gila and Yavapai Counties)? You ought to be embarrassed to send someone as backwards as this to the Arizona legislature.

The latest bad legislation is yet another GOP voter suppression plan sponsored by Rep. Bob Thorpe still seeking to bar student voting on campus:

The proposal by Rep. Bob Thorpe would put a provision that students who want to vote would be able to do so only by signing up to get an early ballot from the voting precinct where they were living before they went to college, presumably the address of their parents.

More to the point, they would not be able to use their college address. And that would apply not only to those who live in a campus dormitory but even those who have off-campus apartments or houses.

This is where Howard Fischer in his reporting should have stated up front (he puts it at the very end of his report) that the U.S. Supreme Court summarily affirmed (no opinion) that this was unconstitutional in SYMM v. U.S., 439 U.S. 1105 (1979), in which the Court summarily affirmed United States v. Texas, 445 F.Supp. 1245 (S.D.Tex. 1978), holding unconstitutional the denial to Prairie View students of the presumption of bona fide residency extended to other Waller County students. The three-judge District Court panel relied on a series of college student voting rights precedents under the Voting Rights Act and the 26th Amendment.

In other words, this issue has long ago been decided. Yet every election cycle some jurisdiction tries to keep college students from voting where they are attending college, and every election cycle this unconstitutional voter suppression effort is enjoined by the courts. The baffling part is the regularity with which jurisdictions keep trying to do this even when the law is clearly established.

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Demagogue Trump goes completely bonkers over his Muslim ‘travel ban’

Donald Trump is completely bonkers, but then you already knew that. What is happening with his Muslim “travel ban” over the weekend only confirms this.

First some background on the status of the Muslim “travel ban.” Trump’s original executive order in January was blocked by the federal district court for the state of Washington as unconstitutional religious discrimination, and that court order was affirmed by a panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

This elicited this response from Trump:

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That didn’t happen. Instead, the Trump Justice Department dismissed the appeal and reissued a “revised travel ban” in March. The original executive order and lawsuit no longer exist for any purposes (something Trump does not seem to comprehend, as I will explain below).

The “revised travel ban” was also challenged in court, where it has advanced to two courts of appeal. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the federal district court for Maryland in an en banc decision blocking the “revised travel ban” as unconstitutional religious discrimination. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments on May 15 in an appeal from the federal district court for Hawaii, and appparenty took additional arguments last week. 9th Circuit hears travel ban appeal, again. That decision is pending.

The Trump Justice Department filed for review before the U.S. Supreme Court late Thursday. Amy Howe of SCOTUSblog explains the posture of this case before the Supreme Court. Trump administration asks justices to weigh in on travel ban:

[T]he federal government asked the Supreme Court to step into the legal dispute over the constitutionality of the executive order [the “revised travel ban”] that the president signed on March 6. The government also asked the court to put on hold two lower-court rulings blocking the implementation of the executive order, telling the justices that those rulings undermine “the President’s constitutional and statutory power to protect” the United States.

Last night’s filings came in two separate challenges to the March 6 order, popularly known as the “travel ban.” One challenge originated in Maryland, where a federal district judge blocked the implementation of the order on March 16; last week the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit largely upheld the Maryland judge’s order. Another challenge came from Hawaii: A district judge there also ruled for the challengers, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit heard oral argument in the government’s appeal on May 15, but the appeals court has not yet issued its decision. Yesterday the government urged the Supreme Court to review the 4th Circuit’s ruling on the merits and to freeze the district court’s order barring the implementation of the travel ban. The government also asked the justices to freeze the Hawaii court’s ruling blocking the travel ban until the 9th Circuit appeal is resolved – and, if necessary, while the government seeks review of that decision in the Supreme Court.

Amy Howe notes that “The justices have asked the challengers to file responses to the petition for review and the requests for stays of the lower courts’ rulings. Those responses are due on or before 3 p.m. on Monday, June 12.

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Dem Statewide Meeting: ‘We Can Win with a Progressive Message’

Pamela Powers Hannley

Pamela Powers Hannley giving the Legislative Update to the Arizona Democratic Progressive Caucus.

I have been back in Tucson for two weeks now, and it’s been a fun whirlwind of visits, phone calls, and events with Tucson friends and family, LD9 constituents, fellow Unitarian Universalist church members, labor union members, and Progressives.

Saturday, May 20 was my first campaign event of the 2018 season– the Arizona Democratic Party’s State Committee Meeting in Tucson. In addition to tabling, I gave Legislative updates to the Arizona Democratic Women’s Federation and to the Arizona Democratic Progressive Caucus. Scott Prior and I co-chaired the Progressive Caucus for three years. This was the first full meeting with the new co-chairs Jenise Porter (Pima County) and Joe Murphy (Maricopa County).

Here is my speech to the Progressive Caucus.

Everyone says that this session of the Arizona Legislature was “different”. There are several reasons why it was different. For one, Speaker J.D. Mesnard assigned Democratic bills to committees and allowed floor votes on many of them. According to people on both sides of the aisle, he also ran the House much more efficiently than the previous speaker. In my opinion, the real reason that this session was different is that the House Freshman Class is the largest  in recent history (or ever). Many House incumbents lost, termed out, retired, or tried to move to the Senate. For House Democrats, this meant a demographic shift with our caucus now being majority Latino, half women, and surprisingly progressive on many policy issues.

I’m here to tell you that Progressives– particularly the women– made a difference in the Arizona House this session.

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Illinois to be the ninth state to approve universal (automatic) voter registration

The Huffington Post reports GOP Illinois Governor Will Sign Automatic Voter Registration After Vetoing It Last Year:

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) intends to sign legislation supported by both chambers of the Illinois legislature that will automatically register people to vote when they interact with state drivers’ facilities and other state agencies.

The decision to sign the legislation marks a big victory for voting rights advocates. Rauner vetoed a similar measure last year. At the time, he said the legislation would “inadvertently open the door to voter fraud and run afoul of federal election law.”

But a few changes were apparently enough to convince Rauner to sign on to automatic voter registration, which has already led to considerable gains in the number of registered voters in Oregon, the first state to implement it last year. Illinois would be the ninth state to adopt automatic voter registration, and advocates estimate it could add over 1 million voters to the state’s rolls.

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“We must protect the sanctity of our election process, and we thank the bill sponsors and stakeholders who worked with us on this piece of legislation. The Governor will sign it,” Eleni Demertzis, a Rauner spokeswoman wrote in an email.

The measure passed the Illinois House 115-0 on Monday and will head to the state Senate for consideration of the bill with the changes. The Senate previously passed a version of it 48-0.

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State Sponsored Discrimination

Cross-posted from RestoreReason.com.

Some parents don’t know best. There. I said it. Let’s face it, some parents aren’t present, some are abusive, and some are drug addicts. Then there are those who are trying their damnedest to provide for their children but their minimum wage jobs (without benefits) just don’t pay enough to make ends meet. Bottom line is, not all parents know how, or care enough to provide, the best they can for their children. Where that is the case, or, when hard working parents need a little help, it is up to all of us in a civil society, to ensure all children are safe and that their basic needs are met. As education reformer John Dewey said over a century ago, “What the best and wisest parent wants for his child, that must we want for all the children of the community. Anything less is unlovely, and left unchecked, destroys our democracy.”

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos evidently doesn’t agree. In recent testimony to Congress, no matter what question she was asked about how far states would be allowed to go in discriminating against certain types of students, she kept deflecting to “states rights” and “parental rights,” failing to say at any point in the testimony that she would ensure states receiving federal dollars would not discriminate. From watching her testimony, if she had been the Secretary of Education with Donald Trump as President back in the early 1960s, the Alabama National Guard would undoubtedly never have been called up to integrate the schools. Continue reading