Tag Archives: voting rights

Federal court strikes down Kansas proof of citizenship law for voter registration

Kansas and Arizona both use a “dual” election system based upon the form of voter registration one uses.

NoVoteBoth states refused to allow those who use the federal voter registration form, which requires only an attestation of U.S. citizenship, to vote in state and local races after losing a legal challenge earlier to require the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to add the state-specific requirement of proof of citizenship to the federal voter registration form for Kansas and Arizona. Voters using the federal voter registration form can only vote in federal races.

This “dual” election system is being litigated in Kansas, and on Monday, the U.S. District Court for the state of Kansas, once again, struck down that state’s proof of citizenship requirement for voter registration, finding that Secretary of State Kobach had failed during trial to show evidence of widespread voter fraud. Judge Rejects Kansas Law Requiring Voters to Show Proof of Citizenship:

The ruling was a blow to Mr. Kobach, a Republican who has emerged as a national figure on [voter suppression], a candidate for governor of Kansas and an ally of President Trump in part by claiming that large numbers of noncitizens have cast ballots in American elections. Experts on election law say that there is no evidence that voter fraud is a pervasive problem.

For Kansas voters, the decision means that in elections this fall, people will not be required to provide proof of their citizenship in order to register to vote, as required under a Kansas law passed in 2011.

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SCOTUS punts on two gerrymandering cases

The U.S. Supreme Court began the day with 19 argued cases yet to be decided. This included two of the most highly anticipated cases of this term involving political gerrymandering, Gil v. Whitford (Wisconsin) and Benisek v. Lamone (Maryland).

Today the U.S. Supreme Court disappointed everyone by punting on these two cases. It was an anticlimactic end to these gerrymandering cases, which are likely to return in the future with additional cases moving through the appellate courts pipeline.

In Gil v. Whitford (.pdf) Chief Justice Roberts held that “The plaintiffs have failed to demonstrate Article III standing.”

The right to vote is “individual and personal in nature,” Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U. S. 533, 561, and “voters who allege facts showing disad- vantage to themselves as individuals have standing to sue” to remedy that disadvantage, Baker, 369 U. S., at 206. The plaintiffs here al- leged that they suffered such injury from partisan gerrymandering, which works through the “cracking” and “packing” of voters. To the extent that the plaintiffs’ alleged harm is the dilution of their votes, that injury is district specific. An individual voter in Wisconsin is placed in a single district. He votes for a single representative. The boundaries of the district, and the composition of its voters, deter- mine whether and to what extent a particular voter is packed or cracked. A plaintiff who complains of gerrymandering, but who does not live in a gerrymandered district, “assert[s] only a generalized grievance against governmental conduct of which he or she does not approve.” United States v. Hays, 515 U. S. 737, 745.

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Supreme Court upholds Ohio’s voter roll purge of infrequent voters

The U.S. Supreme Court began today with 25 cases yet to be decided over the next three weeks before the end of June. “The court is on pace to issue 48 percent of its opinions during June, the highest percentage in history, according to Adam Feldman, a scholar who runs the empiricalscotus.com website.” Get Ready for Some Blockbuster U.S. Supreme Court Rulings.

The court is racing toward the end of its nine-month term with some of its biggest cases still to be decided, led by the fight over President Donald Trump’s travel ban. The justices also will rule on partisan gerrymandering, voter purges, union fees, internet sales taxes, credit-card fees and cell-phone privacy.

This morning the Court issued its ruling in the voter purge case, Husted v. A Philip Randolph Institute (.pdf). Justice Alito writing for the majority in a 5-4 decision reversed the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. The majority opinion holds that Ohio’s process follows subsection (d) of the National Voter Registration Act.

Ohio’s Supplemental Process follows subsection (d) to the letter. It is undisputed that Ohio does not remove a registrant on change-of-residence grounds unless the registrant is sent and fails to mail back a return card and then fails to vote for an additional four years.

Respondents argue (and the Sixth Circuit held) that, even if Ohio’s process complies with subsection (d), it nevertheless violates the Failure-to-Vote Clause—the clause that generally prohibits States from removing people from the rolls “by reason of [a] person’s failure to vote.” §20507(b)(2); see also §21083(a)(4)(A). Respondents point out that Ohio’s Supplemental Process uses a person’s failure to vote twice: once as the trigger for sending return cards and again as one of the requirements for removal. Respondents conclude that this use of nonvoting is illegal.

We reject this argument because the Failure-to-Vote Clause, both as originally enacted in the NVRA and as amended by HAVA, simply forbids the use of nonvoting as the sole criterion for removing a registrant, and Ohio does not use it that way. Instead, as permitted by subsection (d), Ohio removes registrants only if they have failed to vote and have failed to respond to a notice.

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‘Economically forgotten’ have much in common with America’s poor

Axios.com has an Exclusive: 40% in U.S. can’t afford middle-class basics:

Screen Shot 2018-05-16 at 6.19.16 AM

Data: United Way; Chart: Chris Canipe/Axios

At a time of rock-bottom joblessness, high corporate profits and a booming stock market, more than 40% of U.S. households cannot pay the basics of a middle-class lifestyle — rent, transportation, child care and a cellphone, according to a new study.

Quick take: The study, conducted by United Way, found a wide band of working U.S. households that live above the official poverty line, but below the cost of paying ordinary expenses. Based on 2016 data, there were 34.7 million households in that group — double the 16.1 million that are in actual poverty, project director Stephanie Hoopes tells Axios.

Why it matters: For two years, U.S. politics has been dominated by the anger and resentment of a self-identified “forgotten” class, some left behind economically and others threatened by changes to their way of life.

  • The United Way study, to be released publicly Thursday, suggests that the economically forgotten are a far bigger group than many studies assume — and, according to Hoopes, appear to be growing larger despite the improving economy.
  • The study dubs that middle group between poverty and the middle class “ALICE” families, for Asset-limited, Income-constrained, Employed. (The map above, by Axios’ Chris Canipe, depicts that state-by-state population in dark brown.)
  • These are households with adults who are working but earning too little — 66% of Americans earn less than $20 an hour, or about $40,000 a year if they are working full time.

When you add them together with the people living in poverty, you get 51 million households. “It’s a magnitude of financial hardship that we haven’t been able to capture until now,” Hoopes said.

By the numbers: Using 2016 data collected from the states, the study found that North Dakota has the smallest population between poverty and middle class, at 32% of its households. The largest is 49%, in California, Hawaii and New Mexico. “49% is shocking. 32% is also shocking,” Hoopes said.

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Poor People’s Campaign kickoff on Monday

Here is something you can persuade your local church congregation into supporting and participating in. After all, WWJD?

On Monday, thousands of low-wage workers, clergy and activists will gather at the U.S. Capitol and more than 30 statehouses across the country to kick off the Poor People’s Campaign (organization website), a civil disobedience movement that aims to push the issue of poverty to the top of the national political agenda. Here’s how the Poor People’s Campaign aims to finish what MLK started:

Inspired by a 1968 initiative planned by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., the multiracial coalition will involve 40 days of protests and direct actions to highlight the issues of systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation, the war economy and militarism. Organizers are pitching it as one of the largest waves of nonviolent direct action in U.S. history.

About 41 million Americans live below the official poverty line, the majority of them white. Organizers with the Poor People’s Campaign say official measures of poverty are too narrow, and the number of poor and low-income Americans expands to 140 million if food, clothing, housing and utility costs, as well as government assistance programs, are taken into account.

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Trump administration sabotages the census, gets sued by at least 12 states (Updated)

On Monday, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross announced his decision to add a controversial question on citizenship to the 2020 census came in the face of opposition from career officials at the Census Bureau who fear it will depress response rates, especially from immigrants. Wilbur Ross Overruled Career Officials at Census Bureau to Add Citizenship Question:

It would be the first time since 1950 that the full, once-a-decade census asks people about their citizenship. The Constitution requires a count of all residents of the country every ten years. The Census Bureau conducts a separate detailed survey of a sample of U.S. households that includes questions about citizenship.

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In a memo announcing his decision, Ross said that “The Census Bureau and many stakeholders expressed concern that [a citizenship question] would negatively impact the response rate for non-citizens.”

But Ross added that “neither the Census Bureau nor the concerned stakeholders could document that the response rate would in fact decline materially.”

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A Commerce spokesman said that Ross “took a hard look” at an alternative proposal by the Census Bureau to get citizenship data without adding the question. But he ultimately decided the proposed method “would provide an incomplete picture.” The Ross memo argues that the value of the data collected from the new question will outweigh any harm.

ProPublica first reported in December that the Justice Department had submitted a last-minute request that the Census Bureau add a question on citizenship to the 2020 survey. The Justice Department argued that better data on citizens was needed to better enforce voting rights protections for minority groups.

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The driving force behind the request for the new question, according to internal emails, was a Justice Department political appointee, John Gore, who spent years as an attorney in private practice defending GOP redistricting maps around the country.

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