Tag Archives: voting rights

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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Trial of proof-of-citizenship voter registration law ends, decision of court to follow

Closing arguments in the Kansas proof-of-citizenship voter registration law case were Monday. Testimony ends in Kansas voting law trial. U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson said she couldn’t say when she would issue an opinion but that she was aware this year’s elections were quickly approaching. She gave attorneys until April 16 for any final legal filings in the case.

The GOP’s voter suppression specialist, Secretary of State Kris Kobach (above), returned to court on Tuesday for a contempt hearing for violating the judge’s orders. Judge harshly criticizes Kobach during contempt hearing:

A visibly angry federal judge on Tuesday blasted Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach for his office’s failure to ensure that certain voters are notified that they are eligible to vote in the upcoming election while a lawsuit over a state voting law makes its way through the courts.

U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson criticized Kobach during a hearing on a motion from The American Civil Liberties Union to hold Kobach in contempt of court for not updating the state’s election guide or ensuring that county election officials send postcards to residents who registered to vote at driver licensing offices without providing proof of citizenship. Tuesday’s hearing came after seven days of testimony in the ACLU’s challenge of the state’s voter registration law.

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Kris Kobach and his ‘proof of citizenship’ law on trial

GOP voter suppression specialist, Kris Kobach, is unbelievably the Secretary of State of Kansas. He is the author of  the so-called “Arizona Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act,” Prop. 200 in 2004, provisions of which require proof of citizenship to register to vote and presenting a photo I.D. to receive a ballot.

In 2012, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals sitting en banc in Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council, held that the requirement to provide proof of citizenship to register to vote is invalid as preempted by the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA) — but the requirement to provide voter identification at the polling place is valid. In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed in a 7-2 decision, with Justice Antonin Scalia delivering the Court’s opinion, the Ninth Circuit’s ruling that Arizona’s proof of citizenship requirement is preempted by the NVRA.

Kris Kobach had enacted a similar law in Kansas, the Kansas Secure and Fair Elections (SAFE) Act in 2011.

The response of Kobach to the Supreme Court ruling, along with a series of hanger-on Arizona Secretaries of State, all Republicans, was to set up a dual voter registration system, one for the NVRA federal voter registration form which would allow citizens to vote only in federal races (denying them their right to vote in state and local races),  and one for state voter registration forms, that require proof of citizenship, and allow voter to vote in all races and ballot measures.

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Washington is the tenth state to adopt automatic voter registration. Whither Arizona?

At the start of this year, nine states had adopted universal (automatic) voter registration.

AVR 2017 Map

The State of Washington will become the tenth state, and the states of New Jersey and Nevada are in the que. Whither Arizona? This should be the issue in the Arizona Secretary of State race this year.

Steve Benen reports, Automatic voter registration poised to reach another state:

[T]he Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law noted yesterday, the [automatic voter registration] policy will soon be the law in a fifth of the states.

Washington is set to become the latest state to automatically register citizens to vote at state agencies. The State House and Senate agreed on language and passed the legislation today. […]

Under the bill, Washingtonians who apply for or renew an enhanced driver’s license at the Department of Licensing will automatically be registered to vote unless they decline. The bill also requires public assistance agencies to move toward automatic voter registration, and for the state’s health benefit exchange to implement electronic voter registration.

According to the Brennan Center, the bill in the state of Washington is now headed to Gov. Jay Inslee (D), who is expected to sign it into law.

The Evergreen State will then join Oregon, California, Alaska, Colorado, Illinois, Georgia, West Virginia, Rhode Island, and Vermont as states that have adopted AVR.

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Register high school students to vote at March for Our Lives and #NeverAgain events

In 2015, Arizona became the 1st state to pass law requiring high-school civics test: The American Civics Act will require students to pass 60 of the 100 questions on the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization civics test. They can first take the test in eighth grade, and can retake it until they pass.

If Arizona really wants to teach its children civics – the obligation of American citizens to actively participate in the democratic political process, at a minimum, through voting  – then an opportunity to put actions before empty platitudes will present itself in the coming weeks.

The students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida,  have organized the March for Our Lives and #NeverAgain movement. Several civics events are planned, i.e., the First Amendment rights of freedom of speech, the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances:

Students, teachers, and allies will take part in a for 17 minutes at 10am on March 14, 2018. Join us in saying !http://bit.ly/EnoughMarch14.

On March 24 students, teachers and allies will take to the streets of Washington, DC and our communities across the country for March for Our Lives. We will be the last group of students who have to stand up for fallen children due to senseless gun violence. March with us. Sign up at marchforourlives.com.

On April 20th students and teachers will participate in the National School Walkout at 10:00 a.m. Sit outside your schools and peacefully protest. Make some noise. Voice your thoughts. “We are students, we are victims, we are change.” Sign the petition at Change.org National High School Walk-Out for Anti Gun Violence.

My thought was that the Arizona Secretary of State’s office and our 15 County Recorder’s offices, along with voter registration organizations such as the League of Women Voters and many others, could coordinate with Arizona’s school districts to make voter registration tables available at every Arizona high school for seniors participating in these extraordinary events to register to vote. High school civics teachers should see this as a golden opportunity to teach their students about civics.

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Authoritarian Tea-Publicans are plotting to impeach the Pa. Supreme Court over new congressional map

Last month, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court struck down the GOP-gerrymandered congressional districts as violative of the Pennsylvania state constitution, and ordered all 18 districts redistricted.

The court gave Democratic Governor Tom Wolf and the Republican-controlled General Assembly about three weeks to approve a fast-tracked plan in its Jan. 22 order.

Neither side was able to take advantage of that window, which set up the next step in the court’s order: Its own imposition of new district lines by Feb. 19.

House and Senate Republicans made one last pitch to try to forestall the state court takeover of Pennsylvania’s Congressional maps, but were rebuffed by Gov. Wolf. Pa. redistricting is in the court’s hands now, after Gov. Wolf rebuffs last pitch for delay.

On Monday, State Supreme Court released a new congressional map for 2018 elections:

Under the court’s redrawn map, districts more closely align with county lines, and only 13 counties are split among two or three districts. By contrast, under the last map, enacted by the legislature in 2011, more than twice as many counties were split among multiple districts.

In striking down that map last month as unconstitutional, the justices said the new districts should be as compact and contiguous as possible. Their new map, they wrote in an order, is “superior or comparable” to proposals submitted by the participants and interested groups during the legal challenge that led to the historic ruling.

Pa-map

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