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UPDATE: Back in March, we turned our attention to the 47th anniversary of Bloody Sunday. In the months since, we’ve crisscrossed the nation and detailed how the fights of 50 years ago are being resurrected today. The Atlantic’s Andrew Cohen yesterday offered his own telling, invoking Dr. King’s famous quote, “The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice,” to break down the dangerous myths and machinations of voter suppression, concluding that “[t]hese new laws seek to bend the arc backward again, to take away from people their effective right to vote.” It’s important that we remain vigilant over the next nine weeks, so that on November 6 eligible Americans are able to cast a vote and have it count. In the words of LBJ, “Then with his vote and his voice he is equipped with a very potent weapon to guarantee his own dignity.” Click here and here for more from Andrew Cohen.
UPDATE: Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen is now asking the state Supreme Court to reinstate Act 23 (aka AB 7) in time for it to apply in November. Along with the state Department of Justice, he will file a Petition to Bypass Court of Appeals and a Motion for Consolidation in both cases. League of Women Voters lawyer Lester Pines called the move a kind of a hail Mary pass by the Attorney General, and seemed confident that the Supreme Court would reject the requests. He pointed out that this is the same court that refused to immediately take up the cases earlier this year. Still, the voting rights supporters who originally brought cases are concerned and will fight the Attorney General’s requests. Meanwhile, two federal challenges to the law are currently pending, with hearings scheduled in October.
UPDATE: In her testimony, Pennsylvania Secretary of State Carol Aichele conceded,"I don’t know what the law says," and could not support her claim that 99 percent of voters have an acceptable ID, while plaintiffs demonstrated that they have not been able to get it. Closing arguments were heard this morning. A ruling should come in the next few weeks. Mayor Michael Nutter of Philadelphia – where up to 43 percent of voters may lack valid ID – has harshly criticized the law, calling it "a bad solution looking for a problem." Click here for more from ACLU, Brennan Center, and League of Women Voters.
With voting rights under attack nationwide, we must remember our democracy is only strongest when all citizens have the opportunity to participate – which is exactly why the enforcement of the National Voter Registration Act has grown increasingly paramount ahead of the November election, especially its provision affording public assistance recipients the opportunity to register to vote at public assistance agencies.
A coalition of voting rights advocates is working to hold states accountable. Litigation citing NVRA violations has been brought against nine states – most recently in Nevada against Secretary of State Ross Miller and Department of Health & Human Services Director Michael Willden. Litigation could soon follow in Alabama where Demos has joined the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and Project Vote in filing notice against Secretary of State Beth Chapman.
All eyes are on Pennsylvania now that a lawsuit challenging HB 934, the state’s ALEC-tied voter ID law, has gone to trial. Like other unnecessary voter ID laws, this one is expected to disenfranchise thousands if allowed to go into effect, and even state elections officials admit that it would affect more Pennsylvanians than previously estimated. They also concede that there "have been no investigations or prosecutions of in-person voter fraud in Pennsylvania."
UPDATE: Judge David Flanagan made permanent his earlier injunction in the case brought by the Milwaukee NAACP and Voces de la Frontera, joining a permanent injunction issued by Judge Richard Niess in the League of Women Voters case. Now both courts would have to lift their blocking orders in order for Act 23 (aka AB 7) to be reinstated. With appeals pending, and no further rulings expected until after November, it is virtually guaranteed that the ID requirement will not apply in the general election.
UPDATE: Attorneys for both sides gave closing arguments last Friday after a weeklong trial. Experts expect the ruling, which could come before November, will hinge on whether the defendants have successfully shown that the law has a disparate impact on minorities. Representative Fischer highlighted the hurdles that many Texans would have to clear in order to acquire valid ID, pointing out that some "would have a 200-mile round-trip drive." Attorney General Eric Holder described the ID requirement as a "poll tax." As the New York Times editorialized, "People died to achieve [the Voting Rights Act], but 47 years later, the discrimination has not disappeared."
Last May, Wisconsin Governor and ALEC Alum Scott Walker signed Act 23 (aka AB 7), a voter ID law that also counts ALEC affiliated legislators among its sponsors. Thanks to the NAACP/Voces and LWV court challenges, voters in Tuesday’s recall election were not legally required to produce ID in order to vote – but that doesn’t mean Election Day was problem free.