Suggested End of Summer Reading
By Marilyn Go, Jim Harbison, and Jacki Swearingen
Summer has not officially ended, so there is still time to squeeze in some reading about voting rights. This article contains a compilation of articles and other writings concerning redistricting, voting and related issues that may provide insight into the current and continuing challenges to protecting our democracy.
This past June, the Supreme Court issued two significant decisions concerning voting rights and the protections under federal and state law. In Allen v. Milligan, the Court reaffirmed the framework of the Voting Rights Act in holding that the Congressional map drawn by the Alabama legislature violated the Act. In Moore v. Harper, the court affirmed the authority of the North Carolina State Supreme Court to protect against gerrymandering in invalidating the "independent state legislature" theory that the legislature had the sole power to impose measures suppressing voter rights. The full impact of these decisions is yet to be determined.
• The Significance of Allen v. Milligan, from the lawyer who argued the case, (6/23/2023)
• Thanks to the Supreme Court, Elections Are Safe from at Least One Threat, (6/29/2023)
Notwithstanding the Supreme Court directive in Allen and a prior decision in 2022, Alabama refused to comply when redrawing its maps. Ultimately, a three-judge federal panel, perturbed by the open defiance of the state, appointed a special master to draw maps. See Singleton v. Allen:
• Alabama Defies the Voting Rights Act, (noting that Louisiana was also flouting a court order to redraw maps).
• Federal Court Blocks Alabama Congressional Map After Republican Lawmakers Defied U.S. Supreme Ct.
In Florida, discriminatory redistricting maps were put into place by Governor DeSantis, who refused to adopt Congressional maps drawn by the state legislature controlled by Republican majorities. A state court judge recently found after a hearing that those maps violated the State Constitution by diminishing the ability of Black Floridians to elect a representative of their choice. Alabama and Florida have filed appeals, thereby preventing implementation of properly drawn maps before the next election.
• Alabama again appeals to S.Ct.
• Florida appeals a judge's ruling that struck down redistricting map pushed by DeSantis, (9/7/2023)
Challenges to redistricting maps have been brought in a number of other states. For example, in Georgia, there is a trial (ongoing as of September 11) involving claims that Congressional maps drawn violate the Voting Rights Act. In Wisconsin, a lawsuit was brought raising claims that redistricting maps, which include a number of districts that are not contiguous, are the product of extreme partisan redistricting. That case has recently been countered with efforts to stop Justice Janet Protasiewicz (D), who was elected to the Wisconsin Supreme Court this past April by over 11% of the vote, from sitting and considering this case.
• Georgia redistricting trial opens with debate over federal requirements for Black representation.
• Wisconsin Republicans’ Nuclear Option, (9/12/2023).
• Fighting Partisan Gerrymandering in Wisconsin, (8/2/2023)
In addition, lawsuits have recently been brought challenging the validity and application of voting laws. For example, in Mississippi, a federal judge enjoined implementation of a new state law restricting the assistance that individuals and organizations could provide to Mississippi voters needing assistance due to disability, blindness, or inability to read or write. In July, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit struck down Mississippi's lifetime voting ban on persons convicted of felonies, including crimes having nothing to do with voting or governance, such as theft of timber or writing a bad check for $100. This law has prevented 10% of the voting population in Mississippi from voting and is similar to laws in 11 other states.
• Federal Court Blocks Implementation of Mississippi’s New Voting Law
• Court Strikes Down Mississippi’s Lifetime Felony Voting Ban
In Florida, a federal court enjoined a recently enacted law that imposed a $50,000 fine on organizations who have non-citizens, including lawful permanent residents, assist in collecting or handling voter registration forms on the organization’s behalf.
• Federal Court Blocks Florida Law that Targets Voter Registration, Civic Engagement, and Political Speech.
In North Carolina, the legislature passed an omnibus voting bill in June which, inter alia, that limits the time period for sending mail-in ballots while increasing the time to challenge such ballots. The law also gives poll watchers the ability to move to listen to conversations between voters and election officials. On August 24, 2023, Governor Roy Cooper vetoed the bill, but the veto could be overridden by the legislature which is controlled by a supermajority of Republicans.
• Unpacking North Carolina Republicans’ Voter Suppression Bill S.B. 747
Private individuals have also engaged in efforts to suppress the right to vote of others, such as challenges brought in Georgia to almost 100,000 voter registrations. Similarly, lawsuits have been brought to decertify election results, including a recently dismissed lawsuit brought by voters who had unsuccessfully sought to decertify certain prior election results in Arizona.
• Close to 100,000 Voter Registrations Were Challenged in Georgia — Almost All by Just Six Right-Wing Activists.
• Deja Vu: After Arizona Supreme Court Dismisses Fringe Lawsuit, Similar Case Seeks To Decertify 2022 Election Results.
Last, there are two upcoming elections on September 19 that may affect control of the House of Representatives in two states: (1) a special election in Pennsylvania to replace former State Representative Sara Innamorato (D) whose resignation in July resulted in the Democrats losing a slim majority of one seat; and (2) a special election in New Hampshire to replace Benjamin T. Bartlett IV (R), who resigned in April from the New Hampshire House of Representatives where Republicans currently hold a one-seat majority.
Further information about both elections and how to vote in these states is available from the League of Women Voters in Pennsylvania, at https://lwvpgh.org/special, or in New Hampshire at https://lwvnh.org/events/. We encourage classmates who live in the states holding elections this year not only to exercise their right to vote, but also to volunteer at organizations providing assistance to voters, as mentioned in the above articles and on the spreadsheet entitled “Voting Activism Opportunities” posted on the ClassACT HR73 website.
We also encourage all classmates to celebrate National Voter Registration Day, which falls on September 19 this year, by participating in community voter registration efforts. Information regarding opportunities to help people register to vote is available HERE.In sum, America is firm in its commitment to democratic principles protected in the right to vote, but we are challenged by continuing efforts to erode democracy. However, we take heart in the statement of 13 Presidential Foundations and Centers across the United States, which for the first time, issued a joint statement on September 7th regarding the future of our nation and an urgent call to action for all Americans. The statement notes that “democracy holds us together. We are a country rooted in the rule of law, where the protection of the rights of all people is paramount.” See HERE.