Tag Archives: Voting Rights Act

SCOTUS Rules; Calif. Recall Scheduled

Current US Supreme Court

By Jim Ellis

July 6, 2021 — On their last day of the year’s early session last week, a Thursday, the Supreme Court of the United States issued rulings on the Arizona voting rights case and the California non-profit organization disclosure lawsuit.

In the Democratic National Committee v. Brnovich, the Supreme Court with Justice Samuel Alito writing for the 6-3 majority, ruled that the state of Arizona did not infringe upon minority voting rights or violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act in both prohibiting ballot harvesting with certain exceptions, and not counting provisional ballots cast from voters who do not reside in the particular precinct that the polling place covers.

The high court agreed with Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s (R) arguments that the laws are not racially motivated, nor do they intentionally discriminate against certain segments of the voting population, thus overturning the full 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling.

Originally in 2016, Brnovich won at the district court level and on the first appeal to a three-judge panel from the 9th Circuit. The DNC requested an en banc review of the original appellate ruling that agreed with Brnovich, and the entire 9th Circuit membership overturned the decision, siding with the plaintiff. At that point, AG Brnovich petitioned the Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the case. (Hearing cases en banc allows the full circuit court to overturn a decision reached by a three–judge panel. Due to the decreasing probability of U.S. Supreme Court intervention, the circuit court is often the court of last resort in the ordinary life of a case, thereby amplifying the importance of en banc review.)

In his ruling, Justice Alito stated that “every voting rule imposes a burden of some sort,” and that “mere inconvenience cannot be enough to demonstrate a violation of Section 2.” He also cautioned that, “what are at bottom very small differences should not be artificially magnified.”

While agreeing that holding free and open elections is a “valid and important state interest,” he also addressed the voter fraud argument, clearly stating that attempting to prevent such abuses is also a “strong and entirely legitimate state interest.”

In her article discussing these rulings, Supreme Court expert Amy Howe, in her Howe on the Court article that was published on the SCOTUS blog, offered that the Brnovich ruling “will make it more difficult to contest election regulations under the Voting Rights Act,” and thus likely means fewer voting rights cases coming through the courts. She further categorized this decision as a “major ruling.”

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The Pre-Redistricting Wars

redistricting-2018By Jim Ellis

Jan. 23, 2018 — Though we are in the fourth election cycle of the decade, the 2011 redistricting fights are still continuing. The US Supreme Court has been dealing with redistricting cases from five states, but it all could come to a head soon.

The lawsuits first break down into the familiar racial gerrymandering claims, which have been in the courts in some fashion or another since the Voting Rights Act was created in 1965. Currently, the topic of political gerrymandering is hot as both parties are pursuing live complaints against their opponents for drawing congressional and state legislative boundaries to maximize the political standing of one party to the unfair detriment of the other.

The major political gerrymandering case comes from Wisconsin and will likely set the tone for other such suits in Michigan, North Carolina, Texas, and possibly Maryland. Democrats are bringing the action in the first four states, while Republicans are challenging Maryland’s 6th Congressional District.

Obviously, the high court is getting involved to craft a new set of rulings relating to both racial and political gerrymandering before the entire country goes into a 50-state redistricting round upon completion of the 2020 census. Therefore, election results in 2018 and 2020 to establish incumbency both in the House of Representatives and the state legislatures become critically important.

Last week, the US Supreme Court stayed the most recent North Carolina lower court redistricting ruling. The three-judge panel invalidated the maps, determining that majority Republicans engaged in political gerrymandering. In the last election cycle the Tar Heel State boundaries were also re-drawn to remedy what the panel cited as racial gerrymandering reasons, but the Democrats were unable to make a dent in the Republicans’ 10R-3D delegation advantage.

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The Texas Re-Draw

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 21, 2017 — The special three-judge panel considering Texas redistricting, which long ago declared the state’s 35th Congressional District as a racial gerrymander, issued a ruling earlier this week that contains re-drawing deadlines.

Early in the decade the panel declared District 35, a seat containing parts of both Austin and San Antonio connected by a thin strip traveling south on Interstate 35 between the two cities and represented by veteran Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Austin), as violating parts of the Voting Rights Act. The ruling cited the intent of map creators to draw the seat using race as a primary basis. The evidence for such a decision consisted of emails among Republican staff members in the state legislature and Congress that proclaimed such a desire.

At the heart of the current issue is then-Attorney General Greg Abbott’s (R) decision to adopt the court’s temporary correction map as the state’s official plan. Once the legislature and governor agreed with his idea, the temporary map became permanent, which theoretically ended the process. The flaw in Abbott’s strategy, however, is the court declared at the time of issuance that the fixes were temporary and all of the problems were not corrected, meaning the plan was designed only to get through the 2014 election after which time the legislature was to create a permanent map.

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Nevada Numbers; Carolina Chaos

Feb. 24, 2016 — As expected, Donald Trump placed first in the Nevada Caucuses scoring just under 46 percent of the attender preference; his strongest performance to date, though the turnout was only in the 75,000 range. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) was second with 24 percent, followed by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz at 21 percent. Dr. Ben Carson and Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) trailed with five and four percent, respectively.

Though he didn’t emphasize Nevada at all, Gov. Kasich’s dead last finish behind Carson cannot be good for his pre-Ohio staying power.

Carolina Chaos

Surprise move follows surprise move in the continuing North Carolina redistricting saga that has unleashed political turmoil in the Tar Heel State.

After the three-judge federal panel sitting in Raleigh struck down Congressional Districts 1 (Rep. G.K. Butterfield; D-Wilson) and 12 (Rep. Alma Adams; D-Greensboro) in early February, the legislature, fulfilling the court-ordered directive, re-configured the map and passed it into law by the imposed Feb. 19 deadline. The March 15 primary has been moved to June 7 and, surprisingly, the run-off portion of the election process has been eliminated for the congressional contests. Primary elections for all other offices continue on March 15 and will feature the state’s traditional 40 percent threshold run-off system.

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North Carolina’s New Map

Feb. 22, 2016 — Last week, the North Carolina state Senate passed a new congressional map, responding to a court-ordered directive to remedy what a three-judge federal panel determined to be an illegal draw in Districts 1 (Rep. G.K. Butterfield-D) and 12 (Rep. Alma Adams-D). The lines were struck down just 39 days before the state’s primary election.

The resulting map, constructed and passed within a 14-day period, is substantially different from the current map. It pairs one set of incumbents, likely causes two Republican House members to square-off in a primary election, eliminates an African-American district, makes several of the 10 Republican districts more competitive, and calls upon the Board of Elections to re-schedule the congressional primary election while nomination contests for all other offices proceed as scheduled on March 15.

Since the court in its ruling about the two original African-American majority districts declared there is no evidence of polarized voting in North Carolina, Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act does not apply. Therefore, the Republican map drawers took the opportunity to break up the famous “I-85 district” that traveled from Charlotte up Interstate 85 to capture predominately black precincts in Winston-Salem, Greensboro, and at one time, as far away as Durham. Greensboro’s Rep. Adams’ 12th District that the court invalidated is now eliminated. Adams will find herself in a new Republican-leaning 13th District, while the new 12th is fully contained within Mecklenburg County and will probably elect a white Democrat from Charlotte.

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