This Week in 200 Words
In state updates, a judge in Florida struck down part of a law that previously barred formerly incarcerated individuals from being eligible to vote. Illinois has beefed up its election security in the state, eliminating glitches that hackers previously used to enter voter rolls during 2016. Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder met with advocates in North Carolina to address gerrymandering. A federal complaint was filed against Indiana in an effort to ensure the states’ voting machines are updated by the 2020 elections. Wisconsin is weighing the possibility of purging 234,000 people from its voter rolls. Tennessee’s online voter registration system has reached a new milestone by registering more than half a million transactions it launched in September of 2017. North Carolina has begun efforts to improve election security in the state.
In national news, this week the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a previous ruling requiring that congressional maps be redrawn due to partisan gerrymandering. Also, Facebook has unveiled its new election security features ahead of the 2020 Presidential election. In an op-ed, Janai Nelson from the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund makes it clear that voting rights as a topic has largely not been covered in the last 31 Presidential debates. The movement for voting rights lost an icon with the passing of Representative Elijah Cummings.
Not all political campaigns are competitive, and many districts are going to remain reliably red or blue this election season. So if your candidate won’t win, why should you vote? The answer is simple. Voting is not just about the candidates, and it’s not just about civic duty, either. From voter registration to turnout, participation in elections actually helps to make future elections run more smoothly.
Jayla Allen, a third-generation student at the historically Black Prairie View A&M University in Texas, cautioned members of Congress, during a May hearing on the enforcement of the Voting Rights Act in Texas, that a perilous future lies ahead if voter suppression is not curbed soon. “If the recent rise of discriminatory voting laws is not stopped, I fear that more and more people—and particularly young people of color—will become discouraged, disengaged, and shut out of the democratic process,” Allen said.
Allen, our client, represents just one of the thousands of individuals who have been affected by increasingly targeted efforts to curtail voting rights in the United States. Black and Latino communities are disproportionately disenfranchised by restrictive election laws. Yet when New York Times readers identified topics they believed were given short shrift in recent debates, voting was glaringly absent from the list. Instead, Social Security, the opioid crisis, affordable housing, women’s issues, and various other topics took precedence. Indeed, voting rights was not a topic presented in any of the 25 presidential debates of the 2016 election, nor in any of the six debates that occurred this year. This totals 31 consecutive presidential debates where there has been virtual silence on voting.
Over the course of his 12 terms in Congress, US Representative Elijah Cummings was a powerful Democratic leader, spearheading the influential House Oversight Committee and becoming a forceful voice for the Democratic Party on a number of civil rights issues. One area where his advocacy proved to be especially powerful was in the field of voting rights, and for years Cummings served as one of the staunchest defenders of the franchise in Congress.
The Supreme Court on Monday officially wiped out a lower court ruling from April that had struck down Michigan’s congressional map as giving an unconstitutional boost to Republicans. The high court’s move was expected, since the justices decided in June that federal courts can’t rein in politicians who draw political maps to entrench a partisan advantage.
The Washington Post: America’s laws have always left our politics vulnerable to foreign influence
The indictment of Lev Parnas, Igor Fruman, David Correia and Andrey Kukushkin for allegedly breaking campaign finance laws — including running a scheme to funnel foreign money into American elections — was extraordinary, given the accused’s ties to the president’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani and to President Trump himself. But in another sense, their actions weren’t at all novel: They were merely the latest exploitation of a political system that has always been susceptible to foreign interference.
Facebook on Monday announced that it removed four networks of “coordinated inauthentic behavior” tied to Russia and Iran from its services as it launches new features designed to make posts related to the upcoming 2020 U.S. presidential election more transparent.
A group of Floridians with felony convictions won an important victory in their fight for voting rights on Friday when a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction against a controversial state law that requires the payment of court fines and fees before people with felony records can regain the right to vote. US District Judge Robert Hinkle issued a limited ruling Friday blocking part of SB 7066, a Florida law that requires people with felony convictions to pay all fines and fees related to their sentences before they can register to have their voting rights restored.
Illinois-GCN: Illinois outlines election security strategy
Although the Department of Homeland Security is working to secure the 2020 elections, state officials and independent experts say the federal government could be doing more.
At an Oct. 15 House Homeland Security Committee field hearing in Gurnee, Ill., lawmakers heard from state and local officials responsible for administering and securing elections with only a fraction of the resources the federal government can bring to bear.
North Carolina-WRAL: Former Obama AG huddles with NC groups on redistricting
Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder strategized on redistricting reform Thursday with left-leaning groups that are knee-deep in the issue in North Carolina. Holder, who served under former President Barack Obama, met with activists in Raleigh and Greensboro. He’s chairman of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, making him the Democratic Party’s point man on redistricting reform, gerrymandering lawsuits and state legislative fights heading into the 2020 elections.
Indiana- Indianapolis Star: Federal complaint filed to force upgrading Indiana voting machines by 2020 elections
An Indiana nonprofit has filed a federal complaint against the Indiana Election Commission and Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson over the state’s lack of voting machines that produce a paper trail.
On Thursday, Indiana Vote by Mail and five Indiana residents filed the complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana. Vote by Mail describes itself as a nonpartisan organization that is committed to passing legislation to make Indiana elections fair and accessible for all voters.
A legal complaint filed by a conservative law firm in Wisconsin is arguing that the state should remove 234,000 voters from the state’s voter rolls because they may have moved recently.
The complaint, filed Tuesday by the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty against members of the Wisconsin Elections Commission, says state law requires the commission to remove from the active voting rolls voters who don’t respond to a recent mailing, made as part of a regular effort to update voter rolls, within 30 days.
With just weeks now until the November Election Day, the North Carolina State Board of Elections is starting a voter confidence campaign. State officials said the idea is to provide regular updates on efforts to ensure that when a voter votes, the vote counts and the election has not been tampered with.
The Tullahoma News: Tennessee’s online voter registration hits milestone
As Tullahoma gears up for its election season, Secretary of State Tre Hargett has announced Tennessee’s online voter registration hit more than half a million transactions since it launched in September 2017. That includes new online voter registrations or voters updating their addresses.
The Daily Gazette: New York’s new early voting option will mean using new technology
You may not have known it, but the last time you voted may also have been the last time you’ll sign your name in a thick blue voter registration book. As part of implementing the state’s new mandate to allow early voting ahead of election days, all counties with more than 50,000 registered voters are switching to using electronic poll books — and voters will sign on a small video display screen with a stylus pen, rather than with ink on paper.