The U.S. Department of Justice has been forced to explore different strategies to protect voters from discriminatory and burdensome election laws in the void left by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder. Without a formula to determine which jurisdictions must preclear their election laws under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, Section 2 is the next best option to protect voters.
The Supreme Court of the United States delivered several landmark decisions over the past few weeks. Though there was major progress for Civil Rights, the Supreme Court delivered a major blow to the voting rights community and minority voters throughout the country.
As many states are wrapping up legislative sessions, two continue to blink on our radar. Both Oregon and Texas have bills on their dockets that could affect voters in their states. We will watch both states closely in the coming days.
Following partisan fights surrounding election reforms, one election reform is giving hope for bi-partisan compromise nationally. Online voter registration is gaining recognition for its benefits to voters and elections administrators as more states are considering implementing an online system. Currently, 12 states have online voter registration measures in place, and five are working on implementation or final approval of similar measures.
Late last week, a Texas judge issued an injunction striking down five provisions of Texas’ voter registration laws, in what many are calling a victory for voter registration organizations. Numerous provisions of the law were in question, with many of the more onerous provisions being halted by a temporary injunction pending trial.
Today, the Voting Rights Act turns 47 years old. The 1965 law was passed to put an end to Jim Crow-era laws that, along with intimidation and violence, disenfranchised black Americans in the South. Even when black southerners were able to register to vote, they were often required to pass literacy tests, recite the preamble of the Constitution from memory, and pay poll taxes. The Voting Rights Act gave the federal government the tools to prevent discriminatory voting practices passed by the states and guarantee the right to vote for all eligible voters.
As we examined the Texas voter ID law last week, the numbers made clear that when it comes to voter records, some states need a good spring cleaning. For those of us who have grown up with computers, the solution seems simple. Modernization of voter data and registration information could lead to numerous changes which would have extreme upsides for individual states, as well as voters and the nation as a whole.
The biggest story in voting rights this week is news out of Texas that the Justice Department had blocked the state’s new voter ID law. On Thursday, an amended complaint was filed in the case which directly challenged Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.