Tag Archives: voting

The Voting Rights Act

The Supreme Court ruled on Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District No. 1 NAMUDNO v. Holder, No. 08-322 (2013), answering the question of the whether a district (not the state) could seek the bailout provision under the Voting Rights Act.

The decision of the Supreme Court is important here because it did not rule on the issue of whether the Voting Rights Act was constitutional.

Instead, the Supreme Court ruled that the district could use the “bailout” provision under the Voting Rights Act, even if the state could not.  In holding this, the Supreme Court explained that the district fell under the definition of a “State of political subdivision,” and thereby could use the “bailout” provision.

Generally, the Voting Rights Act requires certain states to get pre-clearance before making any changes to elections.  One of these states includes Texas.  However, there is a provision (“bailout”) that states that the state can seek a declaratory judgment from a three-judge panel District Court in Washington, D.C.  42 USC 1973(b)(a)(1), 1973c(a).  The bailout provision requires:

  • The state has not used any forbidden voting test for the last 10 years;
  • The state has not been subject to a valid objection under the Voting Rights Act section 5;
  • The state has not been found liable for other rights act violations; and
  • The state has engaged in constructive efforts to eliminate intimidation and harassment of voters.

The Voting Rights Act only authorizes a bailout suit by a State or political subdivision.  42 USC 19873b(a)(1)(A).

Here, the government argued that under the statutory definition of the bailout provision, a district could not seek a bailout provision.  The Act provided that a “‘political subdivision’ shall mean any county or parish, except that where registration for voting is not conducted under the supervision of a county or parish, the term shall include any other subdivision of a State which conducts registration for voting.” Section 14(c)(2).  The government argued that because the district was not a county or parish and did not conduct its own voter registration, the district was not covered under the Act.

However, the Supreme Court disagreed.  Citing previous Supreme Court cases, the Supreme Court stated the definition of a “political subdivision” must be broad and not limited to the statutory definition.  The Supreme Court explained,

Our decisions have already established that the statutory definition in [section] 14(c)(2) does not apply to every use of the term “political subdivision” in the Act.  We have, for example, concluded that the definition does not apply to the pre clearance obligation of [section] 5.

There, we expressly rejected the suggestion that the city of Sheffield was beyond the ambit of [section] 5 because it did not itself register voters and hence was not a political subdivision as the term is defined in [section] 14(c)(2) of the Act… [O]nce a State has been designed for coverage, [section] 14(c)(2)’s definition of political subdivision has no operative significance in determining the reach of [section] 5.

(markings in original).  Taking a broad approach, the Supreme Court ruled that a district was a political subdivision.

In addition, the Supreme Court noted that the 1982 amendments provided that even if the state could not bailout, a political subdivision might be able to assuming it met the bailout requirements.

via We gave you a chance: Today’s Shelby County decision in Plain English : SCOTUSblog.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under civil rights, District Court, legal decision, rules, state, Supreme Court

No citizenship proof for voters

The Supreme Court decided Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, where the Supreme Court ruled that federal law preempted Arizona’s law.  In other words, it held that Arizona’s requirement of proof of citizenship was in conflict with the National Voter Registration Act.  Thereby, that requirement was rejected.

Arizona’s law required registered voters to show proof of citizenship.  Under Arizona’s law, a person must be a citizen to be eligible to vote.  This case concerned only how Arizona was trying to enforce that qualification.  In 2004, Arizona voters passed Proposition 200, which provided that voters must “present proof of citizenship when they register to vote and to present identification when they vote on election day.”  If an individual does not provide “satisfactory” proof of citizenship, then the application must be rejected.

The issue here is how this citizenship-proof law and the National Voting Registration Act work together.  The Voter Registration Act required that states must “accept and use” the Federal Form.  The Voter Registration Act provided that a state shall “ensure that any eligible applicant is registered to vote in an election… if the valid voter registration form of the applicant is post-marked.” (italics in original).

Although the Voter Registration Act provides that states can create their own state-specific voter-registration forms, the Voting Registration Act also places a backstop.  The Supreme Court explained that,

No matter what procedural hurdles a State’s own form imposes, the Federal Form guarantees that a simple means of registering to vote in federal elections will be available.

Based on this language, the Supreme Court rejected Arizona’s arguments.  If Arizona, or any other state, could demand Federal Form applicants additional pieces of information, “the Federal Form ceases to perform any meaningful function, and would be a feeble means of ‘increas[ing] the number of eligible citizens who register to vote in elections for Federal Office.” (quotations and marks in original).

Leave a comment

Filed under civil rights, legal decision, rules, state, Supreme Court

NBA Union Executive Director Dismissed

The last couple of days, I have been reading about the possible ousting of NBA Union Executive Director.  Yesterday (Saturday), the union representatives voted unanimously to dismiss him.

After a 469-page audit report conducted a law firm, the report charged former executive director Billy Hunter with nepotism, poor management, and abuse of union resources.  The audit did not find any criminal wrongdoing.  Nevertheless, the report concluded that Hunter had put his own interests ahead of the union’s and recommended that the players reconsider his employment.

The move to dismiss the former NBA union Executive Director Billy Hunter was announced by the union president Derek Fisher.  Hunter’s business practices had drawn the scrutiny of three government agencies.

In his blog, Hunter announced, “During the days and weeks ahead, my legal team and I will begin carefully reviewing the actions taken and statements made against me in the meeting room in my absence.”

via N.B.A. Players Dismiss Union Leader – NYTimes.com.

Leave a comment

Filed under employment, labor, union

Voting Flaws Widespread

If you read my Minnesota Lawyer – JD Rising article, accessed here, you will know that there are a lot of voting problems that affect voters.

The Pew Charitable Trusts recently released a major new study which shoes that the flaws in the American election system are deep and widespread.  You can see the results via an interactive tool here.  The full brief can be accessed here.

The Pew Charitable Trusts ranked 50 states on 17 indicators, including but not limited to wait times, lost votes, problems with absentee and provisional ballots.  The study is based on data from the 2008 and 2010 elections.

The problematic findings are as follows.

  • Some states lost very few votes thanks to shortcomings in voting technology and voter confusion.  The best reporting failure rates was of 0.5% or less in 2008.  West Virginia’s rate was 3.2%.
  • Voter registration rejections varied.  North Dakota does not require voter registration, and Alabama and Kansas reported rejecting less than 0.05% of the applications in 2008.  Pennsylvania and Indiana each rejected more than half of the registration applications.
  • Arizona and California had the highest rates of problems with voter registration and absentee ballots.  In 2010, California rejected 0.7% absentee ballots, a higher rate than any other state.
  • In Colorado, where 70% of the voters cast ballots by mail in 2012, rejected 0.4% of ballots in 2010.
  • Nationwide, a bit over 1% of voters are given a provisional ballot.  In Arizona, the rate in 2008 was of 6.5%.  In Ohio, it was 3.6%.

Some of the other findings state:

  • In 2008, the 10 states with the shortest times had waits on average of fewer than 6 minutes.  South Carolina had the longest wait times of just over an hour.  Georgia had more than 37 minutes.
  • Only 8 States provided all possible voter lookup tools (Indiana, Maryland, Minnesota, North Carolina, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Wisconsin).  Only 2 States had no information at all (California and Vermont).
  • Six of the 10 states with the lowest rates of nonvoting due to registration problems (Idaho, Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Dakota, and Wisconsin) have allowed Election Day registration for at least two decades.  North Dakota does not require voter registration.
  • The high performers are: Colorado, Delaware, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Washington, and Wisconsin.
  • The low performers are: Alabama, California, Mississippi, New York, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and West Virginia.

 

via U.S. Voting Flaws Are Widespread, Study Shows – NYTimes.com.

Leave a comment

Filed under civil rights