Entries in Voting Rights (4)


Civil Rights Leaders Swarm Court for Voting Rights Act’s Section 5

Ethan Miller/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Just hours before the unveiling of a new Rosa Parks statue at the U.S. Capitol, civil rights pioneers, young and old, convened on the steps of the Supreme Court to demonstrate for the importance of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Section 5 requires certain states and jurisdictions to have any change in voting procedures approved by the federal government. Sparking outrage from protestors was Justice Antonin Scalia’s comment calling Section 5 "the perpetuation of a racial entitlement."

“I will not dignify Justice Scalia’s comment by repeating it,” said NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Jealous. "But let us be very clear. The protection of the right to vote is an American entitlement. It is a democratic entitlement. And those who would seek to use incendiary rhetoric from the bench of the Supreme Court should think twice about their place in history.”

Arguments regarding the constitutionality of Section 5 of the law began Wednesday morning in Shelby County, Al. vs. Holder.

“Voting rights are not a racial entitlement, they are an American entitlement, secured by our Constitution, starting with the Preamble, and protected by critical statutes such as the Voting Rights Act,” said the president of the Constitutional Accountability Center, Doug Kendall.

“To erect a statue today of Rosa Parks is historic, it is something long overdue. But to take a chisel and break down the statues of law of the Supreme Court is to have one side of the town make progress and the other side of town go regressive,” said Rev. Al Sharpton prior to the Court’s commencement.

Sharpton claimed the possible removal of Section 5 is an attempt by certain parties to “rob the right to vote.”

Several members of Congress, including representatives from the Congressional Black, Hispanic, and Asian-Pacific American Caucuses, also participated in the demonstration.

“We must answer President Obama’s call in the State of the Union address to shorten lines at polling places to ensure that all citizens can cast their ballots without obstruction or delay,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on the steps of the Court.

Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., spoke on his experience fighting for voting rights in the “Bloody Sunday” Selma to Montgomery civil rights march of 1965.

“We were met by state troopers who shot us with tear gas, beat us with nightsticks, and trampled us with horses,” said Lewis, who went on to speak about the challenges that minority voters still face.

“Literacy tests may be gone, raising questions like how many bubbles on a bar of soap, how many jelly beans in a jar may be gone, but people are using other means, other tactics and techniques” to infringe on the right to vote, said Lewis.

“The Voting Rights Act without Section 5 amounts to an abused Indian treaty,” continued Rev. Jesse Jackson.

Following oral arguments, Martin Luther King III, son of Martin Luther King Jr., made a different point, saying that America should make the voting process “easier, not harder.”

“It is embarrassing to some degree that in our nation, only about 48 percent of the population votes,” said King.

But the attorneys representing Shelby County bit back, claiming Section 5 infringed on certain states’ right to sovereignty.

“We put these states under prior restraint. You cannot change your election law unless the attorney general, a single unelected official, says it’s O.K. And if he doesn’t say it’s O.K., you’ve got to come to Washington…and beg the federal government for the exercise of your sovereignty?” said attorney Bert Rein.

Rein also said Section 5 causes a “substantial financial burden” and said it has cost them more than $1 billion on the state level over the past 25 years.

Shelby County attorney Butch Ellis said, "It’s time to recognize that we and the other covered states need to be considered with the same rights of sovereignty that the non-covered jurisdictions of the country experience.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Romney Says Obama Lawsuit Blocks Ohio Military Voters

(WASHINGTON) -- A new flap in the ongoing battle on voting equality began this week when Mitt Romney accused President Obama’s re-election committee of suing to restrict military voting rights in Ohio. And while Romney did not address the issue campaigning in Indiana Saturday, he called the lawsuit “an outrage” in a written statement

“The brave men and women of our military make tremendous sacrifices to protect and defend our freedoms, and we should do everything we can to protect their fundamental right to vote,” it reads. “I stand with the fifteen military groups that are defending the rights of military voters.”

Republicans say a lawsuit brought by Obama for America in July seeks to eliminate additional time for in-person early voting allotted to service members in the battleground state. Democrats, on the other hand, contend the presumptive GOP nominee is deliberately trying to distort the facts.

“Mitt Romney is falsely accusing the Obama campaign of trying to restrict military voting in Ohio,” a Friday statement said. “In fact, the opposite is true: The Obama campaign filed a lawsuit to make sure every Ohioan has early voting rights, including military members and their families.”

A series of laws passed in the past year by Ohio’s Republican state legislature and Gov. John Kasich have waived the last three days of in-person early voting before Election Day for all but members of the military. Civilians now have until Friday, Nov. 2, to cast those ballots and must arrive at the booth before 6 p.m.

Republicans faulted the extra time for civilians as too costly for local governments and prone to fraud and abuse. Meanwhile, service members were exempt from the restrictions, allowing them to vote at any time before polls close, an extra three days without restrictions.

As previously reported by ABC News, the Obama campaign sued the Buckeye State last month to block those laws from taking effect, restoring weekend voting as it was in 2008. Democrats say those last days before Nov. 6 give a crucial extra cushion for Americans who might not have had the opportunity to enter the voting booth in the days prior.  If the challenge is successful, they say, military voters would not see any difference in their rights.

The Obama campaign maintains the two-tiered privilege system violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution. In most states, men and women in uniform are given extra time to mail in absentee ballots, given that they might be serving in posts far from their homes.

The stakes of Obama for America v. Husted are clear. Obama narrowly won Ohio with 51.4 percent of its electorate and its 18 electoral votes remain hotly contested this year. Additionally, 30 percent of Ohio’s turnout cast their ballots early in 2008, according to a non-partisan voter advocacy group. This includes 93,000 votes in those last three days before the election.

Neither campaign had responded to ABC News’ request for comment.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Perry Campaign Files Lawsuit Against Virginia Ballot Access Rules

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(RICHMOND, Va.) -- Lawyers for Texas Gov. Rick Perry filed papers in federal court in Richmond Tuesday arguing that Virginia's requirement for petition circulators to be either eligible or registered voters in the state "imposes a severe burden" on Perry's freedom of speech.

According to court documents, lawyers for Perry argued that the state law requirement is unconstitutional because it "prohibits an otherwise qualified candidate for the Office of President of the United States from circulating his own candidate petitions."

The lawsuit asks the Court to preclude the enforcement of the provisions and order the certification of Perry as a candidate.

"Gov. Perry greatly respects the citizens and history of the Commonwealth of Virginia and believes Virginia Republicans should have greater access to vote for one of the several candidates for President of the United States," Perry campaign communications director Ray Sullivan said in a statement.

Richard L. Hasen, an election law expert at the University of California Irvine, says that Perry's challenge faces "long odds both politically and legally" in part because he filed suit after the filing deadline. On his election law blog, Hasen writes, "This is an emergency of Perry's (and Gingrich's) own making. Surely they knew of the requirement earlier."

Virginia requires that a presidential primary candidate collect signatures from 10,000 qualified voters including at least 400 qualified voters from each congressional district in the state.

Perry was only able to submit 6,000 signatures by the December 22 deadline.  

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Attorney General Holder Showdown on Voting Rights Law

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Justice Department may attempt to block a slew of new state laws changing requirements to vote -- that’s the warning being issued Tuesday night in a speech by Attorney General Eric Holder in Texas. If the department decides to challenge laws in more than a dozen states, including some that are now requiring photo identification in order to vote, it could lead to legal showdowns over the ballot box in a variety of states in the middle of a white-hot election year. And the potential showdown is likely to stoke the animosity between Attorney General Eric Holder and Republican members of Congress who already been battling over a controversial ATF operation.

According to Holder, the key question is whether the new laws have a discriminatory or disproportionate impact on minorities and the elderly. In referencing the dozen or so states that have recently changed voting guidelines, Holder specifically singled out Texas, South Carolina and Florida as being under review. Texas and South Carolina have seen changes involving “photo identification requirements” and in Florida there have been changes to early voting procedures.

"Although I cannot go into detail about the ongoing review of these and other state-law changes, I can assure you that it will be thorough -- and fair,” Holder will say.  “We will examine the facts, and we will apply the law. If a state passes a new voting law and meets its burden of showing that the law is not discriminatory, we will follow the law and approve the change.  And where a state can’t meet this burden, we will object as part of our obligation under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio