This Week: A Mixed Bag For Ex-Felon Voting Rights

Voting rights primer
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December 16, 2019 10:09 a.m.

Ex-Felons Get The Franchise In Kentucky: Andy Beshear’s gubernatorial win in Kentucky last month also brought the restoration of voting rights for 140,000 ex-felons. Beshear promised the move, which he could do unilaterally, on the campaign trail and he delivered on that promise Thursday, two days after taking office. The worrying point for advocates is, without a permanent change to Kentucky’s ban on ex-felon voting, that it could be just as easily undone by his successor.

Florida Looks To Purge Certain Ex-Felons From The Roles: Florida took a step towards implementing the GOP measure undermining a felon re-enfranchisement constitutional amendment voters approved last year. The state has started collecting information on the ex-felons on the voter rolls who have not paid off all their court fees, as is required to vote under the GOP bill passed in the summer. The information would be used to then purge voters who may have registered without paying off their fees, which wasn’t required for the first six months the amendment was in effect. The GOP law has been challenged in court, where the state has appealed a preliminary decision by a judge allowing ex-felons who can’t afford to pay off the fees to still vote. The new process unveiled last week won’t take into account the voter’s financial situation as officials decide whether he or she is eligible to remain registered under the new GOP law.

A Pro-Voting Rights Bill Advances In New Jersey: Up to 80,000 people in New Jersey could regain the right to vote under a new bill that took one step closer to passage last week. The measure, which advanced out of Senate committee Thursday, would restore the franchise to New Jerseyans on probation and parole. If passed on the Senate floor, where it’s expected for a vote this week, it would next go to the Democratic governor’s desk.

Judge Orders Wisconsin To Conduct Massive Purge: A state court judge in Wisconsin ordered Friday that 234,000 voters be removed from the rolls. The order stems from a lawsuit brought by a conservative group that alleged the state had violated its list maintenance policies by not removing the voters, who had been sent mailers in October seeking that they confirm their registrations. Wisconsin had argued in the case that it was not obligated to remove the voters until 2021, while the judge — siding with the conservative group — said Wisconsin was required to remove them within 30 days of sending the letters.

We May Be Getting Closer To Finding Out Wilbur Ross’ Full Census Antics: There are now legal disputes in both D.C. and New York federal courts aimed at getting a fuller picture of why and how the Trump administration sought to add a census citizenship question. Last week featured developments in both cases:

  • In D.C. a judge fast tracked the House Oversight Committee’s lawsuit seeking enforcement of subpoenas from their probe into the census citizenship question.
  • In the New York census case, where a request that the Trump administration be sanctioned is pending, the Justice Department couldn’t explain why several documents that should have been turned over in the litigation had been “inadvertently” withheld.
  • In response to the filing in the New York case, a judge ordered the Justice Department to explain by Thursday where it is in investigating whether other documents should have been produced in the case.

None of these developments guarantee that more information will be made public about the census citizenship push. But at the very least, neither judge appears willing to let the administration off the hook quite yet.

Kobach’s Sloppy Anti-Fraud System Abandoned In Kansas:  Kansas has suspended the use of the controversial voter roll maintenance program CrossCheck, which was championed by Trump voter fraud commission Kris Kobach when he was secretary of state there. CrossCheck was a target of criticism for an approach to matching voting records across various states in a way that was prone to false positives that allegedly affected voters of color disproportionately. Kansas is abandoning the program as part of a legal settlement from a lawsuit alleging security vulnerabilities in how CrossCheck was being implemented in the state. A DHS review of Kansas’ program confirmed vulnerabilities existed.

What Shelby County Case Has Done To Voting In Georgia: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution took a close look at what eight years of poll closures or relocations did to the time and effort it takes to vote in Georgia. It found that the changes in voting site locations prevented somewhere between  54,000 to 85,000 ballots from being cast in the period. “Most” of those closures/relocations took place after the Supreme Court’s Shelby County decision, which gutted the Voting Rights provision requiring Georgia get the federal government’s permission when changing its election practices. “Black voters were 20% more likely to miss elections because of long distances,” AJC said.

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