Perhaps the biggest voting rights news last week was the announcement by the Supreme Court Friday that it was taking up the Census citizenship case. The court will hear arguments in the case in April. A federal judge had previously blocked the administration from adding a question about citizenship to the Census. The move sets up the possibility that the justices will decide whether the question can stay on the 2020 census by the end of the term. The Justice Department, in appealing the case to the Supreme Court while bypassing the appellate court, pointed to a June deadline for printing the survey forms — though, for extra money, the government can push the deadline back a few more months.
Texas Secretary of State David Whitley apologized in a letter to lawmakers last Wednesday for his handling of a list of alleged noncitizen voters that proved to be filled with errors and false positives. The apology was a half-hearted one, and Whitley did not back down from the methodology he used to create the list, despite the fact that early warnings about its sloppiness were born out to be true. He sent the letter as his confirmation by the Texas legislature remains up in the air. His confirmation will require the support of 2/3 of the state’s senate, meaning that he will likely need at least some Democratic votes if he wants to be confirmed.
Meanwhile, the staffer in his office who was the point person on assembling the list abruptly resigned earlier this month. Before becoming the state’s New Voter Registration Manager, the staffer, Betsy Schonhoff, was a “political associate” for former Gov. Rick Perry’s presidential campaign. Whitley spokesman Sam Taylor said that Schonhoff “didn’t provide any reason for her resignation” and that before she resigned “we did not have any discussions with her about her resignation or her performance.”
Democratic senators introduced legislation on Friday that would stop states from using a voter’s non-participation in elections as a reason to begin the process of purging him or her from the roles. The bill, called the SAVE VOTERS Act, is a response to the Supreme Court’s 2018 decision in the case Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute, which okayed Ohio’s system of sending mailers to voters who don’t participate in six years’ worth of federal elections and then removing them if they don’t respond. The bill probably won’t go anywhere as long as Republicans control the Senate. A House elections overhaul bill also included a provision addressing a Husted-like purging processes.
On Monday the North Carolina State Board of Elections is beginning its hearings on allegations of absentee ballot fraud in the state’s 9th congressional district race. The hearings are expected to last two-to-three days. Republican candidate Mark Harris, whose campaign is tied to the local operative who’s been accused of fraud, filed briefs last week arguing that his narrow unofficial victory in the race should be certified. His Democratic opponent Dan McCready asked for a new election in his filings with the board.
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