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Primer: Missouri Voting Rights Activists Get Two Wins

Voting rights primer
September 24, 2018 1:12 p.m.

We may have our first trial among the lawsuits challenging the Census citizenship question by this fall. A trial in the consolidated cases in New York has been tentatively scheduled for November 5 — the case still might be resolved without a trial. In the meantime, the judge has ordered Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to sit for a deposition. As the effort to depose him was being litigated, an internal memo was released revealing the Justice Department — which the Trump administration has claimed originally requested the question — was initially not in favor of asking for it.

Voting rights activists in Missouri got two major court wins last week. First, a state appeals court overturned a lower court’s ruling that had pushed an ethics and redistricting reform initiative, known as Clean Missouri, off the ballot. The initiative, which Missourians will vote on in November, would impose a number of restrictions on lobbying and campaign contributions for state legislators, while turning over the redistricting process to a nonpartisan expert whose map would be reviewed by a citizen commission.

Secondly, on Friday, a federal court ordered Missouri to send voter registration information to any resident who has filed a change-of-address request by mail or online since last year. The court found that Missouri’s old system of only offering voter registration information to those who filed a change-of-address in person was a violation of the National Voter Registration Act.

Republicans in Virginia are signaling they’re ready to play ball in redrawing that state’s House of Delegates map, which was deemed by courts to be a racial gerrymander. GOP legislators offered their own replacement map, ahead of plans for a House committee meeting this week to begin debating redrawing the map. Legislators face a court imposed October 30 deadline to come up with a replacement map.

Down a justice while the Senate weighs the confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh, the Supreme Court last Tuesday let stand a lower court ruling requiring disclosure of certain donors to political nonprofits. Chief Justice John Roberts temporarily paused the ruling until it was referred to the full court, which is letting the ruling go into effect.

The Senate will finally have to file its campaign disclosures electronically, a requirement that transparency advocates have been lobbying for for years. The provision was tucked into a spending bill that President Trump signed last week. Previously, the Senate filed the disclosures in a paper version, which the FEC in turn spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to digitize each year.

Former first lady Michelle Obama was in Nevada on Sunday, giving a speech on behalf of the organization When We All Vote, a voter registration group. Obama will also make an appearance for the group in Florida later this week.

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