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The Week In Voting Rights: Kobach in Contempt; Maine Gets Ranked-Choice Voting

Voting rights primer
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April 23, 2018 11:13 a.m.

The lawsuits against the Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross for adding a citizenship question to the Census keep coming. The latest was filed Tuesday by Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law on behalf of the City of San Jose and the Black Alliance for Just Immigration. It was filed in the Northern District of California, where the state of California has filed its own lawsuit. There are also federal lawsuits in Maryland and New York.

Missouri, meanwhile, is facing a new lawsuit accusing the state of violating the National Voter Registration Act by allegedly failing to provide Missourians who change their address with the DMV the opportunity to register to vote or to update their registration. The lawsuit was filed Tuesday by the League of Women Voters of Missouri and local chapters of the A. Philip Randolph Institute.

The legal drama over the Pennsylvania congressional gerrymandering case, meanwhile, will seemingly never end, even though battle over throwing out the old maps appears to be over. (The U.S. Supreme Court, last month, said that it would not intervene in the state Supreme Court’s order for a new congressional map for November.) Last week, the President Pro Tempore of Pennsylvania’s state Senate, Joe Scarnati, appealed a federal district judge’s decision ordering him to reimburse the legal fees of those who challenged the gerrymandered the map.

After a legal fight, Maine will become the first state in the nation to use ranked-choice voting after the state Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that the system could be implemented in the state’s June primary elections. Republican legislators have fought the move to ranked choice, which was approved by voters in a 2016 ballot referendum. It is still an open legal question whether ranked choice will be used in the general election in November.

Automatic Voter Registration is now the law of the land in New Jersey, after Gov. Phil Murphy signed legislation on Tuesday.

In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that he will restore the voting rights of felons who are on parole. Under his executive order, the state will review a list of felons released on parole every month to determine who to re-enfranchise. Previously, New York felons had their voting rights restored only after completing parole. About 36,000 ex-felons on parole stand to be affected by the order.

We’re still waiting for a final district court decision in Kansas’ proof-of-citizenship voter registration requirement case, but on Wednesday Judge Julie Robinson held Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who is leading the defense of the requirement, in contempt of court for disobeying her previous orders in the case. The contempt decision stems from Robinson’s 2016 ruling to temporarily block the proof-of-citizenship requirement, a ruling that Kobach evaded, the judge ruled Wednesday. Kobach, in a Breitbart interview over the weekend, called her contempt decision “ridiculous.”

I’ll be at the Supreme Court this Tuesday for oral arguments in a Texas redistricting case, which challenges both state legislative and U.S. congressional districts alleging that they are racial gerrymanders.

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