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This Week: Small Victories In Cases Challenging Voter Suppression Laws

Voting rights primer
September 9, 2019 3:33 p.m.

Voting rights advocates had two important procedural victories in recent days in their efforts to challenge suppressive laws in court:

  • New Hampshire: A federal judge in New Hampshire is letting a lawsuit challenging the state’s backdoor way to make voting more burdensome for students move forward. New Hampshire Republicans changed the legal definition of residency — a move that had the effect of requiring students to register their cars and get New Hampshire driver’s licenses if they want to vote in the state. The judge denied the state’s request to dismiss the lawsuit in a opinion that noted that, while the state’s defenses of the law may “be compelling at a later stage,” the challengers had “sufficiently alleged that the HB 1264 was intended and designed to target younger voters, and that the statutory changes will burden young voters.”
  • TennesseeLikewise, a lawsuit brought in Tennessee against a new law targeting voter registration drives survived a motion to dismiss. The federal judge there expressed notable skepticism about the law itself and knocked the state for not supplying adequate reasons for imposing the requirements and penalties on the registration drives under the new law.

The Redistricting Wars Are Getting Hotter

A Politico story on a new redistricting initiative rolled out by Republican operatives reads like a plea to donors to financially back the efforts. They’re facing Democratic groups — including one backed by former President Barack Obama and his Attorney general Eric Holder — who are taking map-drawing more seriously after being pummeled in the 2011 redistricting cycle.

The Republican State Leadership Committee is focusing on holding onto legislatures in places like Texas and Wisconsin so the GOP again can draw advantageous maps there.

North Carolina’s GOP legislature is grappling with a recent state court partisan gerrymandering decision that ordered a redraw of the state legislative maps there. As the state house begins the court-ordered transparent process of redrawing the maps ahead of 2020, Democrats in the state are wondering if they should challenge North Carolina’s U.S. House map as well.

The files of the late GOP gerrymandering guru Thomas Hofeller played a key role in that case, and now, even more of his behind-the-scenes work is starting to see the light of day. The New Yorker obtained the full set of files previously discovered by his estranged daughter — which are now in the center of a legal dispute over whether they should be released. Here is my rundown on the big reveals of the New Yorker’s report on them.

Mixed Bag For Pro-Voting Rights Bills in New England

  • New Hampshire: Gov. Chris Sununu (R) vetoed a bill Friday that would allow no excuse absentee voting. His allies claimed the bill could violate the state’s constitution.
  • Maine: Gov. Janet Mills (D) will allow Maine become the first state to adopt ranked-choice voting in presidential elections. Because she didn’t sign the legislation (letting it become law by not vetoing it instead) the state won’t be able to implement in time for the presidential primaries; she refused to sign it because the legislature did not appropriate adequate funding it to implement it for the primaries, she said.



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