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Voting Rights: Reformers Get Some Good News Out Of The Supreme Court On Campaign Finance

Voting rights primer
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January 14, 2019 3:28 p.m.

Democrats are moving forward with their focus on voting rights. The Oversight Committee announced Thursday that it will hold a hearing on February 6 on its elections overhaul package, which includes campaign finance legislation, provisions expanding voter access to the polls and ethics reform proposals.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to intervene in a racial gerrymandering case in Virginia, after state Republicans requested that the justices delay the process of redrawing the map. On Thursday the lower court in the case held a hearing on how to move forward with fixing the infirm districts, which were for the state’s House of Delegates.

Proponents of campaign finance reform are also breathing a sigh of relief following the Supreme Court’s indication Monday that it will not take up an appeal of a decision upholding Montana’s campaign contribution limits. Election law observers speculated that if the Supreme Court granted review of the case, the conservative justices might seek to impede government’s ability to regulate campaign finance. That could still happen in the future, but Monday’s development indicates it’s not an issue the Supreme Court is planning to delve into in its immediate future.

To see what legal experts and voting rights advocates are making of the Supreme Court’s move earlier this month to take up two partisan gerrymandering cases, check out this analysis from my colleague, Allegra Kirkland.

We’re still waiting for a decision from a federal judge in Manhattan about the legality of adding a citizenship question to the Census. Another trial challenging the Trump administration’s move got underway last week in California, where the plaintiffs are the city of San Jose and an immigrant rights organization.

Local elections officials in Florida were met with crowds of former felons seeking to register to vote at their offices Tuesday, the day a felon re-enfranchisement ballot initiative that had been passed last year kicked in. There were hints from state Republicans that they might try to slow walk the law. But Tuesday came and went with former felons able to register as planned.

Kentucky is now facing a lawsuit for its system of granting former felons the right to vote, which was similar to Florida’s before the new ballot initiatives. In the state, only the governor can decide whether a former felon regains the franchise, and those applying to be allowed to register are subject to a burdensome process. The lawsuit was filed in a federal court earlier this month by disenfranchised felons in the states.

After years of having some of the least voter-friendly election laws in the country, despite being a blue state, New York could soon see an overhaul led by the Democrats who have captured full control of the statehouse. The package New York lawmakers are looking to pass this week includes early voting, pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds and streamlining the state’s electoral calendar, which currently has federal and state elections and primaries on different dates.

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