August 6, 2016                                                                       Vol. 1 No.1
 
 
 
 
 
Welcome to the First Edition of
The Voting Rights Advocate
 
 
 
 
Welcome to the first edition of The Voting Rights Advocate, a unique newsletter exclusively designed to bring the current and critical news for voters, voting rights advocates and those committed to promoting the largest civic engagement for an inclusive and robust Democracy. 
 
This newsletter will cover the national landscape of voting barriers and opportunities. Voters and advocates will find the information and resources needed to be engaged and aware of legal, legislative and major developments regarding the right to vote. 
 
The Voting Rights Advocate provides answers to questions about cases, practical tips, a calendar of key events affecting voters, a millennial corner regarding issues affecting young adults, voter registration deadlines and other key information. 
 
We open this edition with inspiring news about recent court decisions in Texas, North Carolina, North Dakota and Wisconsin which rejected some of the most onerous voter ID laws in the nation and other voting restrictions as racially discriminatory. And in Kansas, a judge reinstated the right to vote for 17,500 previously barred by a "proof of citizenship" requirement. Despite the Virginia Supreme Court decision rejecting Gov. McAuliffe's executive order restoring ex-felon voting, jury and candidacy rights, we are heartened by the Governor's pledge to use his clear executive authority to restore these rights individual by individual. 
 
Other articles look at the continuing negative effect of the 2013 Shelby v. Holder decision which invalidated the reach of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act to prevent racial discrimination in voting.
 
Although, the Voting Rights Advocate cannot encompass every voting rights issue, it is dedicated to including stories regarding many vulnerable voters particularly Native Americans, African Americans, Latinos. Asian Americans, people with disabilities, students, low income citizens, formerly incarcerated and the elderly. 
 
We hope you will come to view the Voting Rights Advocate as a key tool in your personal and organizational advocacy for voting rights and civic engagement. Be sure to share your feedback regarding various articles and any pertinent news in your area that the major news may have overlooked by contacting us at: Editor@tjcoalition.org. 
 

Barbara R. Arnwine
President & Founder
Transformative Justice Coalition
 
 
 
 
51st Anniversary of Signing of
Voting Rights Act
 
 
 
August 6, 2016 will mark the 51st Anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965!  Last year, on the 50th Anniversary of the Act, many Americans became familiar through the movie, Selma, with the great modern era civil rights movement to pass the Voting Rights Act.  Prior to the passage of the Act, many states, especially those of the confederacy southern states, had used devices and tests to virtually exclude the African American, Latino, Asian and Native American populations from registering to vote and being able to participate in the franchise.  

The Voting Rights Act of 1965, led to the demise of literacy tests, grandfather clauses, poll taxes and other schemes which were used to restrict racial minorities from having access to the vote.  This Act also included provisions, Section 2, to restrict other racially discriminatory practices and would later be interpreted by the courts as prohibiting those practices that had a discriminatory effect. The most powerful of the Act's provision was Section 5, the pre-clearance provision that required that states with a history of discrimination in voting as set forth by section 4 (b) of the Act would need to submit all proposed changes in electoral procedures and practices for review to the US Department or the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals to insure that they were racially non-discriminatory.  

Passage of the Voting Rights Act led to a "political revolution" with millions of African Americans being registered throughout the South.  Within 10 years, African American elected officials grew from 1,000 to over 10,000 in the U.S.  African American Congresspeople were elected throughout the deep South swelling the ranks of the Congressional Black Caucus.  

Subsequent reauthorizations of the Act saw the addition of broader protections and requirements for accommodations for language minorities and for people with disabilities.  There has been an important increase in the number of Latino elected officials in the Congress and state governments.  Bi-lingual materials have been critical to ballot access.  

After years of litigation which helped to expand the reach of the VRA to mandate more opportunities for racial minorities to elect candidates of their choice, the Supreme Court of the United States, in Shaw v. Reno, started a trend of hostility to districting for these purposes, classifying these as racial gerrymanders.  

And in 2011, many newly elected state legislatures started adopting a series of voter suppression laws which initially were successfully rejected by the courts in various litigation or by the DOJ during the pre-clearance process.  

However, it was in 2013, that the greatest set-back to the enforcement of the VRA occurred when the Supreme Court issued its destructive decision in Shelby v. Holder which held that the coverage formula under Section 4 (b) was unconstitutional as it violated the "equal sovereignty of the states" as Congress had not conducted a proper review of this formula during the 2006 Reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act.  This gutting of Section 4 meant that Section 5 applied to virtually no jurisdictions making the provision a nullity.  

Today, there is an entrenched battle to restore the effectiveness of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.  In the meanwhile, active litigation has been conducted in the courts challenging the voter suppression laws.  Recently, in the last two weeks, there have been major victories in which the federal courts in several states and the 4th and 5th court of appeals have curtailed or rejected voter suppression laws as violative of the Voting Rights Act.  

On this 51st Anniversary, we are resolved to continue to fight to make sure that the full promise of equal access to voting rights without racial discrimination is a reality for all eligible American citizens! 
 
 
 
 
TJC Release Major Report on
"Fostering An Inclusive Democracy"
 
 
 
In honor of the 51st Anniversary Anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Transformative Justice Coalition and in partnership with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation is pleased to present a groundbreaking new study entitled "Fostering An Inclusive Democracy: A Strategic Vision to Protect and Expand Voting Rights."

In this document, Barbara R. Arnwine, renowned civil rights attorney and President of the Transformative Justice Coalition, presents a vision of an inclusionary democracy without discriminatory barriers to voting and robust civic engagement by all segments of the American populous. Most critical for the readers, she presents an ambitious, broad-ranging, seven year but practical plan composed of 25 strategies that can promote and achieve this vision.  

The report presents a contrast of two centuries, one in which there were steady and highly resisted movements for expansion of the right to vote to women, racial minorities, Native Americans, language minorities, students and people with disabilities. These sacrificial efforts culminated in three constitutional amendments, 19th, 24th and 26th, and the seminal Voting Rights Act of 1965 which spawned a revolution in new voters and a more inclusionary electorate.

Regrettably, the 21st Century has seen a movement to restrict the right to vote for many of those enfranchised in the 20th Century. Voter suppression laws have proliferated and compounded by the devastating 2013 decision of the Supreme Court of the United States in Shelby v. Holder, millions of voters have suddenly found their ability to vote and have their ballot counted placed at risk.  

Despite these major challenges, the report is optimistic and looks at the Rays of Hope embodied in the many community activists, voting rights lawyers, civil rights advocates, civic engagement and good government organizations committed to a long range fight to protect, restore and expand the right to vote. Besides the law reform successes in many states providing for automatic voter registration and on-line voter registration, court victories curtailing or invalidating voter suppression laws in several states this year, and especially in the last two weeks, confirm our optimism that we can and will win this fight.  

Fortunately, the report presents strategies to build on our collective strengths as Americans and to overcome the setbacks of restrictive voting laws through achievable programmatic action. On the other hand, recognizing that many voters feel excluded, alienated, confused and uninformed about the political process and voting, the report offers bold and ambitious strategies to encourage and advance civic engagement.

We hope you will find this Report highly informative, inspirational and valuable in joining the new 21st Century Movement for An Inclusive Democracy! 

​Click here to read the report.
 
 
 
 
Victories for Voting Rights Advocates
 
Photo from billmoyers.com
 
 
Federal Appeals Court Strikes Down North Carolina Voter ID Requirement Election Protection

Three months before Election Day, a federal appeals court decisively struck down North Carolina’s voter identification law recently because its requirements deliberately “target African-Americans with almost surgical precision” in an effort to depress black turnout at the polls. 

According to The New York Times, The North Carolina ruling tossed out the state’s requirement that voters:
  • present photo I.D. at the polls and restored voters’ ability to register on Election Day
  • to register before reaching the 18-year-old voting age
  • to cast early ballots, provisions the law had fully or partly eliminated.

Read more about this case (here), and more about Texas, Wisconsin, North Dakota and Kansas victories below.

Texas Agrees on Changes to Voter ID Law.....softens Wisconsin Voter's ID Laws
Statute was deemed to have a discriminatory effect against minorities: Click here

North Dakota, As November Approaches Court Deal Series of Blows To Voter ID Laws: Click here

Kansas judge rules 17,500 suspended voters can cast ballots in all races: Click here


Huge Victory for Tribes:
Federal Courts Overturn Voter ID Law

On August 1, U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland struck down a North Dakota law requiring photo IDs in order to vote, ruling that the law unfairly burdens the Native American voters who comprise one-fourth of the state’s electorate.

Hovland rejected the state’s argument that the law was “necessary” to prevent voter fraud, writing that "[t]he undisputed evidence before the Court reveals that voter fraud in North Dakota has been virtually non-existent.”

Read more here 
 
 
 
 
Shelby Case Impact in the States
 
 
 
Federal election observers can only be sent to five states in this year’s U.S. presidential election, among the smallest deployments since the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965 to end racial discrimination at the ballot box.

The Supreme Court ruling undercut a key section of the Act that requires such states to obtain U.S. approval before changing election laws. By doing so, it ended the Justice Department’s ability to select voting areas it deemed at risk of racial discrimination and deploy observers there, the fact sheet said.
Photo: From MSNBC.com
 
 
 
 
 
Featured Events
 
 
 
 
Elections 2016
 
 
 
 
Millennial Spotlight
 
 
 
 
Below are several important events to be aware.

Aug. 5th and 6th  Recognition of the 51st Anniversary of the Signing of the Voting Rights Act

August 20th
Election Protection 3.0 Presentation: Howard U on the Bison

Sept. 13th and 14th
TJC is hosting the African American Women in the Law Conference September 2016
(see flyer below)

Sept. 27th
National Voter Registration Day

Sept. 23rd and 24th 
Millennial Votes Matter Convening 2016

October 3rd
Supreme Court Session Begins
 
October 7th
Voter Registration Deadline

Oct. 6th
Voting Rights Symposium 3.0, 
Washington, D.C.

November 8th
Election Day 
 
 
 
 

The Biggest Threat to Voting Rights

Members of Congress who refuse to update the Voting Rights Act pose the biggest threat to voting rights which helps protect against the discriminatory and prohibitive voting laws that keep marginalized citizens from making their voices heard.

This presidential election, voter ID will be required for the first time in 17 states, not including the two states that passed new, related laws this past spring.

If new case victories are upheld on appeal are not appealed, the number of states affected by these laws could decrease from 17 to 13.

In addition, there is on-going litigation in other states against voter ID laws that can also change these numbers.
 
 
 
 







Lee Smith III is an undergraduate student at Tennessee State University majoring in political science.

He’s from Chicago, IL and being from that city has guided his passion for politics. Outside of the classroom Lee has interned on every level of government.

Starting the summer after his freshman year he moved from the municipal level, to state, and recently finished an internship with the U.S Senate.

Toward the beginning of 2016 he started an initiative to spread political awareness to everyone, but with a focus on the HBCU community.

The name of the initiative is Stay Woke HBCU.

While spreading political awareness Lee hopes to eliminate stereotypes associated with being Black in America and being a HBCU Student in America.

Contact Mr. Smith at lee.smith@staywokehbcu.com.
 
 
 
 
 
Millennial Corner
 
 
 
 
Voting Rights
 
 
 
 
Resources
 
 
 
 

Millennial Votes Matter

The words "right to vote" are mentioned five times in the United States Constitution. It’s the very foundation of our democratic society. Most of us were taught that voting is a civic responsibility of eligible citizens. The key word is “eligible.”
 
Historically, the right to vote is a privilege that has been taken away depending on literacy, or length of residency in a community, lack of criminal past, or ability to prove identity. Illiteracy, drifting, being convicted of a crime or no I.D. are the things that can make on ineligible. Over the years, these challenges have tremendously ill affected the poor and/or people of color.
 
As we near the upcoming Presidential election, it’s important to understand just how critical the millennial vote is. Millennials are Americans born between 1980 and the mid-2000s, are the largest generation in the U.S., representing one-third of the total U.S. population in 2013.
 
According to the 2013 Pew Research Center report, millennials make up 25 percent of the eligible electorate. Today, voter ID has been used more often than any other method to make voters ineligible.
 
An important group to acknowledge is The Black Youth Project which has been one of the only institutions to consistently monitor the thoughts and actions of young people of color.
 
The Black Youth Project examines the attitudes, resources and culture of the young black millennials.  We have three core areas of focus: knowledge, voice, and action.
 
They currently conduct quarterly surveys of young people and based on that data publish short policy memos meant to highlight what young Americans think about critical issues ranging from the Affordable Care Act to same-sex marriage. 
 
If you are a millennial, please take the survey below.
 
Gen Forward Survey
A survey of the Black Youth Projet at the University of Chicago with the AP-NOC Center for Public Affairs Research 
Click here
 
 
 
 



 
 
 
 
Case Law Summaries
 
Veasey v. Abbot,  ___ F.3d ____ (5th Cir. 2016)
 
In 2011, the Texas Senate enacted a law known as Senate Bill 14 ( "SB 14" ). SB 14 was a voter photo ID law enacted, Texas claimed, to prevent voter fraud. The types of ID that were permissible for a Texan to be able to vote under SB 14 were: 
 (1) a Texas driver’s license or personal identification card issued by the Department of Public Safety (“DPS”) that has not been expired for more than 60 days;
(2) a U.S. military identification card with a photograph that has not been expired for more than 60 days;
(3) a U.S. citizenship certificate with a photo;
(4) a U.S. passport that has not been expired for more than 60 days; (5) a license to carry a concealed handgun issued by DPS that has not been expired for more than 60 days; or
(6) an Election Identification Certificate (“EIC”) issued by DPS that has not been expired for more than 60 days. 
Veasey v. Abbot,  ___ F.3d ____, ____, 14-41127, 2016 WL 3923868, at *4 (5th Cir. 2016).
 
Read more here
 
N. Carolina State Conference of NAACP v. McCrory, ___ F.3d ____ (4th Cir. 2016).
 
Not long after the United States Supreme Court Shelby County v. Holder, 570 U. S. ____ (2013) decision (which dismantled Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act), North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory signed into law H.B. 589. H.B. 589 shortened the early voting period by a full week, eliminated same-day registration, prohibited provisional ballots cast out of precinct from being counted, expanded the ability to challenge voters, eliminated a pre-registration program for 16- and 17-year olds, and implemented a strict photo ID requirement.
 
North Carolina claimed to enact these laws to prevent election fraud.
The Department of Justice, the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP, the League of Women Voters of North Carolina, and various  individuals, churches, and civil rights organizations brought suit against North Carolina alleging "that the restrictions on early voting and elimination of same-day registration and out-of-precinct voting were motivated by discriminatory intent in violation of § 2 of the Voting Rights Act and the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments.
 
Read more here
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
Useful Resources

Some voter registration deadlines to note:

#OneVote:

Voter Registration Dates:

Alabama: October 24th.

Alaska: October 9th.

Arizona: October 9th.

Arkansas: You can’t register online, and must register by mail or in person by October 10th.

California: October 24th.

Colorado: You must register online and by mail no later than October 31st, but if you choose to register in person, you have until November 8th.

Connecticut: You’ve got until November 1st to register online or by mail. You have an extra week if you register in person.

Delaware: October 15th.

Florida: Residents can’t register online and must register in person or by mail no later than October 11th.

Georgia: October 11th.
Click here 

The Voting Rights Alliance Click here

17-year-olds who will be 18 by Election Day can vote in the primary in some states Click here

Voter Identification Requirements - Voter ID Laws Click here


The 10 States Where Millennials Could Sway The Election

As the presidential race shifted to Nevada with Democratic caucuses last week and Republican caucuses Tuesday night, more young voters had a chance to chime in to the political process. Nevada is a state with a huge young, diverse population.

But there is the perennial question: Do young people matter in politics?
Click here


 
 
 
More Information
 
 
 
This publication is made possible by funding of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
Transformative Justice Coalition
Phone: (202) 602-7080  |  Email: Editor@tjcoaliton.org