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Courts Overturn Voter ID Laws in Win for Voting Rights Advocates

Courts Overturn Voter ID Laws in Win for Voting Rights Advocates

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By    |   Monday, 08 August 2016 04:16 PM

Recent court decisions show a new tactic for voting rights advocates, tackling the matter on a state level.

Three years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated parts of the Voting Rights Act under Section 5, easing limits on nine states and letting them change their election laws without getting prior approval from the federal government.

Advocates for voter rights raised concerns that the ruling would make passage of discriminatory election laws easier, since the burden of proof would switch to voters, requiring them to demonstrate infringement, from the states, which previously had to show that proposed changes wouldn't be discriminatory, The Hill reports.

But in the past two weeks, judges in several states have struck down recently enacted voter identification laws as discriminatory, indicating a new approach by voter advocates may be succeeding.

In North Carolina, where one such law was disallowed by an appeals court, Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican, released a statement announcing that the state would seek a U.S. Supreme Court review of the decision.

"Changing our state's election laws close to the upcoming election, including common sense voter ID, will create confusion for voters and poll workers," the governor said, according to Reuters. "The court should have stayed their ruling, which is legally flawed, factually wrong and disparaging to our state."

Under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, passed in 1965 during the height of the civil rights struggle by black Americans, states can't implement practices or procedures designed to deny or infringe on a person's right to vote based on race. Section 5 dealt with criteria used to determine which states needed prior approval to make changes in voting laws.

"Plaintiffs are now having to use Section 2 as a way to overturn laws that would have likely been prevented from going into effect because they would have failed to earn pre-approval under Section 5," says Michael McDonald, a University of Florida political scientist who has delivered expert testimony on voting rights cases, speaking to the Hill.

In Texas, Wisconsin and Kansas, voting rights advocates are challenging recent changes to election laws, and winning, though the states still have an advantage.

"The major asymmetry here is that while the states litigate with virtually unlimited resources using taxpayer dollars, voting rights advocates must litigate on their own, in the hopes that they may eventually be awarded their fees and costs if they prevail," Jessica Ring Amunson, who co-chairs the Election Law practice at Washington law firm Jenner & Block, told the Hill.

"This means that, with limited resources, voting rights advocates must choose their battles carefully and thus are likely to pursue only the most egregious cases."

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Recent court decisions show a new tactic for voting rights advocates, tackling the matter on a state level.
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Monday, 08 August 2016 04:16 PM
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