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Democrats Brace for a Narrower Path to Challenge New Voting Laws


Republicans are opposed to both of Democrats’ bills, but party leaders vowed to keep trying through the summer into the fall to pass them. Progressives, in particular, took Thursday’s decision as yet another data point to marshal in their fight to eliminate the legislative filibuster in the Senate to allow their party to go around Republicans and pass the bills with simple majorities.

Since the November election, at least 22 new laws in 14 states have been enacted that impose new restrictions on voting, alarming Democrats and voting rights groups who say the measures are a threat to one of the pillars of democracy. So far, Democrats have had little recourse as states like Georgia, Florida and Iowa pass new laws, other than to file lawsuits and mount aggressive voter education campaigns.

The two provisions of Arizona law at the core of the Supreme Court decision on Thursday were increasingly common restrictions on voting that have appeared in other states. One law banned third parties from helping voters with dropping off their absentee ballots, a process that Republicans derisively call “ballot harvesting” but that is designed to help older, sick or otherwise disabled voters with handling their ballot. The other law canceled all votes cast in person at the wrong precinct.

At least 22 states have passed or introduced a law restricting ballot collections, according to a database maintained by the Voting Rights Lab, a liberal-leaning voting rights group. And one of the provisions in Georgia’s law would bar any voter from being allowed to vote provisionally at the wrong precinct before 5 p.m.

Past Supreme Court rulings on voting laws have often been followed by rushes of legislation crafted in light of the decisions. After the Court upheld an Indiana voter identification law in 2008, numerous other states, including North Carolina, Texas and Pennsylvania, sought to pass similar laws.

Jen Jordan, a Georgia state senator who is seeking the Democratic nomination for state attorney general, said the ruling on Thursday would make it more difficult to bring legal challenges against the state’s new voting law, known as S. B. 202, because it would be necessary to prove that Georgia Republicans intended to make it harder for people of color to vote, rather than that being the effect of the new law.

“It’s very difficult to gather enough evidence or appropriate evidence to show actual intent,” she said, “and that seems like the only way you can do it now under the V.R.A.”



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