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Ward Connerly explains his general optimism in America’s continuing development into a more perfect Union, while highlig...
07/25/2020
Opinion | America Isn’t a Racist Country

Ward Connerly explains his general optimism in America’s continuing development into a more perfect Union, while highlighting that whether our largest state tries to re-authorize governmental discrimination on the basis of race is far more important to our future than the placement or removal of any statue.

If we’re going to have a national conversation, we need a bold, spirited defense of our progress.

Congressman John Lewis is no longer with us. He was a brave man and his example is an inspiration. This quote isn’t from...
07/18/2020
Rep. John Lewis, A Force In The Civil Rights Movement, Dead At 80

Congressman John Lewis is no longer with us. He was a brave man and his example is an inspiration.

This quote isn’t from the article below, but it’s one we hold dear:

“It is an affront to all of what the civil rights movement stood for, what people died for, what people bled for…. [T]hose of us who marched across that bridge [55] years ago, we didn’t march for some racial entitlement…. [W]e wanted to open up the political process, and let all of the people come in, and it didn’t matter whether they were black or white, Latino, Asian-American or Native American.” — John Lewis

Rest In Peace, Sir.

Lewis began his nearly 60-year career in public service leading sit-ins at segregated lunch counters in the Jim Crow-era South. He went on to serve in Congress for more than three decades.

Happy Juneteenth!Much of America lacks a holiday commemorating the end of slavery. But Texas has one, Juneteenth, markin...
06/19/2020

Happy Juneteenth!

Much of America lacks a holiday commemorating the end of slavery. But Texas has one, Juneteenth, marking the day in 1865 that Union General Gordon Granger, having arrived in Galveston the day before, informed the locals that in 1862, President Lincoln had declared all slaves held in Texas (or in any other territories then in rebellion) free effective as of January 1, 1863.

Conveniently, that event coincides with the same day in 1862 that President Lincoln signed legislation banning slavery in all territories of the United States.

So whether you’re a Texan (in actuality or at heart), an American from any territories not yet incorporated into states in 1862, or just an American that wants to celebrate the end of legal enslavement, this is the holiday for you!

Enjoy it with those you love. And have a great weekend!

We can’t remember ever before seeing a discussion of the Reduction Clause in the popular press (Jonathan Mitchell publis...
02/23/2020
The Lost 110 Words of Our Constitution

We can’t remember ever before seeing a discussion of the Reduction Clause in the popular press (Jonathan Mitchell published a great law review article on it and other elements of the 14th Amendment’s text in the Stanford Law Review in 2017 (69 Stan.L.Rev 1237 (2017)), but it did not make it into the popular press).

It is worth considering the Clause, how it can be utilized, and what it says about the legitimacy of the alternate, non-text-based remedies courts have applied to limitations of the franchise on bases unaddressed by the 15th and 19th Amendments.

The 14th Amendment says states that infringe the vote must lose representation in Congress. It’s time to make this happen.

In 2018, Florida voters passed a ballot initiative to amend their state constitution.  The text of the initiative provid...
02/19/2020
Court: Florida can't bar felons from vote over fines, fees

In 2018, Florida voters passed a ballot initiative to amend their state constitution. The text of the initiative provided that it: "restores the voting rights of Floridians with felony convictions after they complete all terms of their sentence including parole or probation."

The state legislature then effected the amendment through an act clarifying that "completing all terms of [a felon's] sentence" included paying any fees, fines, and restitution orders included in the felon's convicting judgment. Florida's Governor has asked the Florida Supreme Court to rule on whether those financial obligations are, indeed, terms of the convicted Floridians sentences.

That is not where new action has occurred. Instead, the new action comes from the Federal courts. There, 17 plaintiff-groups challenged the enacting law as Unconstitutional -- they argued that it denied equal protection to the indigent (violating the 14th Amendment) and constituted a poll-tax (forbidden by the 24th Amendment). A district court earlier granted a preliminary injunction, barring the application of parts of the enacting legislation (on two bases: (i) that the legislature did not provide for a determination, through the same procedures that otherwise apply to former-felon voter registrations, of whether former-inmates had failed to pay their sentence-financial-obligations due to an inability to pay; and (ii) that fees, unlike fines and restitution orders, are essentially taxes forbidden as a condition to voting by the 24th Amendment).

What's now happened is that the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld that injunction. Presumably, that's as far as things will go before either the new legislative session amends the law or the district court holds a trial in April.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida cannot, for now, bar felons who served their time from registering to vote simply because they have failed to pay all fines and fees stemming

As this article highlights, a more diverse America is getting “‘[m]ore and more Section 2 cases ... straying from the ra...
02/19/2020
East Ramapo trial offers fraught question: Should Hasidic Jews be considered ‘white’?

As this article highlights, a more diverse America is getting “‘[m]ore and more Section 2 cases ... straying from the racial dynamics the law was designed to address: whites vs. blacks, or whites vs. Latinos. Now there are cases where black minorities challenge Latino majorities, or where Asians challenge majority-white districts, according to Michael Li, senior council at the Brennan Center for Justice.” Li could have added cases, like our last litigation, where Anglos were the minority challenging districts drawn by a government elected by an opposed majority coalition. As our population keeps changing, these fact patterns will continue to multiply, requiring clear rules of general applicability, which will apply even-handedly regardless of what group is in the minority or who is goring the oxen.

The District Court in the East Ramapo litigation seems to be honing in on “what is driving voting patterns in the district,” rather than on the existence or absence of ethnically based voting blocs or on the opportunities of those blocs to elect their preferred candidates. It’s unclear if this is a question relevant to the Voting Roghts Act and equally unclear that it is a question discernible by the judiciary.

With so many proverbial balls in the air, this will be a case to watch going forward.

“The last thing anyone at the NAACP wants is to have the perception that this is about anti-Jewish animus of any kind.”

Proposed reforms that reduce transparency and accountability should always be subject to heavy scrutiny. And we should n...
09/20/2019
Independent Commissions Gerrymander Just as Much as State Legislators

Proposed reforms that reduce transparency and accountability should always be subject to heavy scrutiny. And we should not be surprised if the scrutiny shows that the reform deserved the skepticism.

Independent redistricting commissions may not be as politically-neutral as theorized, says new study

The Fifth Circuit will hear oral argument in our case _Harding v. County of Dallas_ on October 10th, in lovely New Orlea...
08/30/2019

The Fifth Circuit will hear oral argument in our case _Harding v. County of Dallas_ on October 10th, in lovely New Orleans. No, that's not the Courthouse; Jackson Square just makes for a better visual.

06/27/2019

SCOTUS rediscovered the political question doctrine today, finally answering decades of questions about the judicial role in fights over partisan redistricting.

We’ll have more to say about this after reading the opinion(s).

On the anniversary of the day SCOTUS handed down Brown v. BOE, let’s remember what Justice Marshall told Dennis Hutchiso...
05/17/2019

On the anniversary of the day SCOTUS handed down Brown v. BOE, let’s remember what Justice Marshall told Dennis Hutchison about it in 1979:

“the biggest mistake [I] made was assuming that once Jim Crow was deconstitutionalized, the whole structure would collapse--‘like pounding a stake in Dracula’s heart,’ ...[i]n the twelve months between Brown I and Brown II, [I] realized that [I] had yet to win anything.... ‘In 1954, I was delirious. What a victory! I thought I was the smartest lawyer in the entire world. In 1955, I was shattered. They gave us nothing and then told us to work for it. I thought I was the dumbest Negro in the United States.’”

Landmarks aren’t self-effectuating. It took years more work to realize the promise of the Constitution and kill Jim Crow. So celebrate the step, but remember that what made the difference was the long work that came both before and after, and take it as an inspiration for your own.

We do.

In Houston this weekend, Eric Holder, the former AG whose Voting Rights Section made it express policy to ignore the imp...
03/25/2019
Former AG Eric Holder meets with Houston activists as campaign against gerrymandering begins

In Houston this weekend, Eric Holder, the former AG whose Voting Rights Section made it express policy to ignore the impact of redistrictings on voters of one and only one race, held a "kickoff meeting" with "leaders of organizations that helped to turn out voters in the midterm elections last year." "Holder, the chairman of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, said [that former President] Obama ... 'has said that this is the chief political involvement of his post-presidency, this whole effort of the NDRC[.]'" He describes "Texas" as "a critical state…. To be successful in the efforts we are going to be doing nationwide, we have to be successful here in Texas[.]”

Communications theorists have pointed out that when people restate the negative to deny it, they're actually confirming the truth of an allegation. So notice that the former AG specifically emphasizes that his purpose is 'not gerrymandering for Democrats, I want to make that very clear[.]'” Yet he and the former President are not lobbing amicus briefs before the Supreme Court concerning the live appeal of Maryland's unfair, partisan map. They are not making California, an aggressively gerrymandered, larger state, with more Congressional seats "critical" to "what [they] are doing nationwide." No, they're making Texas that special focus.

Why?

Because the denial is specious. This is a campaign for gerrymandering they prefer. That's why the former AG is doing this IN HIS ROLE AS THE CHAIRMAN OF THE NATIONAL DEMOCRATIC REDISTRICTING COMMITTEE and why the former President openly describes the effort as "political involvement." They are using American's voting rights as a partisan weapon. Mr. Holder just lacks the stomach to be honest about it with the press.

Former Attorney General had a round table with organizations in Houston in preparation for a countrywide effort to boost the Census count towards a battle against gerrymandering in 2021, an initiative that represents the chief political interest of Barack Obama in his post-presidency, Holder said...

Tomorrow, North Carolina and its partisan redistricting litigation go before the Supreme Court.  The case parallels the ...
03/25/2019
Supreme Court to Deliberate Fate of Partisan Gerrymandering—Again

Tomorrow, North Carolina and its partisan redistricting litigation go before the Supreme Court. The case parallels the Maryland litigation in presenting First Amendment claims, while also including a schmorgasbord of alternative invalidation theories.

Very likely, the Supreme Court will use the pair of cases to establish what broad rules (if any) the judiciary will use going forward to decide whether partisan mapdrawings are constitutional.

A case of North Carolina’s district lines drawn by Republicans, along with a case from Maryland where Democratic map makers have been under fire, finally could prompt the justices either to impose nationwide limits on partisan redistricting—or remove the federal courts entirely as a referee.

A comprehensive, decade long study by the National Bureau of Economic Research concludes from 1.3 billion observations t...
02/12/2019
Strict ID Laws Don't Stop Voters: Evidence from a U.S. Nationwide Panel, 2008-2016

A comprehensive, decade long study by the National Bureau of Economic Research concludes from 1.3 billion observations that voter ID laws have had no material impact on the registration or turnout of voters “overall or for any group defined by race, gender, age, or party affiliation.” And that they’ve had no material impact on either voter fraud or perceptions of voter fraud.

We’ve spent a decade fighting over what’s basically an impactless irrelevancy.

U.S. states increasingly require identification to vote – an ostensive attempt to deter fraud that prompts complaints of selective disenfranchisement. Using a difference-in-differences design on a 1.3-billion-observations panel, we find the laws have no negative effect on registration or turnout, ...

11/08/2018
www.brennancenter.org

The day after the 2018 general election, a 3-judge panel rules that Maryland’s Congressional map includes an unconstitutional violation of the FIRST amendment and enjoins its use in 2020.

This week, Judge Ramos rejected an argument that Federal law compels Texas to move to electing the judges of its highest...
09/14/2018
Federal judge upholds Texas' partisan statewide judicial elections system

This week, Judge Ramos rejected an argument that Federal law compels Texas to move to electing the judges of its highest, statewide courts through single member districts. She did so, because the plaintiffs had not proven that race, rather than partisanship, explained the voting behavior of the state electorate. What is most noteworthy about this result (if it stands) is that it would revivify a decades-old Fifth Circuit precedent that has lay dormant and been entirely ignored by literally every court since its announcement.

A federal judge has ruled for Texas in a long-running challenge to the state's system of electing judges to its two highest courts.

Today, the District Court ruled in our Dallas litigation.   This is obviously not the ruling we’d hoped for. We will be ...
08/24/2018
Federal judge rejects claim that Dallas County discriminates against white voters

Today, the District Court ruled in our Dallas litigation.

This is obviously not the ruling we’d hoped for. We will be thoroughly examining the court’s decision before the Plaintiffs decide on the next step. We will let you know when that choice has been made.

It is worth noting that the court agreed with the Plaintiffs that the same law governs racial redistricting cases, regardless of what racial minority’s ox has been gored. That is a victory for equal protection that we’ve already achieved through this litigation.

This is a developing story and will be updated throughout the day.A federal judge Thursday dismissed a landmark lawsuit that accused Dallas County...

There will be a lot more to say once we’ve been able to comb through the actual opinions. For now, SCOTUS has ruled that...
06/25/2018
U.S. Supreme Court rules Texas lawmakers did not intentionally discriminate in drawing political maps

There will be a lot more to say once we’ve been able to comb through the actual opinions.

For now, SCOTUS has ruled that all 36 Texas Congressional Districts and 149 of 150 State House districts are legal and constitutional. If reporting is accurate, they’ve also so done in such a way as to effectively end the current push to re-impose preclearance on Texas through this litigation.

Facially, that’s an all-but-unalloyed victory for the state.

The court also upheld 10 of 11 districts that had been flagged as problematic. 

06/18/2018
www.supremecourt.gov

There will be lots to mine out of this opinion. But for now: SCOTUS flipped the lower court and denied that the Wisconsin plaintiffs had standing to pursue the claims on which they'd been granted judgment.

Partisan redistricting is no more unconstitutional under today's case law than it was yesterday's.

04/27/2018
assets.documentcloud.org

Voter ID litigation isn’t our bailiwick. But it also involves the 14th Amendment and the VRA. So an update, as this story breaks...

“This tale is also a warning for 2021: ... while the commission process has taken redistricting out of the hands of poli...
04/23/2018
CA120: Political intrigue: BOE's redistricting and the gas tax - Capitol Weekly

“This tale is also a warning for 2021: ... while the commission process has taken redistricting out of the hands of politicians, it can’t remove some of the politics.

BOE observers realized that these new lines would likely give the board a 3-1 Democratic advantage, rather than the existing 2-2 partisan split.

“‘The whole purpose of the Civil Rights Movement, the whole purpose of the voting rights act is to protect racial minori...
04/20/2018
Dallas Commissioners Accused of Bias Against Anglos

“‘The whole purpose of the Civil Rights Movement, the whole purpose of the voting rights act is to protect racial minorities. It doesn’t matter who is on the short end of that stick. The law is the same no matter who a government targets on the basis of race,’ said plaintiff’s lawyer Dan Morenoff.

Dallas County Commissioners are the defendants in a Federal Court trial accusing them of bias against Anglos in the 2011 redistricting of Commissioners Court seats.

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