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Election Law @ Moritz Home Page

Election Law @ Moritz

Election Law @ Moritz


Litigation

ACORN v. Cox

Case Information

Date Filed / Ended: August 14, 2006 / December 24, 2008
State: Georgia
Issue: Voter Registration
Courts that Heard this Case: U.S. District Court, Northern District of Georgia (Case 1:06-cv-01891-JTC); U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit (Case 07-15688, 08-14419)

Issue:

Whether the Georgia State Board of Elections' new voter-registration rules, which require each completed application to register be (1) separately sealed before being handed to a private voter registration organizer and (2) not be copied, violate the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), and the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

Status:

District court case was stayed on 7/14/08 pending resolution of discovery-related mandamus action to be filed in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.  Petition for Mandamus was denied by the Court of Appeals on 9/24/08.

District Court Documents

Court of Appeals Documents (New Case, 08-14419)

Court of Appeals Documents (07-15688)

  • Petition for Writ of Mandamus, Prohibition and Other Appropriate Relief (filed 12/06/07)
  • Defendants-Respondents are directed to file responses to the petition for writ of mandamus w/in 14 days of this order (filed 12/20/07)
  • Response Letter from Judge Camp advising that he elects not to participate or otherwise respond to the petition (filed 12/28/07)
  • Response to Petition for Writ of Mandamus (filed 1/8/08)
  • PETITION GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART (entered 2/27/08)

Related Links

Commentary

David  Stebenne

Reshaping the Rules for Voting: How Two Different Eras Compare

David Stebenne

Fifty years ago, an eight – year period of innovation in voting rules began with ratification of the 24th Amendment to the Constitution. Formally adopted on January 23, 1964, it put an end to the practice (in several of the Southern and Border States) of requiring payment in order to vote in federal elections. Two years later, a U.S. Supreme Court ruling known as Harper v. Virginia Board of Elections interpreted the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause so as to apply the ban to state elections as well. In 1965, Congress passed and President Lyndon Johnson signed into law a Civil Rights Act known less formally as the Voting Rights Act. It established federal registrars in Southern states where local registrars had long denied the right to vote to black residents. That measure was followed by Congress’s passage and the states’ ratification of the 26th Amendment to the Constitution. This amendment prohibited denying the right to vote to citizens who had reached age eighteen. Part of a trend to establish that age as the mark of adulthood, rather than the older standard of twenty-one years, the 26th Amendment was formally adopted on June 30, 1971. And, of course, during that same eight – year time period, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down landmark reapportionment rulings that required state legislative bodies to reapportion themselves (and U.S. House districts) promptly after each federal census, and to do so in accordance with the principle of one person, one vote. By the end of 1972, that reapportionment process was complete, and had produced some far reaching changes for voters at the ballot box. For example, in Maryland, where I mostly grew up, representation of the rural and conservative Eastern Shore counties greatly diminished in the Maryland General Assembly (and in Maryland’s U.S. House delegation), while that of the Baltimore metropolitan area greatly increased.

From the vantage point of more than four decades later, what all of those changes meant for the American electorate has become clear. The impact of the poll tax ban and introduction of federal registrars into the South substantially increased the number of black women voters. (The rise in felony disfranchisement among black men nationally over the past forty years meant that gains among black men voting in the South were offset by losses among black men voting elsewhere.) Voters between the ages of eighteen and twenty seldom turned out in large numbers, and so giving them the right to vote didn’t change much in terms of who voted with any regularity. Thus, the one major gain in terms of participation came among black women. At the same time, the propensity of people in the middle three fifths of the income distribution living outside the South to vote fell substantially over those forty years, among whites especially, a shift that was most pronounced from 1972 to 1996. (The decline of labor unions was the single most important reason for that.)

Those changes in who voted regularly had significant implications for national politics. Black women tend to be among the most strongly liberal voters in the country, in the contemporary sense of that word. Most self – described moderates are middle class white people. Substantially more voting by black women has tended to push the more liberal of the two major parties leftward, while substantially less participation by middle class whites has tended to push both major parties away from the moderate middle.

With this history in mind, consider the new eight – year period of reshaping voting rules that began around 2006 and has continued through the present. The major changes have been in the direction of making voting somewhat harder to do, thanks to new requirements to provide identification, restrict early voting, eliminating same – day registration, and barring votes cast in the wrong precinct from being counted at all, to give only four examples. North Carolina has recently been a leader in that regard, but those same kinds of changes have played out in many other states as well. Those changes in voting rules appear likely to reduce voter participation by the one group that gained a lot from the changes of the earlier era, i.e., black women, and the poorer of them especially. (Felony disfranchisement continues to keep voting by black men low irrespective of these changes in voting laws.) At the same time, interest in voting among middle class whites has increased substantially over what it was in the 1970’s, ‘80’s, and ‘90’s. They appear much better able to navigate the current system of voting requirements because middle class whites are significantly more likely to have the forms of identification, flexible schedules, literacy skills and familiarity with local governance needed to do so.

What this suggests is that whatever the intent of recent changes in voting rules, one of its most important consequences will be to strengthen the political power of the center, by discouraging voting somewhat among black women (and the majority among them with low incomes especially), who tend to be strongly liberal, while voting by middle class whites, who tend to be moderate, increases. Strengthening the center, in and of itself, is not so troubling in a country that seems excessively polarized. What is troubling is a way of revitalizing the center that follows, however unintentionally, from reducing access to voting by eligible citizens.  

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In the News

Daniel P. Tokaji

Wasserman Schultz says state's ID law struck down by Supreme Court

Professor Dan Tokaji was quoted in a Politifact article on judicial rulings in Wisconsin and Texas on voter identification laws. Several Democratic candidates labeled the decision as "striking down" the laws, something Politifact called into question.

"It’s not accurate to say it was ‘struck down,’ but it’s understandable" given the New York Times headline and other media coverage, said Daniel P. Tokaji, an Ohio State University law professor and expert on election law.

more EL@M in the news...

Info & Analysis

Arkansas Supreme Court Strikes Down Voter ID Law

The Arkansas Supreme Court yesterday issued an opinion striking down the state's voter ID law, affirming the lower court's ruling that the law violates the Arkansas Constitution. The case is Kohls v. Martin.

more info & analysis...