On Wednesday, a federal judge in Corpus Christi, Texas, ruled that a softened voter ID law Gov. Greg Abbott (R) had signed in June was still too onerous and discriminatory against black and Latino voters, and Texas vowed to appeal the ruling. Texas passed the nation's strictest voter ID law in 2011, allowing registered voters to cast ballots only if they showed a Texas driver's license or ID card, concealed handgun license, U.S. passport, U.S. citizenship certificate, or an election ID certificate. The new law keeps those requirements, but allows people to vote if they present a bill or other document showing name and address and sign an affidavit swearing they had a "reasonable impediment" to getting an approved ID, on penalty of jail.
U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzalez Ramos said the affidavit's harsh penalties "appear to be efforts at voter intimidation," and said the failure to expand the list of applicable forms of ID amounted to intentional discrimination. Gonzalez Ramos had first struck the voter ID law down in 2011, and the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed that it disproportionately burdened minorities. On Wednesday, she held out the possibility she would once again require Texas to get federal pre-clearance for electoral laws under the Voting Rights Act, making it the first state put back under federal oversight since the Supreme Court significantly weakened the law in 2013.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) called Wednesday's ruling "outrageous" and pointed out that the Justice Department has sided with Texas since President Trump took office, after supporting civil rights groups challenging the law under former President Barack Obama. Senate Bill 5 was passed by the people's representatives and includes all the changes to the Texas voter ID law requested by the 5th Circuit," he wrote. Earlier this month, a separate federal court said that the voting districts Texas Republicans had drawn in 2011 were also racially discriminatory, ordering the state to redraw two gerrymandered districts before the 2018 election. Peter Weber
Would-be voters in Alabama, Georgia, and Kansas cannot be required to provide proof of U.S. citizenship to vote, a federal court of appeals ruled Friday night.
The 2-1 decision struck down a lower court's ruling in favor of the laws and ordered all voter applications submitted since January 29 to be treated as if proof of citizenship were not a stated requirement. The rule was previously enforced only in Kansas, where it is estimated to have kept at least 20,000 people from registering to vote.
Supporters of voter ID laws say they are necessary to prevent in-person voter fraud, but opponents argue such rules discriminate against the 7 percent of Americans who do not have proof of citizenship while addressing a nearly nonexistent problem. The other 47 states only require voters to swear to their citizenship instead of providing formal documentation. Bonnie Kristian
In July, the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Texas' strict voter ID law has a "discriminatory effect" that violates the U.S. Voting Rights Act, potentially disenfranchising more than 600,000 registered voters, most of them poor or minorities. On Wednesday, Texas announced a compromise worked out with the U.S. Justice Department and minority rights groups that had filed suit over the 2011 law.
Under the agreement, which requires approval from U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos, registered voters without one of the seven sanctioned forms of photo ID will be allowed to vote in November after signing an affidavit affirming that they are U.S. citizens and producing an alternate form of proof of ID, such as a paycheck or utility bill. Texas will also have to spend $2.5 million to publicize the new rules. The state has already spent $3.5 million defending the 2011 voter ID law.
Chad Dunn, a Houston lawyer working for the minorities rights groups, called the compromise "a critical leap forward," while a spokesman for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said "this case isn't over." Texas will revisit the law after November, possibly taking its case all the way to the Supreme Court, Paxton signaled. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, among the most conservative appellate courts, also ordered the lower court to consider whether Texas intended to discriminate against minorities, a steeper finding that could put Texas back on a list of states that need prior federal approval to change electoral laws. Peter Weber
Do you read Politico, Gawker, and Jezebel? If yes, there's a good chance you're supporting Hillary Clinton in 2016. If FiveThirtyEight, Nerdist, and The Oatmeal are more your speed, you're probably feeling the Bern.
So finds a new analysis of media preferences from DemographicsPro, which compared the consumption habits of supporters of the five remaining candidates to average Twitter users.
Perhaps even more striking than the Democrats' habits, however, is the contrast on the Republican side. While fans of Ted Cruz and John Kasich each overwhelmingly prefer traditionally conservative outlets like National Review — suggesting the two candidates are competing for much of the same audience — Donald Trump's supporters like Fortune, CNBC, and Men's Humor. That latter selection makes sense in light of Trump's significant gender gap: More women say they cannot imagine voting for him than say the same about any other contender. Bonnie Kristian
Gracey Duncan of Seminole County, Florida, has ignored two mailed reminders that she register to vote in 2016. But that's because she is a cat, and also she is dead.
— Julie Duncan (@Juldunc) March 30, 2016
Gracey's former owner, Julie Duncan, took to Twitter to ask Seminole County Election Supervisor Mike Ertel what was going on after she received two notices for Gracey from an organization called the Voter Participation Center. Ertel emphasized that the letters did not come from local government, and expressed concern that they were formatted to look like they did. "I think it's fair enough to say it's misleading voters," he said, "and I think it’s causing voters to have a lack of faith in the process."
Page Gardner, president of the center that mailed the letters, told Politico it is very unusual for pets to get on their mailing list, but "If [a] pet name sounds like a real name, it’s harder to screen them out." Bonnie Kristian
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said Sunday that while he supports the idea behind voter identification laws, he thinks his fellow Republicans are foolish to make them a centerpiece of their party platform.
"It doesn't mean that I think it's unreasonable," Paul said on Meet the Press. "I just think it's a dumb idea for Republicans to emphasize this and say, 'This is how we are going to win the elections."
Since voter ID laws disproportionately affect minorities and the poor, Paul said that emphasizing such laws could understandably drive non-white voters away from the party. --Jon Terbush
One court giveth, the other taketh away. On the same day the Supreme Court blocked a Texas abortion law that had been upheld by the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, a three-judge panel of the same appellate court at least temporarily lifted a block on the Lone Star State's strict voter ID law, which a federal district judge had struck down as unconstitutional last week.
The Fifth Circuit panel decided that blocking the law so close to the Oct. 20 start of early voting would only confuse state voters and elections officials. "Based primarily on the extremely fast-approaching election date, we stay the district court’s judgment pending appeal," wrote Judge Edith Brown Clement. The ruling was unanimous, though Judge Gregg Costa wrote, in a concurring opinion, that he was "extremely reluctant to have an election take place under a law that a district court has found, and that our court may find, is discriminatory." Peter Weber