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States Move to Restrict Voting Rights Following Supreme Court Ruling

Bob McDonnell photo courtesy Gage Skidmore

Following the U.S. Supreme Court's 5-4 ruling in the Shelby County v. Holder case striking down a portion of the Voting Rights Act (VRA), several states immediately took steps to increase voter suppression efforts. The court ruled unconstitutional the formula used to determine which states and locales needed to get preclearance from the Department of Justice before making changes in voting process. In recent years, Republicans have ramped up efforts to limit the right to vote, particularly through the use of voter identification laws that require eligible voters to purchase state-issued IDs before they can cast their ballots.

AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Arlene Holt Baker said that these setbacks will be fought back against:

We won’t give up. In fact, we are more mobilized than ever to ensure the right to vote for all people and equal access to the polls. As many states have moved to suppress the right to vote for people of color, poor people and young people, 44 states this year proposed legislation to strengthen voting rights and seven states successfully passed measures that would do just that. And members of Congress committed to democracy are pledging to revive protections against persistent voting rights attacks.

A quick look at some of what's happening since the Supreme Court ruling:

Florida: Secretary of State Ken Detzner's (R) office said it intends to renew voter purge efforts that were on hold pending the outcome of the Supreme Court case. These purges in the past have used flawed lists that led to the removal of eligible voters from the voting rolls. The ruling also could affect how the state implements revised laws dealing with early voting. In the past Gov. Rick Scott (R) and the Republican legislature have sought to limit early voting. Severe criticism forced them to backtrack, but the rules changes will not be subject to oversight if Congress doesn't quickly retool the VRA.

Georgia: The state's largest county—Fulton—looks set to use county commission districts that Republican legislators drew up over strong objections from the state's Democrats.

Mississippi: State officials have indicated they will implement a voter ID law before next year's midterm elections. Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann (R) applauded the Supreme Court decision: "Mississippi has earned and deserves the right to be treated like every other state in their voting process. We will continue to do so in a nondiscriminatory manner. We have come a long way in a half century." State Sen. John Horhn (D) of the Legislative Black Caucus rejected that idea: "If Mississippi is on a level playing field, I'll eat my hat."

North Carolina: State Sen. Tom Apodaca (R) "predicted an omnibus voting bill would surface in the Senate next week that could go beyond voter ID to include issues such as reducing early voting, eliminating Sunday voting and barring same-day voter registration." Additionally, more than 60 state and local laws that had been unenforceable under the VRA may come back into use, including a section of the state Constitution requiring a literacy test for voter registration.

Texas: Attorney General Greg Abbott (R) said the state's voter ID law will take effect immediately. The voter ID law was blocked by a court last year under the section of the VRA struck down.  Abbott gleefully tweeted about the ruling:


Virginia: Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) appears ready to move forward with the state's new voter ID law for the 2014 elections. Under the VRA, 15 discriminatory voting laws had been struck down between 1982 and 2006.

Before the Supreme Court ruling, Section 5 of the VRA required that the Department of Justice preclear changes in all of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia and parts of California, Florida, Michigan, New York, North Carolina and South Dakota.

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