A federal judge struck down Ohio limits to voting opportunities, citing their impact on the black community. In 2014, Ohio Republicans passed legislation eliminating early in-person voting on weekends and on weeknights after 5 p.m. The law also eliminated the “Golden Week,” a period during which people could register and vote on the same day. Ohio citizens and the Democratic Party of Ohio filed a lawsuit to fight the unnecessary restrictions. The court’s decision noted that actual cases of voter fraud in the state were very rare, and the restrictions disproportionately impacted minority voters.
In a case currently before a U.S. District Court, plaintiffs brought forward evidence that Wisconsin’s voter identification law will disproportionately burden people of color. Critics of voter ID laws have argued that they are designed by Republicans to intentionally depress voting turnout of demographics that usually vote Democratic. The evidence presented showed that racial minorities are significantly more likely to face difficulties as they go through the arduous process of applying for a voter ID to gain access to a ballot booth.
This week a federal judge began hearing arguments on whether a 2010 Republican-drawn Wisconsin Assembly district map unfairly benefits Republicans. Scholars Jonathan Krasno, Daniel Magleby, Michael D. McDonald, Shawn Donahue and Robin Best examined voting outcomes in 99 state Assembly districts as drawn in 2010 based on voting records from 2008 to 2014. Their findings indicate that under the 2010 map, Wisconsin Democrats would have to win 55 percent of the total state popular vote in order to win a majority in the legislature. In contrast, Republicans could win control of the legislature despite earning only 45% of votes. Overall, they concluded that the 2010 map provides Republicans with a huge gerrymander advantage in state legislative elections.
Across many state governments, lawmakers are debating whether to reinstate voting rights for convicted felons. In Virginia, Republican lawmakers have filed suit against Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s executive order reinstating voting rights for convicted felons. The practice of disenfranchising criminals is a vestige of post-Civil War America, when state legislatures across the South passed such laws to reduce the influence of African-American voters. However, today, black Americans are still four times more likely to be disenfranchised because of these laws. The unethical exclusion of a segment of a state’s population could potentially alter the outcome of both state and federal elections – yet Virginia Republicans are fighting to continue this practice.
In South Carolina, one Democratic Senator is taking a stand against legislation that would allow Georgia residents to carry concealed weapons in South Carolina without a permit. Senator Marlon Kimpson opposes the bill because South Carolina’s process for obtaining a concealed carry permit is much more challenging than Georgia’s permitting process. He has offered 80 amendments to the bill and repeatedly blocked it from debate. The Senate has until Wednesday to vote on the bill before the end of the legislative session. Sen. Kimpson has distinguished himself in his tenacity in opposing bills expanding gun access. For instance, he blocked a bill that would have prevented the state from enforcing any new federal gun regulations.