voting access

Liz Fabian

The Macon-Bibb County Board of Elections will be appealing to the county for more money as they head into an August runoff and what could be a very challenging presidential election.

Not only is the board trying to resolve issues that led to delays in some precincts opening June 9 and in tabulating results, but now they are struggling to pay bills.

“We requested over a million dollars and we got $950,000,” board chairman Mike Kaplan said during Tuesday evening’s board meeting.

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Leon Brown is trusted enough to drive a tractor-trailer inside one of the nation's busiest seaports more than six years after being released from prison. But he's not allowed to vote in Georgia because of a law rooted in the years after the Civil War, when whites sought to keep blacks from the ballot box.

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Early voting ends this Friday in Georgia. Accusations of voter suppression have landed Georgia in the national spotlight.

 

Secretary of State Brian Kemp's office faces multiple lawsuits for rejecting voter applications. Last week, a judge ruled state elections officials cannot reject absentee mail-in ballots if signatures do not match those on file.

 

We spoke to ProPublica's Jessica Huseman and Savannah State's Allynne Owens about the history of voter suppression and how to spot it as citizens today.

ProPublica

Georgia's election system is a multi-step process, and there are many chances for confusion and mistakes along the way.

GPB News is partnering with ProPublica's Electionland project to cover obstacles that eligible voters face during the Nov. 6, 2018 midterm elections.

Voter casting his ballot in Sandy Springs, Ga.
John Bazemore, File / AP Photo

Monday is the first day of early voting in Georgia, which runs through Nov. 2. If you signed up to vote early, what do you have to do? Where do you do it? And what is a "provisional ballot?"

 


North Carolina's Republican-led General Assembly has approved a set of legislative district maps to replace the 2011 plans thrown out by the courts for being illegal racial gerrymanders. The problem, many critics say, is that the new maps are just as bad.

The state's battles over political geography come less than six weeks before the U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear arguments in a case about the extent to which partisanship can be used to draw legislative and congressional districts.

A letter from Kris Kobach, the vice chairman of a White House commission looking into voter fraud and other irregularities, is drawing fire from some state election officials. The letter, sent Wednesday to all 50 states, requests that all publicly available voter roll data be sent to the White House by July 14, five days before the panel's first meeting.

Vice President Pence has yet to begin a promised investigation into allegations by President Trump that millions of people voted illegally in November. But that hasn't stopped state lawmakers from taking action they say would limit voter fraud, even though the president's claims have been widely discredited.

Legislation to tighten voter ID and other requirements has already been introduced in about half the states this year. And in statehouse after statehouse, the debate has had a familiar ring.

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Attorneys on both sides of a high-profile case of what was alleged to be voter fraud in Georgia say they have agreed those charges were unfounded.

In the lead up to a contentious local election in 2015, sheriff’s deputies in Hancock County ­– 100 miles east of Atlanta – knocked on doors checking to see if voters were living where their drivers’ licenses said they did. The board of elections identified 180 voters, mostly African-American, who were mismatched and accused them of voter fraud.

After out-of-court mediation, an agreement issued this week refutes that. 

The U.S. Supreme Court has made clear over the past quarter century that racial gerrymandering is an unconstitutional no-no, but partisan gerrymandering is still permissible. The question is: How do you tell the difference? Especially when the Voting Rights Act allows for some consideration of race to ensure minority representation, and when party affiliation often correlates with race.

In cases from Virginia and North Carolina, the Supreme Court seemed unsure on Monday how to balance these mandates.

For more than a quarter century, two legislative districts in North Carolina have been ground zero in a fight over race and redistricting. In the course of that time, Republicans have taken control of the state Legislature, and the two political parties have reversed their legal positions regarding the use of race and drawing district lines.

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Come next Tuesday, millions of people will stand in line to vote; last presidential cycle, about 57.5 percent of eligible voters cast ballots. Still, that means nearly half did not. Many people stay away from the polls because they run out of time, or have a work conflict — in which case lacking paid time off to vote might be a factor.

Paid leave to vote is covered by a patchwork of laws around the country.

This year's presidential election will be the first in a half-century without the significant presence of federal observers at polling places. That's because in 2013 the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act, and when the court wiped out that section, the statute that provided for election observers went, too.

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The upcoming presidential election will mark a surprising first. Yes, a woman will be on the ballot as a major party nominee. But in addition, for the first time ever, the Organization of American States is sending poll observers to watch as U.S. voting takes place.

The OAS, based in Washington, D.C., has previously observed elections in 26 of its 34 member nations, but never before in the United States. The mission will be led by former Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla.

Election day is less than two months away, but the first ballots have already been sent out to voters. Last Friday, officials in North Carolina began sending out mail-in ballots to those who had requested them.

In-person early voting starts in Vermont, Minnesota and in parts of Virginia later this month. Early voting, and other measures to facilitate voting, such as same-day registration, have increased in recent years. But so have efforts to restrict access to the polls.

After Sept. 11, 2001, there was a spike in hate crimes against Muslim Americans. Now, on the 15th anniversary of the terror attacks, Muslim leaders say Islamophobia is cresting once again. A string of recent murders in New York City has left the city's Muslim residents on edge.

In the last month, three Bangladeshi immigrants wearing traditional Muslim dress were killed on the streets of Queens. One of them was the imam at Al-Furqan Jame Masjid, a modest storefront mosque in a working-class neighborhood called Ozone Park.

A federal appeals court has blocked a proof-of-citizenship requirement on a federal mail voter registration form in Kansas, Alabama and Georgia.

The case pits Brian Newby, U.S. Election Assistance Commission executive director who argues that the requirement prevents voter fraud, against the League of Women Voters, which argues the documentation requirement disenfranchises voters.

In the swing state of North Carolina, a fight for early voting rights that seemed to end with a strongly worded federal court ruling last month, may be just getting started.

That fight began in 2013, when the state made cuts to early voting, created a photo ID requirement and eliminated same-day registration, out-of-precinct voting, and pre-registration of high school students.

More than half of all voters there use early voting, and African-Americans do so at higher rates than whites. African-Americans also tend to overwhelmingly vote for Democrats.

Tens of thousands of Americans with disabilities have lost their voting rights. It usually happens when a court assigns a legal guardian to handle their affairs. Now, some of those affected are fighting to get back those rights.

David Rector recently went to Superior Court in San Diego, Calif., to file a request to have his voting rights restored. Rector lost those rights in 2011 when his fiance, Rosalind Alexander-Kasparik, was appointed his conservator after a brain injury left him unable to walk or speak.

Kennesaw State University unveiled a first-of-its-kind housing facility for its homeless students last week. We speak with Marcy Stidum, director of the university’s CARE center, about the facility and the growing issue of homelessness in higher education.

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Gwinnett County is the most diverse county in the Southeast, but the area is represented almost entirely by white officials. And now, a lawsuit by a coalition of voting rights groups alleges that minority votes are being weakened by unfair district lines.  

We speak with a trio of local experts about how much political representation and race matter in multicultural communities.

BRYAN SELLS LAW

The small city of Sparta, Georgia made headlines this week. A lawsuit claims Hancock County and its Board of Elections systematically questioned the registrations of nearly 200 Sparta voters - most of whom are black. A quarter of the voters were removed from voter rolls. This electoral move would have required the pre-clearance from the federal government three years ago. But the Supreme Court struck down that provision, saying the mandate was outdated and unconstitutional.

A federal appeals court has ruled that a Texas voter ID law has a discriminatory effect on minority voters, and it has ordered a lower court to devise a remedy before the November elections.

A district court had found not only that the law discriminated, but that it was intentionally designed to do so. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals saw some flaws in that conclusion and instructed the lower court to reconsider that element of the case and rule again — preferably after Election Day.

As the presidential election nears, a number of important voting law cases are still up in the air. And that can be confusing — for voters trying to figure out what they do or don't need to cast their ballots, for election officials trying to figure out how to run elections, and for politicians trying to make sure supporters get out and vote.

Here's a brief guide on where some of the big cases stand, as of the end of June. More rulings are expected, although courts are reluctant to make major voting law changes too close to Election Day.

Voting Access In Macon In An Age Of Early Voting

May 3, 2016

It’s odd to find a polling site at a bus station. But Macon-Bibb election officials have done just that. Last Friday they had a ribbon-cutting for an early voting place at the back of terminal station downtown. Bus rider Tom O’Keefe says this might be convenient.  

“If I knew if I was here and I had to wait on a bus for 30 minutes and that (it) was open I would vote,” said O’Keefe.