Articles Posted in Election Law

There’s a big difference in requiring a photo ID to board an airplane and the right to vote.  Voting in America is a precious right; eligibility is established in the United States Constitution, its amendments, by state laws and by various acts of Congress. Because the Constitution does not have particular language on voting except for the Fourteenth Amendment (1868), the Fifteen Amendment (1870) , the Nineteenth Amendment (1920), the Twenty-Fourth Amendment  (1964) and the Twenty-Sixth Amendment (1971), the states have wide discretion to establish the legal qualifications for voting.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was a very hard-fought law that sought to end the decades of Jim Crow voting restrictions of African-Americans living in the South particularly. In 1964 fewer than half of all registered African-Americans living in the Jim Crow South were eligible to vote. Now 70% of African-Americans are registered to vote. About 65% of registered African-Americans voted in the last two presidential elections.

Even those statistics, being promising, are under a vicious attack in an effort to restrict voting. It is no  surprise that most of the states that have recently passed onerous voting restrictions have governments that are overwhelmingly controlled by Republicans. There are easily accessible videos to view in which state legislators in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and the Deep South have candidly said out loud that with voting restriction laws in place — laws shortening voter registration dates and times, laws eliminating or drastically curtailing early voting — African-Americans, Hispanics and persons of color, the disabled and the poor will not have the ability to cast votes.  The poorly hidden purpose of the voting restrictions is clear — to limit those who are more likely to vote Democrat.

Continue reading

In 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 — considered by many to be the most effective piece of civil rights law ever passed in the United States. During the 50 years since its passage, it has been renewed by Congress several times without much alteration or resistance.

The purpose of the act was to make it unlawful to discriminate against minorities by state and local governments who had for all times made it difficult, if not impossible, for blacks and other minorities to register to vote and thus to vote at all. Before 1965, the registration of blacks in most of the Civil War southern states was below 10%. By the end of 1965 after the passage of the act, approximately 250,000 African Americans were newly registered voters. Just 3 years later, more than 700,000 blacks would be registered to vote. Steadily the numbers increased over the years.

And in fact — and most important — African Americans and other minorities in the South were being elected to local state and federal political positions. These advances took place even in the face of efforts to curtail registration and to gerrymander districts into places where blacks and other minorities were unelectable mostly because of the racial makeup of these districts where whites would never or most likely not vote for a black candidate.

Continue reading

In this year 2015, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (“VRA”) was heralded as “the most effective civil rights law in the history of the United States,” Richard L. Engstrom, Race and Seven Politics, 10 ELECTION, L.J. 53, 53 (2011). The 50 years since the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was made law was predated by many U.S. Congressional acts or attempts to enact protection of the voting rights of all American citizens. In fact, in 1870, Henry Cabot Lodge proposed a “Forced Bill,” a law that would reinforce an 1870 law that gave force to the federal government to make sure that all phases of registration and voting, particularly in Southern states, was protected. This bill passed the House of Representatives but failed in the Senate. From that time, through the 1880s, right up to the present day and including 1965, the right to vote has been under attack or has been in some places limited by voter IDs and other state law measures to limit the number of poor, elderly, convicted felons and others from voting in local, state and national elections.

In the 2013 decision of Shelby County, the 1965 Voting Rights Act was weakened by a 5-4 decision in the U.S. Supreme Court that held that Section 4 coverage formula was unconstitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court asserted that that section was not adequately grounded in “current conditions.” Shelby County, 133 S.Ct. at 26-29.

Interestingly enough, the Supreme Court, in limiting the impact of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, did so even though Congress reauthorized the Voting Rights Acts in 2006 by overwhelming votes in both the U.S. House and the Senate. There were reports that Congress reviewed 15,000 pages of evidence showing persistent discrimination in voting in the 9 southern states of jurisdictions that were covered under the Act.

Continue reading

The City of Chicago began the business of reapportioning its 50 aldermanic wards. To accomplish this goal, the City Council conducted public hearings in 2011 to solicit opinions from citizens regarding the redrawing of ward boundaries.

Under Illinois law, the City Council was required to get the approval of 41 aldermen in order to prevent a referendum on the redistricting plan. In January 2012, the City Council approved the redistricting plan by a vote of 41-8.

The wards created by the redistricting map deviated from an even distribution of population by a maximum of 8.7% per ward.

Continue reading

The City of Country Club Hills, a Chicago suburb west of the Tri-State Tollway along Interstate 80, maintained a governing body of  ten aldermen — two aldermen from each of the city’s five wards. 

In the 2012 general election, a referendum was put to the vote of the citizenry asking them whether they wanted to reduce the number of aldermen to five, one from each ward. 

The current ten aldermen would continue to serve to the end of their terms and then the number of aldermen would be reduced to five if the referendum passed. There were no objections filed, and the referendum question was referred to the county clerk to be put on the ballot. 

Continue reading