Tag: gerrymandering

Obama Headlines Rally in Support of Michigan Democrats

(photo by Callie Teitelbaum)

by Callie Teitelbaum

Former President Barack Obama spoke at a rally for the Michigan Democrats at Cass Tech High School in Detroit on October 27th. Thousands of people gathered outside Cass Tech waiting for the doors to open at 5:00 P.M.

The rally was held in support of the Michigan Democrats running for federal and local office in the midterm elections and emphasized the importance of voting on November 6th.

Obama was welcomed on stage by Debbie Stabenow, who is running for re-election to the U.S. senate, and the Cass Tech band at 8:00 P.M. Obama spoke about the importance of voting in the midterms.

“The main reason I am here is to make sure that all of you vote in what I believe might be the most important election of our lifetime,” Obama said. “The stakes in this election are really high. The consequences of sitting on the sidelines in this election are dangerous and profound because America is at a crossroads right now…the character of our country is on the ballot.”

Obama stated in his speech that politicians often try to scare, distract, and place voter rules on citizens to prevent them from voting. He mentioned examples of Americans being distracted in 2014 with the threat of Ebola, in 2016 with Hillary Clinton’s emails, and how “the most important thing” in this election is “a bunch of impoverished refugees a thousand miles away,” Obama said. He concluded that the American people must no longer fall for these diversions.

Obama enumerated upon what he said were lies of politicians, specifically, Republican candidates who are running campaigns in support of the the Affordable Care Act and protecting insurance for people with pre-existing conditions, despite their previous attempts to continuously overturn that law.

“What we have not seen before in our public life is politicians just blatantly, repeatedly, boldly, shamelessly, lie,” Obama said.

Obama endorsed Stabenow, saying she is the person who will protect healthcare for people with pre-existing conditions along with Elissa Slotkin, who took leave from CIA to take care of her mom, and is now the Democratic nominee for Michigan’s 8th congressional district.

Obama drew attention to the current administration who he claims continuously caters to America’s elite and how that must change. He endorsed voting on Proposal 2 and further condemned deceit by politicians. “When words stop meaning anything, when truth doesn’t matter, when people can just make up things, then democracy, it doesn’t work,” Obama said.

Obama later stated, “The only check on bad behavior is you and your vote.”

Obama made sure to list the vast number of issues that will take time to fix and said that while one election will not change everything, it is a start.“ The biggest threat to our democracy is indifference,” Obama said.

Prior to Obama’s speech, a variety of political figures spoke to either endorse candidates or campaign for their own nomination. The main political issues discussed included healthcare, public school education, women’s rights, and ending gerrymandering in the state of Michigan.

Continue reading “Obama Headlines Rally in Support of Michigan Democrats”

Georgia ACLU and Voting Rights Activists Move to Block Plan to Close Two-Thirds of Randolph County’s Polling Places

Georgia ACLU Staff (photo via aclu.org)

by Vanessa Williams, WashingtonPost via sandiegouniontribune.com

Voting rights activists in Georgia say they will launch a petition drive in an effort to collect enough signatures of registered voters to block a proposal to close more than two-thirds of polling precincts in a predominantly black county ahead of this fall’s general election.

The plan to shutter the voting sites in Randolph County, a rural community about 2½ hours south of Atlanta, has been drawn dozens of local residents and progressive groups to two public hearings in recent days. The American Civil Liberties Union filed a formal protest with the county’s board of elections.

Brian Kemp, Georgia’s secretary of state, which oversees elections operations throughout the state, has issued a statement urging Randolph County officials to “abandon this effort.” Kemp also is the Republican nominee in one of the country’s most-watched gubernatorial contests. The Democratic nominee, Stacey Abrams, a former state legislator, is seeking to become the nation’s first black female governor.

The two-member county election board – a third member stepped down recently – has scheduled a vote for Friday on the proposal to shutter seven of the county’s nine polling places, citing problems including facilities in disrepair or inaccessible to persons with disabilities. But some activists are suspicious of the board’s motives, noting that Randolph County is 60 percent black and many residents have low incomes. The county, which covers 431 square miles, has no public transportation system.

All nine of the polling places were used for the May primaries and less than a month ago for statewide run-offs, in which Kemp, helped by an endorsement from President Donald Trump, beat Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle for the GOP nomination.

Local news outlets reported heated discussions at meetings on Thursday and Friday, with residents and activists alleging the move was aimed at suppressing turnout in the county, in which more than 55 percent of the voters are black and have backed Democratic candidates in statewide elections.

County officials and a consultant hired by local officials said the closures were necessary because the sites were not compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act and there was not time to fix them before the Nov. 6 general election. They also suggested that affected residents could vote by absentee ballot.

“You don’t solve problems of accessibility for people with disabilities by reducing access for people without disabilities,” said Andrea Young, executive director of the Georgia ACLU, which wrote a letter to the board stating that the closures would be a violation of the Voting Rights Act because it would have a negative effect on African-American voters. The group noted that African-Americans make up more than 96 percent of the voters at one of the polling places slated for closure.

Unsure if the board will be persuaded by the arguments for keeping the polling places open, some activists will try to stop the plan by using a state law that forbids the closure of voting sites if 20 percent of the registered voters in the affected precinct object to the change. The county currently has just over 4,000 registered voters.

Nse Ufot, executive director of the New Georgia Project, a voter registration and education group, said activists will begin collecting signatures Sunday, spreading the word at morning church services.

“We want to see to it that the hundreds of students we registered at Andrew College and the people we’ve registered in Randolph are able to exercise their sacred, fundamental right to vote,” Ufot said. The goal is to submit the petition before the board’s scheduled Friday vote.

A similar petition drive overturned a decision two years ago by elections officials in Macon-Bibb County to relocate a polling place from a school to the sheriff’s office.

“These polling place closures are part of a stark pattern that we are seeing across Georgia whereby officials are working to make it harder for African Americans and other minorities to vote,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director for the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “The more communities mobilize to turn out the vote, the harsher the voter suppression efforts undertaken by officials. We are prepared to use every tool in our arsenal to ensure that African American voters are able to have meaningful access to the polls this election cycle.”

Read more: http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/us-politics/ct-georgia-voting-rights-polling-places-20180818-story.html#

Federal Court Invalidates Part of Texas Congressional Map for Violating Voting Rights Act and U.S. Constitution

Illustration by Anneke Paterson / Todd Wiseman via texastribune.org

by Alexa Ura AND Jim Malewitz via texastribune.org

Federal judges invalidated two Texas congressional districts Tuesday, ruling that they must be fixed by either the Legislature or a federal court. A three-judge panel in San Antonio unanimously ruled that Congressional Districts 27 and 35 violate the U.S. Constitution and the federal Voting Rights Act.

The judges found that Hispanic voters in Congressional District 27, represented by U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi, were “intentionally deprived of their opportunity to elect a candidate of their choice.” Congressional District 35 — a Central Texas district represented by Democrat Lloyd Doggett of Austin — was deemed “an impermissible racial gerrymander” because lawmakers illegally used race as the predominant factor in drawing it, the judges wrote.

The 107-page ruling — the latest chapter of a six-year court battle over how Texas lawmakers drew political maps — sets up a scramble to redraw the districts in time for the 2018 elections. The court ruled only on the current congressional map, leaving legal challenges to the state House map unanswered. The court ordered the Texas Attorney General’s Office to indicate within three business days whether the Texas Legislature would take up redistricting to fix those violations — although Republicans in Austin had previously expressed no appetite to undertake a special session devoted to redistricting.

Otherwise, the state and its legal foes will head back to court on Sept. 5 to begin re-drawing the congressional map. That could shake up other congressional races when the boundaries are changed, though the court has asked the parties to consult with experts to “minimize the effect on adjoining districts.” Before Tuesday’s decision, the judges had already ruled that the Texas Legislature sought to weaken the strength of Latino and black voters while drawing state House and congressional districts in 2011, immediately following the 2010 U.S. Census.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton expressed mixed emotions about Tuesday’s outcome. “We appreciate that the panel ruled in favor of Texas on many issues in the case. But the portion of the ruling that went against Texas is puzzling considering the Legislature adopted the congressional map the same court itself adopted in 2012,” the Republican said in a written statement. “We look forward to asking the Supreme Court to decide whether Texas had discriminatory intent when relying on the district court.”

Minority and civil rights groups suing the state celebrated the ruling as a win for voters who they say were forced to cast votes under unconstitutional maps.

To read full article, go to: Federal court invalidates part of Texas congressional map | The Texas Tribune