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    ‘voter registration’

    Why Voting Rights Aren’t Just for Old People

    Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013

    By RTV Guest Blogger Dale Ho, ACLU Voting Rights Project (see bio below)

    In a continuation of trends from previous elections, voters under the age of 30 turned out in record numbers in last year’s election, leading many analysts to suggest that they played a decisive role in the presidential race.  But many of those young voters might not have been able to participate at all if the Supreme Court’s recent ruling striking down a crucial part of the federal Voting Rights Act (“VRA”) had been in effect last year.

    The Supreme Court in the Shelby County case, however, eliminated that crucial protection.  The Court declared that the part of the VRA that determines which states are subject to the preclearance requirement is out-of-date, and therefore unconstitutional, striking down the law. First, some background.  Earlier this week, the Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder struck down a key provision of the VRA.  The provision of the VRA in question related to what’s known as federal “preclearance” of voting laws: the VRA required certain states and counties that have a history of voting discrimination – places like Alabama, Mississippi, Texas, and Florida – to get approval or preclearance from the federal government before making any changes to their voting laws.  Over the past three decades, this provision of the VRA blocked over 700 discriminatory voting laws from going into effect.

    That decision could prove devastating for the voting rights of all citizens, particularly young voters. In last year’s presidential election alone, the VRA’s preclearance requirement enabled thousands of voters to cast a ballot free from discrimination or other interference.  For example, in one case being litigated by the ACLU, Texas attempted to implement a law that would have, among other things, prohibited voters from using student ID cards to verify their identities at the polls (but would have permitted the use of concealed handgun licenses).

    Thankfully, the VRA blocked that discriminatory law, and several others, in advance of the election.  But had the Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County been in effect, an estimated 600,000 registered voters in Texas – who do not own the type of ID that Texas demanded at the polls – could have been denied their right to vote.  In addition to young voters, poor and elderly voters – who are less generally less likely to own a car (and thus, a driver’s license) – would also have been disproportionately affected.

    So why did the Supreme Court strike down this essential provision of the VRA?  The plaintiff in the case, Shelby County, Alabama, argued that it is unfair to require some states but not others to seek approval from the federal government before changing their voting laws.  A majority of the Court agreed.

    But that’s hardly a reason for scrapping a law that has and continues to do so much good.  If anything, the last election showed that we need more, rather than fewer, protections for our right to vote.  And, as Justice Sonia Sotomayor noted during the oral argument in Shelby County, the state of Alabama was found to have violated the Voting Rights Act over 100 times since 1982.  The fact that other states like Ohio or Pennsylvania have also engaged in bad behavior hardly seems like a reason for giving Alabama a free pass.

    Moreover, what was crucial about the VRA is that it blocked discriminatory voting laws before they went into effect.  Outside of the voting context, most anti-discrimination laws operate after discrimination has already occurred – say, if your employer pays you less because you’re a woman or you’re gay, you often sue afterwards, and then, if you prove your case, you then get awarded backpay.

    But that kind of process doesn’t work in the elections context – you can’t re-do a discriminatory election after the fact,  which is why it is so crucial to prevent discriminatory voting laws before they are implemented.  But now, after the Supreme Court’s decision, voters who suffer discrimination will generally only be able to sue after their voting rights have been infringed – and, even if they prove their case, we all will still have to live with the results of an unfair and unlawful election.

    The Supreme Court ignored that fact.  It also ignored its own precedent, as the Court had previously upheld the preclearance requirement as constitutional in four separate decisions spanning four decades.  And, the Court ignored the fact that strong bipartisan majorities in Congress – voted in favor of Section 5 and its geographic scope in 2006.  Young voters – like all Americans – have expressed profound disappointment about the inability of Democrats and Republicans to come together in Washington, but the near-unanimity about the continuing need for the VRA from both sides is remarkable.  In determining what to do next, we hope Congress will approach this issue with the same bipartisan spirit that it did when it last reauthorized the VRA seven years ago.

    Safeguarding the fundamental right to vote of all Americans – young and old alike – demands no less.

    Mr. Dale Ho’s Biography: Dale Ho is the director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, where he supervises the ACLU’s docket of voting rights litigation. His work includes litigation under the Voting Rights Act; combating barriers to voter registration and ballot access; and expanding access to the franchise. Dale has testified on election reforms in various state legislatures around the country, and is a frequent commentator on voting rights issues, appearing on television programs including Hardball with Chris Matthews, Up with Chris Hayes, and ViewPoint with Elliot Spitzer. He is an adjunct professor of law at Brooklyn Law School and New York Law School, and has published over half a dozen academic articles in law reviews including the Florida Law Review, the Richmond Law Review, the Harvard BlackLetter Law Journal, and the Stanford Law & Policy Review. Prior to joining the ACLU, he was Assistant Counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund; an associate at Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP; and a judicial law clerk, first to Judge Barbara S. Jones, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, and then to Judge Robert S. Smith, New York Court of Appeals. Dale is a graduate of Yale Law School and Princeton University.
    Bio: This is a guest blog account. Have a blog you want to share with the RTV community? E-mail us at streetteam@rockthevote.com and we'll go from there!

    Email the author at: blog(at)rockthevote.com

    What’s in a name? At Rock the Vote: A LOT

    Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

    What’s in a name? At Rock the Vote: A LOT. When I tell people I’m an intern with Rock the Vote I get an overwhelmingly positive response. I hear remarks that are along the lines of “I remember their work with MTV” or, “Yeah, I’ve seen their public service announcements with celebrities!” But during my time here I have come to learn that Rock the Vote is a powerhouse of action. Their work goes well beyond the scope of having awesome celebrity ambassadors like Darren Criss or Perez Hilton.

    As a field intern I have a first-hand view into the world of grassroots organizing at a very large reaching organization, run by a surprisingly tiny staff. Rock the Vote has an incredible amount of resources for young Americans to take action in politics. I was inspired to be a part of their team because of these initiatives & because I remember when they were on my college campus in 2008 (which was the first time I could ever vote in an election). Did you know that Rock the Vote pioneered the launch of the online national voter registration tool? They are also the largest non-partisan voter registration organization in the United States. To go even further, they launched Democracy Class, a civics education program designed for teachers to talk to high school students about the importance of voting. I could go on with this for a while, but you get the gist…

    We Millennials have an extraordinary amount of political power—but we need to USE IT. Rock the Vote knows that we can’t have a voice without a vote. They registered over 1 million voters in 2012 and they continue to stand up for us against those who try to silence or intimidate our voices through the voting process. I’m glad that to have been given the opportunity to work with such a dynamic organization and talented group of people. I will definitely take this experience into my future work as an organizer.

    Bio: Maura graduated from the University of Dayton in 2011 with a BA in International Studies and French. During the course of her studies she was elected Student Body Vice President where she worked to make student activity funding more affordable & fair to the campus community. Following graduation, Maura joined the 2012 Obama Campaign as grassroots Field Organizer in Ohio (the battleground of all battleground states). She now continues her passion of engaging and building political power for young people with Rock the Vote.

    Email the author at: blog(at)rockthevote.com

    3OH!3 Wants YOU to Vote

    Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

    As 3OH!3 we’ve always been interested in making fun, inclusive music that pushes and challenges boundaries, presents something novel, and hopefully has some small, lastingimpact on a piece of the music world. We’ve also been interested in using the social platform we have to try to make the world around us a better place. One of the most important and impactful ways we think we can do this is by encouraging young people to vote, and to be active in shaping the world around them.

    As a young person, we would ask you to educate yourself about the important issues being debated. Think about how they will affect not only you and your family, but also the people around you, your town, your state, your country, and the world as a whole. As our society develops and evolves, it is evermore important to foster intelligent and educated debate about the issues that affect us all.

    We proudly participated in a “Trick or Vote” Halloween 2008 voting campaign. It was wonderful to see young people excited and motivated by the prospects of having their voices heard. We will continue to stay active in this field. I believe that as young people, once we have educated ourselves, we have the most powerful tools a citizen in our society can have: a voice and a vote. As America’s youth, we have the power to decide how we will conduct ourselves domestically and globally, and shape the future of our nation. That’s a very important and a very wonderful thing – please take advantage of that power and vote!

    Nathaniel Motte, 2012

    guest blogger

    Email the author at: blog(at)rockthevote.com


    Monday, May 7th, 2012

    Nicolas Sarkozy loses to French Socialist Francois Hollande in France’s presidential run-off; Al-Qaeda releases a video of American hostage Warren Weinstein; Vladimir Putin returns to the Russian presidency; Biden speaks on gay marriage; and registration for black and Hispanic voters drops. Meanwhile, Jay-Z is spoiling his new daughter; Sacha Baron Cohen’s ‘Dictator’ threatens Matt Lauer’s family; and Mark Ruffalo’s Twitter account is hacked.

    Kelly + Caitlin


    Al-Qaeda Releases Video of American Hostage, http://ti.me/KCOn70
    Al-Qaeda released a video Sunday that shows American hostage Warren Weinstein saying he will be murdered unless President Obama agrees to the terrorist group’s demands. Weinstein has been a hostage since August when he was abducted in Lahore, Pakistan after his security guards were fooled and gunmen broke into his home. Weinstein, 70, is from Rockville, Md., and works as a country director for J.E. Austin Associates, a firm that advises Pakistani businesses and government groups. Leaders of the al-Qaeda group are demanding that U.S. air strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen stop, and for all al-Qaeda and Taliban suspects around the world to be released. So far the White House has provided no comment on the situation.

    Flashy, fiery Sarkozy fades from French scene, http://bit.ly/KOHrX3
    Nicolas Sarkozy lost to French Socialist Francois Hollande in France’s presidential run-off election on Sunday. Sarkozy has become the first French one-term president since 1981. Many political strategists attributed Sarkozy’s light and sometimes sarcastic attitude as unappealing to voters who had been hit hard by the economy. Sarkozy’s inability to fulfill his 2007 campaign promises to shrink joblessness was also an issue since France’s unemployment rate is close to 10 percent right. S&P had also demoted France’s state debt rating from its top standing in January.

    (via MSNBC) 400 protesters arrested hours before Vladimir Putin’s return to Russian presidency: Vladimir Putin was sworn in as Russia’s president at a glittering ceremony on Monday, hours after clashes between police and thousands of protesters in the country’s capital laid bare the deep divisions over his return to the Kremlin for six more years. In the latest demonstrations on Sunday, police detained more than 400 people, including three opposition leaders, after tensions boiled over at a rally attended by about 20,000 people across the Moscow river from the Kremlin. Police hit protesters on the head with batons as they tried to stop demonstrators advancing towards them, carrying metal crowd barriers and throwing objects. The crowd fought back with flagpoles before the police eventually restored order. Months of protests have polarized Russia and left Putin facing a battle to reassert himself or risk being sidelined by the powerful business and political elites whose backing is vital, http://on.msnbc.com/K5w9jB

    Syrians vote for new parliament amid boycott calls, http://bbc.in/IxJTQ4
    Despite continuing violence, Syrian authorities are holding parliamentary elections promised by President Bashar al-Assad. The elections are the first in four decades not to guarantee a majority win for the Baath Party already in power. Opposition groups are dismissing the election as a sham and a distraction from the government’s heavy-handed reaction to dissent. Nine new parties were created and seven candidates are running, compared to a total of 7,195 candidates that were registered to contest the 250-seat People’s Assembly. A total of 14.8 million Syrians are eligible to vote at 12,152 polling stations.

    A Scramble as Biden Backs Same-Sex Marriage, http://nyti.ms/LujWW8
    In an interview on NBC’S “Meet the Press” this Sunday, Vice President Joseph Biden said that he was “absolutely comfortable” with same-sex marriages and approved of the issue’s growing acceptance across the country. The White House is now fretting to clarify that Biden’s views do no indicate that the administration is advocating for an official change in policy. The blogosphere went wild, noting that Biden’s remarks make him the highest-ranking White House official to express acceptance of same-sex marriage. The Obama administration has only endorsed civil unions so far.

    Voter registration down among Hispanics, blacks, http://wapo.st/IP3jyf
    According to the Census Bureau, the number of black and Hispanic voters has fallen by 7 and 5 percent, respectively, across the country. Factoring in that voter registration reduces in non-presidential election years, and that white voter registration fell as well, it is the first time in 40 years that registered Hispanic voters has dropped this significantly. In some swing states, the fall-out is much higher. In New Mexico, Hispanic voter registration dropped by over 28 percent and in Florida by 10 percent.


    Beastie Boys’ Ad-Rock Pays Tribute To Adam Yauch, http://on.mtv.com/J7zVWZ

    Jay-Z Can’t Help Spoiling Blue Ivy, http://bit.ly/LuJGSa

    Sacha Baron Cohen’s ‘Dictator’ threatens Matt Lauer’s family, promotes film, http://on.msnbc.com/K6bCvk

    Justin Bieber: Meet My Clean-Cut Mentor … Floyd Mayweather! http://bit.ly/IwslUC

    Nationals’ Jayson Werth breaks left wrist, ‘out for a while,’ http://lat.ms/JbAn4E

    The Avengers Star Mark Ruffalo’s Twitter Account Hacked, http://eonli.ne/IF0mpw

    ‘Avengers’ Opening Weekend Shatters Box Office Records, http://on.mtv.com/ICaLxm

    Kelly Holleran

    Email the author at: blog(at)rockthevote.com


    Monday, April 23rd, 2012

    John Edwards is indicted in court; George Zimmerman makes bail; a storm uncommon for April hits the Northeast; the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi has received information on a potential terror attack in Kenya; and Jon Huntsman criticizes the GOP. Meanwhile, Giuliana Rancic will have a child through a surrogate; Neil Diamond is married; and Justin Bieber responds to his paternity accuser via Twitter.

    Kelly H. + Caitlin


    Jury Selection in Edwards Trial Set to Begin, http://nyti.ms/I9OJ4Z
    Former presidential candidate John Edwards begins his defense today in a trial that claims nearly one million dollars of his campaign contributions were illegal. If convicted, Edwards faces up to 30 years in prison and $1.5 million in fines. The federal government plans to argue that Edwards knowingly accepted money from two donors in order to keep information on his extramarital affair from derailing his campaign, therein using the campaign money for conspiracy. Legal experts are interested to see how the case will affect future use of campaign contributions from political action committees and high-level donors.

    George Zimmerman Released From Fla. Jail, http://nyti.ms/JrjHKz
    In the early hours of Monday morning, George Zimmerman was released from a Florida jail on $150,000 bail. Giving no statement, Zimmerman left for an undisclosed location where he will wait to begin his second-degree murder trial in the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman’s father said that his son will have to take out a second mortgage to cover the $15,000 minimum bail payment. Prosecutors originally asked for a $1 million bail to be set. Zimmerman has been criticized after his apology to the Martin family was ill-received, with Martin’s parents saying that the apology came at an inconvenient and insincere time.

    Big snowstorm shakes up ‘crazy’ winter, http://bit.ly/HZBxiL
    The Northeast region is getting record snow in April following the warmest March in history, with Newfield, New York reporting 10 inches of snowfall and Ridgebury, Pennsylvania reporting 8 inches. More accumulation is expected in higher elevations. Snowfall rates in central Pennsylvania are expected to reach 1 inch per hour at times on Monday afternoon. Weather experts are worried that the weight of snow accumulation with continuing winds will result in widespread power outages. With temperatures lower, meteorologists are also warning that rainfall from the Washington area to Maine may cause flooding.

    US warns of terror attack targeting hotels in Kenya, http://fxn.ws/J4KIhj
    “Credible information” has been received by the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi that alleges attacks on hotels and government buildings in the Kenyan capital. In a message on its website, the Embassy says, “Timing of the attack is not known, however, the Embassy has reason to believe that the potential attack is in the last stages of planning. The U.S. Embassy urges Americans to remain aware of their surroundings and vigilant of their personal security.” The State Department warned earlier this month of continued and heightening threats of terrorism in the region. Anticipated terrorist attacks may include suicide operations, bombings, kidnappings, and attacks on aviation or maritime vessels.

    Dutch Cabinet Resigns After Austerity Talks Fail, http://bit.ly/JrM62X
    The Netherlands’ Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, met the Dutch queen today to give his resignation after talks on austerity measures fell through. The failure of the Dutch government to reach an agreement on tough spending cuts could lead to the country’s AAA-rating being cut by ratings agencies, as well as investors increasing the country’s borrowing costs. The Dutch multi-party coalition government and the right-wing “Freedom Party,” or PVV, have been in discussion for seven weeks.

    (via Philly.com) On eve of Pa. primary, voter-ID law still being tweaked: Tuesday’s primary will be a dry run for the debut of Pennsylvania’s voter-identification requirements, a chance for election officials throughout the state to gauge the law’s impact and make appropriate adjustments before the presidential contest in November. But the voter-ID legislation was passed so close to the primary – Gov. Corbett signed it into law on March 14, and state officials were still tinkering with ID possibilities last week. The Corbett administration describes the primary as a “soft rollout” for the requirement that every voter must present an approved form of photo ID. Those without acceptable documents will be given a handout describing identification that will be required to vote in November. But election authorities in Southeastern Pennsylvania are not geared up to take names and addresses of voters who may want help acquiring a photo ID. Before the voter-ID bill cleared the legislature, Philadelphia election officials had already completed training for more than half the 7,000 or so people who staff the city’s 1,687 polling places. There wasn’t time or money to change course. In the city and the suburbs, only two counties – Bucks and Montgomery – reported they would be asking election officials to count how many voters were unable to present acceptable ID on Tuesday, http://bit.ly/Jzs8lh

    New curbs on voter registration could hurt Obama, http://reut.rs/Jml2m4
    In an analytic report, the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School finds that state laws which require voter ID and restrict voter-registration drives will significantly reduce the number of Americans signing up to vote this year by hundreds of thousands. Particularly targeting young, low-income, and minority voters, the voting legislation will especially hit hard in big states like Florida and Ohio. The analysts note that massive registration drives in 2008 helped put millions of people aged 18 to 29 on voting rolls, and that age group – which makes up roughly one-quarter of the U.S. electorate – helped propel Obama to victory, voting 2-to-1 for him.

    Jon Huntsman Trashes GOP, Expresses Campaign Regrets, http://bit.ly/I2VM55
    In an interview on Sunday night, former Republican candidate Jon Huntsman heavily criticized the GOP, making a comparison to China’s Communist Party in one answer. Citing his inability to veer from his beliefs on science and tax cuts, Huntsman believes he was punished for his views by not being invited to GOP fundraisers. Huntsman also invoked that Ronald Reagan would not be able to secure the Republican nomination today in the conservatives’ current political climate.


    Giuliana Rancic Is Expecting a Baby, http://bit.ly/I8Lu22

    Neil Diamond and Katie McNeil tie the knot, http://cbsn.ws/HVRKXp

    Justin Bieber Posts Message To His Paternity Accuser, http://on.mtv.com/JLd8OA

    Did Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds Buy a Country Home Together? http://eonli.ne/Ikm3cK

    Kelly Holleran

    Email the author at: blog(at)rockthevote.com