Gerrymandering Prisoners

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Earlier this year, a federal court in Connecticut allowed the NAACP to proceed in a first-of-its-kind lawsuit to challenge a widely overlooked population impacted by gerrymandering: inmates.

The plaintiffs in the case allege that prison gerrymandering — counting inmates in districts with prisons during the census instead of where that person last lived —particularly disenfranchises low-income and communities of color.

If successful, this case could lay the groundwork for other fair maps advocates to challenge prison gerrymandering in the courts.

What may seem like a small difference has sweeping consequences. States rely on census data to draw new legislative maps and allocate money. Nevertheless, a majority of states draw their maps in the state legislature, allowing elected officials to, in effect, choose their voters … In some cases, inmates are not counted at all in the census — as in Colorado and Mississippi. (read more)

Election Integrity Weekly is WhoWhatWhy’s one-stop shop that keeps you informed of who wants to tip the scales, what they are planning, and why they are doing it.

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A Historic Moment for Voting Rights

After the Supreme Court gutted key parts of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the House passed the Voting Rights Advancement Act. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), was the lone Republican who voted in favor of the bill.

Access to the ballot box has become a key issue for 2020 Democratic presidential candidates. Among the candidates still running, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) notably abstained from the vote.

The bill, introduced by Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL) last year, would vastly expand voting rights and restore the federal government’s authority to go after states that discriminate by race, gender, and language.

“We … urge the Senate to quickly bring [the Voting Rights Advancement Act] to the floor for a vote. This bill would restore the critical preclearance provisions of the Voting Rights Act, which were struck down by the Supreme Court in the 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision,” Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, stated.

Via Mother Jones: “In one striking example, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights found that 1,688 polling places were closed between 2012 and 2018 in states that previously needed federal approval of their election changes under the Voting Rights Act.”

More Money, More Problems

The Associated Press released a bombshell report last week that shows ties between Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) and a dark money group funded by her top political aides.

“Iowa Values, a political nonprofit … was co-founded in 2017 by Ernst’s longtime consultant, Jon Kohan. It shares a fundraiser, Claire Holloway Avella, with the Ernst campaign. And a condo owned by a former aide — who was recently hired to lead the group — was used as Iowa Values’ address at a time when he worked for her,” the AP’s Brian Slodysko wrote.

Nonprofits can spend an unlimited amount of money during election cycles, but campaign finance laws prohibit them from coordinating with a political candidate or their campaign. A memo showed that Iowa Values was strategizing a victory plan with the Ernst 2020 campaign.

Still, as the AP noted, it’s unlikely that the Federal Election Commission will step in; the federal elections watchdog agency hasn’t had a quorum to vote on enforcement measures since its vice chair resigned in August. (read more)

Securing the Ballot Box

It’ll be an expensive endeavor for local jurisdictions in Georgia, according to a new report by Fair Fight Action, FreedomWorks, and the National Election Defense Coalition. They estimate costs to upgrade decades-old voting machines in the Peach State could reach $82 million.

The bipartisan coalition alleged that Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger failed to comply with Georgia state law by purchasing new voting machines without accounting for population growth, and burdened counties with the bill for the limited yet expensive software that the machines require. (read more)

Legal News

— Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT) v. Peters: FEC complaint filed

Like Ernst, Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) was accused of illegally coordinating with outside organizations. The conservative-backed nonprofit alleged that Peters posted information and media content on his campaign website, specifically “what Michiganders from all parts of the state need to know,” and ads just days later by the political action committee VoteVets.org Action Fund contained some of that content.

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