Spotlight: Ending Gerrymandering, Fighting for the Voting Rights Act, and Debating the Constitutionality of Unlimited Political Spending

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There’s been a flurry of fair-election stories from across the country this week. Here are three that we’re putting in the spotlight:

1. Nicholas Stephanopoulos this week wrote an op-ed about his theory about how the country can end gerrymandering – the manipulating the boundaries of an electoral constituency to favor one party or class – in New Republic.

He writes:

“Litigants keep losing these lawsuits because they keep proposing standards the courts have already rejected (such as partisan intent). They’re failing to capitalize on encouraging comments by the Supreme Court, which show that it’s open to a test based on partisan symmetry—the idea that district plans should treat the parties equally. In a forthcoming law review article, Eric McGhee and I lay out just such a test. If plaintiffs were to use it in litigation, they’d have a fighting chance at winning. And if they were to win, then the whole landscape of redistricting in America would be transformed.”

To read the entire piece, click here.

2. In 2010, a Supreme Court decision known as Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission protected the right of corporations and unions to spend money on political speech and removed limits on how much they could spend themselves – which was the subject of a recent debate.

NPR posted the audio of the debate, and gave this background information on its website:

“In these Oxford-style debates, the team that sways the most people by the end of the debate is declared the winner. One side took the position that political advocacy is exactly the kind of speech that the First Amendment is designed to protect, and that limiting spending means inhibiting expression. The other argued that spending is not the same as speech, and allowing unlimited spending gives some voices more power than others.

Before the debate, the audience at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia voted 33 percent in favor of the motion and 49 percent against, with 18 percent undecided. After the debate, 33 percent agreed with the motion, while 65 percent were against, making the team arguing against the motion the winner of this particular debate.”

To read the entire report (including bios of panelists who argued for and against the motion) and hear the audio, click here.

3. The Voting Rights Amendment Act continues to dominate news headlines.

On Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Georgia, penned an op ed titled, “Congress Must Act to Bolster Voting Rights Act” that appeared on the Huffington Post blog.

In it, he wrote:

“Voter disenfranchisement does not only occur in states with a history of discrimination. Most recently, we have seen an uptick in attempts to disenfranchise voters in other jurisdictions around the country. The 2012 elections saw the attempt to disenfranchise voters taken to a whole new level — with voter ID laws, cutting off early voting in certain areas, end to same-day registration and measures making it harder to register large groups of voters.

It’s these kinds of second-generation forms of racial bias that the VRA and Section 4 address specifically.”

To read the entire piece, click here.

For an FAQ on the Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014, click here.

To take action and voice your support of the bill, click here.

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