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Voting Rights: Census Bureau Puts Out New Estimate Of Cost Of Citizenship Question

May 13, 2019 1:45 p.m.

At a field hearing in Florida last Monday, House Democrats looked a various measures that restrict the vote in the state as they consider legislation to reimplement the Voting Rights Act’s preclearance process. Under preclearance, the formula for which the Supreme Court invalidated in 2013, some jurisdictions with histories of disenfranchisement, including five counties in Florida, would have to get federal signoff on new voting rules. But even if a new preclearance formula were to pass the House, the legislation stands little chance of being passed by the GOP-controlled Senate.

House Democrats listened to testimony about voter purges in Florida and state legislation undermining a felon re-enfrachisement initiative approved by voters. Before 2013, only five of its counties were required to seek federal approval for election policy changes. Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), meanwhile, has said he will sign the felon voting legislation, which will require that felons pay all fees — including steep court administration costs — rather than just the fines imposed in their sentences before they can become eligible to vote.

A second lawsuit has been filed against Tennessee challenging its new law penalizing voter registration drives if they turn in too many “deficient” forms. The latest lawsuit — filed Thursday by the ACLU and Campaign Legal Center on behalf of voting rights groups and other organizations in the state — comes after the NAACP brought its own legal challenge last week. The new GOP law was pushed after Tennessee’s midterm election featured historic turnout. In addition to the fines for the forms, it also threatens jail time for paid voter registration workers if they violate other rules regarding the drives.

After the RNC sent out a sketchy mailer last month seeking donations under the guise of being a census form, House Democrats asked that the Postmaster General investigate the solicitation. The decennial census, which determines how political power is doled out across the country, is already facing enough challenges given the Trump administration’s push to add a citizenship question to the survey.

Speaking of which, the Census Bureau put out new research on how asking the question will affect the survey, finding that it will decrease self-response by 2.2 percent and cost the Bureau an additional $121 million.

A campaign staffer for former Rep. Scott Taylor (R) was indicted Monday as part of a special prosecutor investigation into allegations of forged signatures used to get an independent candidate on the ballot in Taylor’s race. Lauren Creekmore Peabody was charged with two counts of election fraud. The investigation is ongoing, but has been impeded by “the lack of cooperation of key individuals,” special prosecutor Don Caldwell said in a release announcing the indictment.

In Mississippi, a man was released after spending a month in jail on faulty allegation of voter fraud. After voting in a 2017 municipal election, Sherman Matlock was charged with two counts of voter fraud on the flawed basis that his previous conviction for manslaughter made him ineligible. It turns out that manslaughter is not among the crimes in Mississippi that disqualified residents from voting, leading a judge to dismiss the case earlier this month.

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