Can people rely on lesser known voting rights protections?

The Voting Rights Act, recently well known for its federal approval required under Section 5, also includes a portion that prohibits vote dilution, or depriving minority voters an equal opportunity to elect a candidate.

In the past, courts have restricted applying Section 2, mainly because of the burden of proof that’s required, said Allison Riggs, a staff attorney with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, a Durham, N.C.-based non-profit advocacy group.

Riggs, who has argued redistricting cases on behalf of state branches of the NAACP and defended the constitutionality of Section 5 in court, said she is concerned by the growing number of groups challenging the section as unconstitutional. For example, a Section 5 lawsuit filed by Shelby County, Ala., said the law was outdated, claiming the demographics in the municipalities had changed in the years since the Voting Rights Act was passed. The case is expected to reach the Supreme Court.

“In all of the work we do, there is a thread of concern that this Supreme Court might be inclined to strike down what has been the most important tool in our pocket for advancing and protecting minority voting interests,” Riggs said, noting that many still rely on the protections offered by Section 5.

Section 2 is harder for voters to depend on, she said. The burden of suing is on the minority voter claiming disenfranchisement. It’s costly, intense litigation, Riggs said, which excludes many from pursuing a case.

“One of the reasons that Congress said we need Section 5 is because Section 2 is very limited in its ability to bring about remedies because it’s time consuming, expensive and [voters] don’t have access to the resources they need in order to get there,” Riggs said.

By Caitlin O’Donnell, News21

Coffee Break Ballot, July 2: Current Trends in Voting Rights

Nothing like the nation’s birthday week to get voters interested in political affairs.

There’s a closely watched presidential election this week for the U.S. southern neighbor Mexico, and it is important for several reasons. The liberal Institutional Party of the Revolution is widely expected to return to power after 12 years of conservative rule; the election includes Mexico’s first major female candidate for president, and Mexico is one of America’s most important trade partners.

But this morning on Twitter and Facebook, American voters are making connections between Mexican election laws that require voters to use a federally provided photo ID and U.S. Department of Justice legal challenges to state laws requiring such IDs at the polls.

Mexican elections have a much more complicated history of voter suppression and election fraud, reports suggest, but it is interesting to see these kinds of cross-continent connections. The 2006 Mexican presidential election was decided by fewer than 300,000 votes, leading to widespread allegations of election mischief.

Even more, a purported video example of election fraud has exploded on Facebook, giving election wonks and fraud opponents everywhere something to chew.

What We’ve Been Reading

20 Years of Registering Voters in High School!” (League of Women Voters, 07/02)

Mess in Texas,” (Bill Buck, 07/02, CBS Atlanta)

Lehman declared winner in Senate recall,” (Todd Richmond, 07/02, Associated Press)

Charges of voter suppression in Rangel primary election,” (Eric Shawn, 07/02, FOXNews)

PICKET: Mexico’s poll workers ask voters for ID at polls,” (Kerry Pickett, 07/01, Washington Times)

LETTER: US DOJ to Bancroft PLLC,” (Thomas E. Perez, 06/29, via Election Law Blog)

Planned Detroit-to-Lansing protest march opposing emergency manager, voting laws,” (Kathleen Gray, 07/02, Detroit Free Press)

Twitter Trends

As we mentioned, some of the biggest social media buzz today comes in the form of American users drawing attention to alleged instances of voter suppression in the Mexican general election.

According to social media search engine, the Mexican election is making big waves, especially in relation to News21 daily general search terms “voter ID” and “voter suppression.”

Social media encourages a chorus of anger, meaning that upcoming state primaries in some key presidential states — North Carolina and Michigan prime among them — might spark some new calls for stronger ballot protection initiatives and insidious suggestions of voter suppression.

For more contributions to social media, be sure to follow us @WhoCanVote. And remember to follow @MichaelCiaglo and @AndreaRumbaugh, who are reporting from Florida this week.