Monthly Archives: May 2008

A Few Jet Lagged Thoughts on NAMUDNO

I’m still in London, was out all day, and didn’t have a chance to even see the NAMUDNO opinion until about an hour ago. For what it’s worth, here’s what I wrote on Sept. 12, 2006, when this panel was named:

    This is likely a good draw for defenders of the constitutionality of section 5. But I don’t think the lower court opinion is going to matter very much, however it comes out. This issue—either in this case or one of the others being filed—will be resolved when the Supreme Court resolves it.

Having looked quickly today at the opinion, I’d say that this is about the best that supporters of the law could have hoped for. Here’s a well-written and well-reasoned opinion, arguing in the alternative, relying on stare decisis, careful parsing of cases, and the best presentation of the evidence that could be made on this record.
Having said that, I have a hard time believing it would convince someone like Chief Justice Roberts. What could be convincing to him, however, is the political fallout that would come from a decision striking down the VRA. On the third hand, let’s not forget what Justices Stevens wrote this week about the necessity of the VRA in his Riley dissent. For my own pre-NAMUDNO take on the constitutional issues, see this article. (Statistics from the article, cited in my testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on VRA renewal, are discussed in the court’s opinion.)
I wonder too whether the Court will want to take advantage of some technical reason (such as standing or the facial/as applied challenge issue) to duck the question in this case and put it over to a future case.

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The EAC’s New Open Meeting Policy

New EAC Chair Rosemary Rodriguez yesterday issued this statement of policy on public meetings. Here’s the key portion, which goes beyond the requirements of the Sunshine Act: “During my term as Chair, I will require the EAC to make its agenda public at least 21 days before the next regularly scheduled meeting. Additionally, I will schedule time during each meeting to discuss possible agenda items with Commissioners so that observers will have an idea of what to expect in remaining months.”

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“Chipping Away at the VRA One Court Decision at a Time”

Janai Nelson of St. John’s School of Law has this post on the Supreme Court’s decision earlier this week in Riley v. Kennedy. She says: “Despite its highly technical facts and likely narrow application, Riley is significant because it limits the reach of an integral provision of one of the most transformative civil rights statutes and bodies of American election law—the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA)…. More important, the Riley decision comes at a precarious time for Section 5 of the VRA as Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District v. Mukasey (NAMUDNO), a Texas case that challenges the constitutionality of Section 5 as a whole, will soon be poised for Supreme Court review.”

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“EAC Awards Five States $10 Million to Improve Election Data Collection”

And the winners are: Illinois, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. For more on this much-needed project to improve the collection of election administration data, see this description from the EAC, as well as this post describing the proposal as it was going through Congress.
In what’s surely a coincidence, four of the five states receiving grants are ones that my Moritz colleagues and I profiled in our report last year: From Registration to Recounts: The Election Ecosystems of Five Midwestern States. Does the EAC think there’s a special need for better information from the Midwest?

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