The Research Design Associates Blog

(Steve Cole)

Remembering Selma

This weekend marks the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama, and of the passage of the Voting Rights Act. And this year marks the 27th anniversary of Research Design Associates’ (RDA) first voting rights case. RDA’s voting experts are working on an Alabama redistricting case now. A half-century after Bloody Sunday, the fight for the right to vote continues.

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Battles Over Ballot Access

For the first time in many years, voters across the country are going to find it more difficult to vote in the November midterm elections. According to the Brennan Center for Justice at the NYU School of Law, voters in 22 states will face tougher rules than they did in the 2010 midterm elections. In 15 of those states, the upcoming midterm elections will be the first major election in which voter restrictions are in place.The relationship between tougher restrictions and political party is startling.

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Voting in 2014

In his January 2014 State of the Union address, President Obama announced two bipartisan efforts to modernize elections. The Presidential Commission on Election Administration presented Obama with recommendations designed to improve all voters’ experience in casting their ballots, and Republicans and Democrats in Congress introduced a bill to strengthen the Voting Rights Act. In contrast to these efforts to expand voting access, laws and rules in pivotal swing states have been put in place that restrict registration and voting that go beyond the voter identification requirements that have caused intense partisan battles.

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U.S. Opens New Voting Rights Front

This country has made significant gains in voting rights since that time due in a large part to the landmark Voting Rights Act. In June, though, a sharply divided U.S. Supreme Court invalidated the coverage formula of Section 5 of the Act ruling that Congress had not taken into account the nation’s racial progress when singling out states for federal oversight. Section 5 of the Act required jurisdictions with significant histories of voter discrimination to “pre-clear,” that is, get federal approval from the Department of Justice (DOJ), for any new voting practices or procedures, and to show that they do not have a discriminatory effect. Within hours of the Supreme Court’s decision, some Southern states began putting in effect voting changes that had been blocked by DOJ and federal courts such as strict voter ID laws and reduction of opportunities for early voting. DOJ had blocked these proposed changes on the grounds that they would disproportionately affect the elderly, and black and Hispanic voters. However, even though DOJ has been deprived of Section 5 by the Supreme Court, it is using the remaining sections of the Voting Rights Act to subject states to preclearance.

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Supreme Court Strikes Down Key Part of Voting Rights Act

The U.S. Supreme Court’s long-awaited ruling on the voting rights case Shelby County v. Holder came down on June 25th. A divided court invalidated the coverage formula of Section 5 of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965 ruling that
Congress had not taken into account the nation’s racial progress when singling out states for federal oversight. Importantly, though, the 5-4 decision did not strike down Section 5 itself, leaving it to Congress to devise a new coverage formula

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Supreme Court Considers the Fate of Section 5

Alabama is trying to end review of their election law changes by the Department of Justice (DOJ). The U.S. Supreme Court recently heard arguments in Shelby County v. Holder considering the fate of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act which requires federal approval of election law changes in nine southern states and jurisdictions in seven other states with a history of racial discrimination. Lawyers for Shelby County argued that Section 5 is no longer constitutionally justified by current conditions in Alabama. Alabama’s recent history alone should be proof that Section 5 should not be struck down.

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Voting in 2013

In my January 2013 blogs, I wrote about how thousands of voters were still standing on line to vote as President Obama began his early morning acceptance speech and that many ballots were still being counted after Thanksgiving. In 2013, some state legislators are trying to make it easier to vote and shorten the long lines of citizens trying to vote. However, others legislators are promoting more restrictive voting bills. In fact, since the beginning of the year, restrictive voting bills have been introduced in 31 states.

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Let's Fix Our Election System

In my last blog I wrote about Florida voters who were still standing on line to vote as President Obama began his early morning acceptance speech and about Ohio ballots that were still being counted after Thanksgiving. With the President’s margin of victory sufficiently large in enough states, these issues did not require the attention of the Supreme Court. But prior to Election Day, state and federal courts were ruling on cases involving state laws that contributed directly to the voting hardships and delays in vote outcomes.

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The 2012 Election: Was Democracy Upheld?

When President Barack Obama began his victory speech at 1:40 AM ET Wednesday November 7th, there were people in Florida still standing on line to vote. Many thousands of others had waited hours to vote across the country. For weeks after the election, teams of Democrats and Republicans on Ohio county election boards decided which of 200,000 provisional ballots should be accepted. After Thanksgiving, they were still counting votes in Ohio. Our election system needs some fixing.

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Compassion Training a Promising Prevention Strategy for At-Risk Adolescents

Children in foster care experience higher rates of adverse life experiences than do children in the general population, resulting in a host of psychological and social problems that extend well beyond their years in foster care. Studies have shown that children in foster care have higher rates of chronic illness and developmental disability, and one recent study found that children in foster care report lifetime rates of post-traumatic stress disorder similar to that of US war veterans. Those foster children who meditated more had the greatest reductions in inflammation. Meditation appears to be an acceptable intervention for foster children with the potential to improve interpersonal functioning and perhaps to reduce the long-term biological consequences of chronic stress. The emphasis of compassion meditation on striving for interpersonal harmony appears to be particularly salient for this population.

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