The Research Design Associates Blog

(U.S. Supreme Court)

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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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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Voter Suppression v. Voter Fraud

Last minute partisan legal battles are raging about when and how ballots should be cast and counted. One battle-ground state’s case is headed for a request for emergency review by the U.S. Supreme Court. Sound familiar? These cases are being fought in 2012, not 2000. In the last few weeks there have been over a dozen state and federal cases decided concerning voter identification requirements, early voting, and provisional ballots. Many of the cases have been appealed.It is unlikely that all of the cases will be settled before November 6 and there is a real possibility that tight races maynot be decided until after election day.

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Police Lineups Under Scrutiny

In my last blog I wrote about the New Jersey Supreme Court landmark decision that requires significant changes in the way courts evaluate identification evidence at trial and how they instruct juries. Eyewitness identification issues again have been headline news: Eyewitness testimony was the key evidence used to convict Troy Davis who was executed in Atlanta last night. There was no physical evidence linking Mr. Davis to the 1989 killing of a police officer in Savannah, Ga. Seven of nine witnesses against Mr. Davis recanted after trial. Six of the witnesses said the police threatened them if they did not identify Mr. Davis. The new rules mandated by the NJ Supreme Court for conducting identification procedures, however, should go a long way in reducing the pressures and influences on witnesses that may contribute to mistaken identifications.

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