In Voting Rights Gazette

“Your place for all the information you need about voting rights,
voter suppression, and voting trends to prepare you to fight in the 2022 election.”


February 8, 2022



The US Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision Monday night, froze a January federal court ruling that had ordered the Alabama Legislature to draw new maps within 14 days due to likely violations of the Voting Rights Act by diluting the political power of Black voters ( arguments were heard on the matter, and a date to hear oral arguments has not been set. The effect: the map the federal court had ordered changed will be in effect for all 2022 Alabama elections.



NC Court Strikes Down Gerrymandered Map, AZ Kills Bill to Allow Legislature to Order New Elections

The North Carolina Supreme Court ruled last Friday that the state’s heavily gerrymandered congressional and state legislative maps violated the state’s constitution and must be redrawn.

The decision stated the legislature violated the constitution “when it deprives a voter of his or her right to substantially equal voting power on the basis of partisan affiliation. Achieving partisan advantage incommensurate with a political party’s level of statewide voter support is neither a compelling nor a legitimate governmental interest. 

The legislature had contended that the court had no right to say whether and when political maps cross the line from acceptable partisanship into unfairness.

The Republican-drawn maps had put control of at least 10 of the state’s 14 House congressional seats in GOP control despite voters being split approximately 50-50 between parties.

In Arizona, the Republican Speaker of the House, John Bowers, last Tuesday essentially killed a bill pushed by a far-right member of the legislature that would have eliminated early voting altogether, mandated that all ballots be counted by hand, empowered the Arizona Legislature to accept or reject election results, and given a single elector the power to demand that a fresh election be held.

The bill was apparently seen by its supporters as a symbolic effort, and Bowers could have let it die quietly. Instead, he sent it to12 committees, effectively dooming it in a very public way. Said a long-time Bowers supporter, “The speaker wanted to put the wooden cross right through the heart of this thing for all to see.” 


Three States Taking Steps to Protect Threatened Election Workers

Three states are taking legislative steps to protect their election officials from violence and intimidation. In Washington, the state senate voted to make it a felony to threaten election workers. Vermont and Maine are both considering bills making it easier to prosecute or stiffen penalties for those who threaten election officials.

According to a Reuters report, there have been over 850 reported threats and hostile messages sent to election officials and workers, more than 100 of which have been deemed to meet the federal threshold for criminal prosecution. Laws in some states, however, have a different threshold for criminal prosecution, causing some of these threats not to be pursued for prosecution.

That’s what’s motivated Vermont to strengthen their laws. In 2020 and again last fall, an unidentified man left threatening voicemails to Vermont’s secretary of state and his staff, as well as to Reuters journalists investigating the story. State authorities declined to pursue the case, saying the anonymous calls amounted to protected speech and were “essentially untraceable.” Reuters, however, found him and interviewed him. The man’s contention: he had done nothing wrong.

A week after the Reuters report, the Republican governor and a Democratic state senator proposed new legislation to bring state laws in line with federal standards, which would make it easier to prosecute threats of violence.

In Maine, two county election officials were threatened with violence. The result? A bill sponsored by a Democratic state representative to enhance penalties for anyone who “intentionally interferes by force, violence or intimidation” with election administration.

Meanwhile, the  Justice Department’s new Election Threats Task Force has made its first arrest–a Nevada man who allegedly made four threatening phone calls to an employee in the Elections Division of the Nevada Secretary of State’s Office on Jan. 7 (

If you know of an election worker, whether elected or volunteer, who has received threats, there is an organization devoted to providing pro bono legal services to any election worker who has been harassed or threatened and is in need of legal services–the Election Officials Legal Defense Network (see the September 28 Voting Rights Gazette on its formation). Go to for more information.


Two Michigan GOP Candidates Suggest Unplugging Voting Machines, Brandishing Arms During Ballot Counting

Two GOP candidates for state office in Michigan urged followers at a political rally to unplug voting machines if they suspect fraud and bring firearms to protect GOP poll watchers’ access to ballot counting.

As seen on a video from the event, GOP gubernatorial candidate Ryan D. Kelley told followers, “If you see something you don’t like happening with the machines, you see something going on, unplug it from the wall.” 

GOP State Senate candidate Mike Detmer followed up by saying, “If we can’t change the tide, which I believe we can, we need to be prepared to lock and load…Show up armed.”

Replied Michigan’s Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, “Tampering with ballot machines is illegal, and as a court made clear in 2020, so is voter intimidation by brandishing a firearm at a polling place. Added Michigan’s Attorney General Dana Nessel, “Engaging in such conduct will result in arrest & prosecution.”


Restoring Felon Voting Rights a Casualty of Voting Bill Defeats

When the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act failed to pass the Senate last month, a little-noticed but important item went down with it—the creation of a national standard for voting rights for those convicted of felonies.

This is not an unimportant issue. According to a 2020 report from The Sentencing Project, one out of every 44 adults in the United States were barred from voting due to a felony conviction. For Black Americans, it was one out of every 16 adults.

Currently, only 21 states allow convicted felons to automatically regain the right to vote upon their release from prison, a 50 percent increase since 2018. It’s a move that’s favored even by some Republicans and several conservative groups, including the New Mexico and Virginia chapters of the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity.

Not all states, however, have enshrined this right into their state constitutions, meaning that laws that have passed to allow released felons to vote or state executive orders allowing can be changed at any time.

That’s what may happen in Virginia, now that the state’s lower house is under Republican control. Voting restoration is not automatic in Virginia, but in 2021, when Democrats still controlled both houses of government, both chambers passed a constitutional amendment to make restoration of voting rights automatic and permanent.

However, for a constitutional amendment to be put before voters, it must pass both houses a second time. Republican Gov. Greg Youngkin has yet to weigh in on the issue, setting up what advocates say could be the biggest fight for voting restoration this year. 

GOP Hypocrisy on Vote by Mail Becoming Apparent

A five-judge panel of the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court has declared unconstitutional the state’s expansive mail-in voting law, which was passed with strong bipartisan support by the Republican-controlled legislature in 2019. The suit was brought by state Republicans.

“A constitutional amendment must be presented to the people and adopted into our fundamental law before legislation authorizing no-excuse mail-in voting can be placed upon our statute books,” wrote Judge Mary Hannah Leavitt.

The state’s governor and attorney general plan to appeal, which means the ruling will have no effect on the November elections.

Meanwhile, in Georgia, the state’s anti-voter bills had extreme effects in the state’ municipal elections in November 2021. According to statistics compiled by the publication Mother Jones, Georgia voters in November were 45 times more likely to have their mail ballot applications rejected—and ultimately not vote as a result—than in 2020. “If that same rejection rate were extrapolated to the 2020 race, more than 38,000 votes would not have been cast in a presidential contest decided by just over 11,000 votes,” according to the report.

Also from the report: Black voters, who make up about a third of the electorate in Georgia, accounted for half of all late ballot application rejections, according to the voting rights group Fair Fight Action. Voters 18 to 29 made up just 2.76 percent of mail voters in 2021, but they constituted 15 percent of late ballot application rejections.

Said Sara Tindall Ghazal, a Democratic member of the Georgia State Election Board, “Extrapolating that to a much higher turnout election expected this year suggests that absent a massive voter education effort, many more eligible voters will be disenfranchised by these onerous restrictions—which seems to me to have been the point.”

Texas, however, wins the prize for hypocrisy. One of the state’s recently passed anti-voter bills created a state-jail felony penalty if a local election official, but not politicians or other third parties in the voting process, sent applications for mail-in ballots to voters who don’t request them. Texas Republican Congressman Dan Crenshaw publicly lent his support to the measure.

Crenshaw apparently has decided to take advantage of that tiny loophole—he’s sent  unsolicited mail-in ballot applications to voters who are 65 and older. His mailer includes a prefilled mail-in application and instructions that tell the recipient to “simply sign, stamp, and mail” it and to “be sure to vote for Dan Crenshaw” when the ballot comes.


Editorial: 2019 SCOTUS Decision on Gerrymandering Leaves Question of Racist Intent in Eye of the Beholder

In 2019, in the Gill v. Whitford case, the Supreme Court said this about gerrymandering: “If district lines were drawn for the purpose of separating racial groups, then they are subject to strict scrutiny because race-based decision-making is inherently suspect, but determining that lines were drawn on the basis of partisanship does not indicate that the districting was improper.”

So, when Republicans come up with plans to combine parts of major cities that used to be self-contained congressional districts with mostly rural districts, is that race-based decision-making or, as one Kansas state senator proclaimed, “just things that happen?”

Here are the facts in the case of Kansas. The Republican-controlled Legislature approved a congressional map that breaks up the Kansas City metro area into two different districts by combining part of the current district into a neighboring rural district. It’s just a coincidence that this would threaten the re-election prospects for the state’s lone Democratic representative. And did we mention that the county is also Kansas’ only majority-minority county? The plan was vetoed last Thursday by the state’s Democratic governor.

To be fair to Kansas, they weren’t the first to come up with this idea. That honor belongs to Tennessee, which just days earlier had passed a redistricting map that would break up the existing congressional district comprised of the city of Nashville, which has been a single district for over 200 years.

Under this new plan, which the governor is likely to sign, Nashville would be split into three, joining each portion with overwhelmingly white surrounding counties. Said the district’s current congressman, Democrat Jim Cooper, “This is a crisis for Nashville. Gerrymandering is an extinction event for the political life of Nashville.” Cooper has announced he will not run again due to the redistricting.  (

It must just be a coincidence, of course, that the district is one of the most racially and culturally diverse congressional districts in the state. About 25% of the eligible voting population in the current district is Black. Under the new plan, Black voters would make up about 14% of the new fifth district and about 17% and 10% of the other two new districts in the city.

No one, of course, would admit to having a racist intent in drawing those maps. Like that Kansas state senator said, it’s just things that happen, right?

–Terry Maher, Editor

(Want to try your own hand at gerrymandering? The New York Times has a nifty little game called “Can You Gerrymander Your Party to Power?” Try it out at!)

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