WRKF

voting rights

This year in Louisiana almost 37,000 people became eligible to vote, thanks to a law that reinstated voting rights for formerly incarcerated people after they’ve served five years of parole. But only a small portion of those people have actually registered to vote in time to participate in the statewide election.

Wallis Watkins / WRKF

On any given day there are an estimated 12,000 people in Louisiana being held in parish jails awaiting trial. For the most part, these are people who haven't been convicted of a crime-- meaning they retain the right to vote.

But while they may be eligible to vote by law, the harsh realities of life behind bars amount to 'practical disenfranchisement.'

SARAH GAMARD/LSU MANSHIP SCHOOL NEWS SERVICE

The Louisiana House has rejected a bill that would allow convicted felons to qualify for jury duty after a five year cleansing period. 

Wallis Watkins

More than 36,000 convicted felons in Louisiana will regain their right to vote Friday, March 1. One of those people is Checo Yancy.

Sue Lincoln / WRKF

Kerry Myers served on the Criminal Justice Reinvestment Task Force and says he’s dismayed at the people watching and waiting for the reforms to fail.

“There are some people in this state that would love to find the next Willie Horton," says Myers. "That’s unfortunate because that began driving policy – policy based on fear, policy based on ignorance.”

But Myers, who also served time at Angola, is a realist, as well.

A federal trial in Winston-Salem, N.C., that begins Monday will have big implications for voting rights in the state and, potentially, across the country.

The U.S. Justice Department and several groups are suing North Carolina over the sweeping election overhaul it passed two years ago, which narrowed the early voting period, among other provisions.

That early voting window had resulted in a noticeable uptick in the number of minority voters.

When the Supreme Court returns for its next term in October, among the cases it has agreed to hear is a challenge to a fundamental practice that has governed American elections for generations.

When public-policy makers talk about a state's population, they generally mean the number of human beings living in that state — as counted or estimated by the U.S. Census Bureau.

That applies to a host of political actions, including the apportionment of seats in Congress and the Electoral College votes that choose the president.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday takes up the thorny question of what kind of gerrymandering is acceptable, and what kind is not. The court is being asked to decide whether a 2010 state legislative redistricting in Alabama overloaded some districts with black Democrats on the basis of race or party.

Election season is getting underway in states all over the country, and voting rights advocates worry some of those places may move to disenfranchise minorities by exploiting a Supreme Court ruling.

That ruling last June blew up a system that had forced states with a history of discrimination to win federal approval before making election changes.

Now, legal groups are responding by training a new generation of activists to sue. Consider this recent gathering of a few dozen lawyers and community activists on the 28th floor of an Atlanta skyscraper.

It's that time again, when primary voters start casting their ballots for the midterm elections. As in recent years, voters face new rules and restrictions, including the need in 16 states to show a photo ID.

But this year, some voting rights activists say they're seeing a change — fewer new restrictions and, in some places, even a hint of bipartisanship.

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