Newswire: Civil Rights groups sue Georgia over new sweeping voter suppression law 

ATLANTA — Civil rights groups have filed a new federal lawsuit against Georgia’s sweeping law that makes it much harder for all Georgians to vote, particularly voters of color, new citizens, and religious communities. The American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Georgia, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), and law firms WilmerHale and Davis Wright Tremaine brought the case on behalf of the Sixth District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Georgia Muslim Voter Project, Women Watch Afrika, Latino Community Fund Georgia, and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.  The law being challenged is S.B. 202, which was passed by the Georgia House of Representatives and Senate and signed by Gov. Brian Kemp in under seven hours last Thursday. These elected officials’ actions follow the 2020 presidential election and the 2021 runoff elections for two seats to the U.S. Senate that saw record turnout of voters, particularly Black voters, in Georgia. The elections were celebrated not just for their turnout, but also for their integrity, with Georgia officials praising them as safe and secure. But rather than act to expand participation in the political process, Georgia leaders responded by doing what they have done many times in the state’s history: they placed burdensome, unjustified, and unnecessary restrictions on voters, particularly voters of color and other historically disenfranchised communities. The lawsuit challenges multiple provisions in S.B. 202, including the: • ban on mobile voting

• new narrow identification requirements for requesting and casting an absentee ballot • delayed and compressed time period for requesting absentee ballots

• restrictions on secure drop boxes

• out-of-precinct provisional ballot disqualification

• drastic reduction in early voting in runoff elections

• perhaps most cruelly, ban on “line warming,” where volunteers provide water and snacks to Georgians, disproportionately those of color, who wait in needlessly long lines to cast their vote These provisions, the lawsuit charges, violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, and infringe on Georgians’ rights under the First, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. “This law is driven by blatant racism, represents politics at its very worst, and is clearly illegal,” said Sophia Lakin, deputy director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project. “We urge the court to act swiftly to strike it down.” “Legislators and Governor Kemp ignored the very obvious lessons from the election in 2020 and runoffs in 2021: expand safe and secure access to the ballot, codify innovations to voting, and provide additional resources to cash-strapped counties,” said Nancy Abudu, deputy legal director for the SPLC. “Instead, to appease conspiracy theorists and amplify deadly lies about past elections, Georgia’s leaders have chosen to pass into law S.B. 202, which makes it more difficult for every Georgian — but particularly Georgians who are members of historically disenfranchised communities — to vote in a safe, secure, and convenient manner and have that vote counted. In so doing, the defendants have violated federal law and the U.S. Constitution, and we turn to the federal courts and U.S. Congress to address the incredible harm S.B. 202 will have on our clients.”  “S.B. 202 is perhaps the most bold and shameful voter suppression legislation enacted in the modern era. Its purpose and target are clear: to create barriers to voting for Black voters who turned out in record numbers for the November 2020 presidential election and the January 2021 special election. The provisions of the new law and the manner in which it was enacted reflect a thorough disregard for the sanctity of protecting the right to vote and a headlong and determined zeal to diminish Black political power in Georgia,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, LDF’s president and director-counsel. “This is a powerful moment for democracy in this country. S.B. 202’s attempt to disenfranchise Black voters in Georgia harkens back to the most shameful days of voter suppression in the decades before the civil rights movement. That this law was passed in Georgia, less than a year after the death of one of the state’s greatest heroes, Representative John Lewis, is shameful. In his name, we will fight to strike down this illegal attempt to undo his legacy. Anything less represents a grave threat to the future of our democracy and inherently undermines the notion of equality for all.”  “Democracy depends upon people expressing their voices freely through their votes,” said WilmerHale partner Debo P. Adegbile. “The Georgia omnibus voting obstruction law is a prime example of modern voter suppression and erodes democracy. A great deal has changed in Georgia but the commitment to brazenly disenfranchise voters clearly has not.” “S.B. 202 attacks the most sacred foundations of our democracy. But in this country, the law secures every American citizen the equal right to make their voice heard at the ballot box, no matter who they are. And we intend to vindicate that right in court,” said Adam Sieff, attorney at Davis Wright Tremaine. The lawsuit, Sixth District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church v. Kemp, was filed late last night in federal court in Atlanta. Complaint: https://www.aclu.org/legal-document/sixth-district-african-methodist-episcopal-church-v-kemp

Newswire : Civil Rights leaders call for full examination of Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh’s record before confirmation

( WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Six prominent African-American civil rights leaders sent a letter today to Senate leaders to express their concern that the Senate is not meeting its responsibility to fully and impartially evaluate the fitness of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. The letter, addressed to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles Grassley, demands that Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing be delayed until his full record has been carefully examined. “Our federal courts derive their legitimacy from the confidence of the people,” the letter says. “Any process that undermines the legitimacy of our courts, weakens the court in the eyes of the American people.” The civil rights leaders also requested a meeting with Senate leadership to discuss a process “to restore the faith and trust of the communities we represent in the Senate and the legitimacy of the Supreme Court confirmation process.” Senator Grassley recently announced that Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings will begin on September 4, even though large portions of his record – including documents pertaining to his time in the White House counsel’s office during the George W. Bush Administration – cannot be provided by the National Archives before that date. The letter was co-authored by Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of LDF; Kristen Clarke, President and Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law; Marc Morial, President and CEO of the National Urban League; Derrick Johnson, President and CEO of the NAACP; Reverend Al Sharpton, President and Founder of the National Action Network; and Melanie L. Campbell, President and CEO of the National Coalition for Black Civic Participation and Black Women’s Roundtable. The NAACP is urging its members to write to their Senators to oppose Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court because of its views.

Newswire : Linda Brown, named plaintiff in landmark school desegregation case, has died

By Frederick H. Lowe

 

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 Linda Brown in front of school
Linda Brown, the named plaintiff in the 1954 landmark civil rights case “Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka” in which the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the nation’s public schools to desegregate, has died.
Ms. Brown died Sunday, March 25, in Topeka, Kansas, where she was born on February 20, 1942. She was 76 and had lived in Topeka most of her life. Tyson Williams, a spokesman for Peaceful Rest Funeral Chapel, confirmed her death.
She became part of American history on May 17, 1954, when a unanimous Supreme Court overturned Plessy v. Ferguson, the court’s 1896 decision that declared separate but equal facilities were constitutional.
In its 1954 ruling, the Supreme Court ruled that segregated schools were inherently unequal and ordered the desegregation of the public schools with “all deliberate speed.”
The fight to overturn Plessy v. Ferguson began years earlier. In 1950, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Inc. asked group of black parents if they would attempt to enroll their children in all-white schools knowing they would be denied admission because of school segregation.
Brown, who was in third-grade, lived in an ethnically diverse neighborhood but like the area’s other black children, Brown had to walk four miles to a school that was segregated for black children although Sumner Elementary, an all-white school, was only four blocks away.
Her mother and father were Leola and Oliver Brown. They were parents of three girls. Brown said her father, a pastor, questioned why his daughter had to walk so far to attend school. “My father pondered, ‘Why? Why should my child walk four miles when there is a school only four blocks away,” she recalled.
The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Inc. wanted to file a lawsuit on behalf of 13 families nationwide, challenging De Jure school segregation, which is based on laws or actions of the state. It is unlike De facto segregation which happens by fact rather than by legal requirement.
Thurgood Marshall, who in 1967 would become the first African-American Associate Justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, was one of two lead attorneys and strategists. The other was Charles Hamilton Houston, former dean of Howard University Law School.
In 1952, the NAACP filed a lawsuit consolidating five cases. Linda Brown’s name was alphabetically at the top of the list of plaintiffs, making her the named plaintiff in the consolidated case.
When the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision, Linda Brown was in junior high school and at a grade level that had been integrated before the 1954 decision.
In the late 1970s, Brown worked with the ACLU. She argued the district’s schools were still segregated. The Court of Appeals ordered three new schools constructed.
Although she was a civil rights activist, speaker and education consultant, Brown complained that the media treated her as a lofty historical figure, not a human being.
After the Supreme Court ruling, the family moved in 1959 to Springfield, Missouri. Two years later, her father died. Remaining members of the family returned to Topeka.
She attended Washburn University and Kansas State University
Linda Brown was married three times. She was divorced and later widowed. She married William Thompson in the mid-1990s.
Sherrilyn Ifill, president and Director-Counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, said “Linda Brown is one of that special band of heroic young people who, along with her family, courageously fought to end the ultimate symbol of white supremacy-racial segregation in the public schools.”
Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer tweeted: “Linda Brown’s life reminds us that sometimes the most unlikely people can have an incredible impact and that by serving our community we can truly change the world.”

Newswire : Civil Rights organizations counter Justice Department’s attack on Affirmative Action

 

By Charlene Crowell
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Sherrilyn Ifill, director/counsel, NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund
(TriceEdneyWire.com) – As millions of students return to school, the nation’s Justice Department (DOJ) is beginning an investigation that could potentially sue universities over affirmative action admissions policies. As first reported by the New York Times, Justice’s Civil Rights Division will carry out this effort to determine whether white applicants were discriminated against.
For Black people and other ethnic and racial minorities, this investigation seems like window-dressing to deny millions of students a quality education in the name of injustice. Such actions also signal a more subtle message is to roll back to the progress achieved in broadly affording students of all races and ethnicities the benefits that higher education derives. Among education and civil rights advocates a strong belief holds that everyone benefits when obstacles to educational opportunity are overcome.
“The American Dream offers each new generation the opportunity to build on the successes of previous ones,” wrote Nikitra Bailey, an executive vice president with the Center for Responsible Lending, in a related op-ed. “However, if you are African-American, the nation’s history of enslavement and legal bigotry consistently requires each generation to start anew.”
Bailey is correct. Despite the vigilance of civil rights heroes over multiple generations, the heralded 1954 Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, or a series of 1960s laws that were enacted to guarantee full and first-class citizenship to every Black American, even more work remains to be done before everyone is afforded the promises of America.
It’s been several years since the anti-affirmation action crusade took its venomous campaign to states across the country. Beginning in California in 1996 and continuing through 2010, Ward Connerly, a former University of California Regent, led a series of statewide campaigns to constitutionally ban affirmative action in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Washington State. Regardless of the state, the goal was always the same: make it illegal for public colleges and universities to include consideration of race or ethnicity in college admissions.
Only in Colorado was the effort turned back by voters. In all of the other locales, the measure passed with broad support, often despite many business and corporate leaders joining with civil rights advocates in opposition.
For example, prior to the November 2006 Proposal 2 ballot vote in Michigan, Paul Hillegonds, a white Republican and former Speaker of the State House, helped to lead a statewide coalition of more than 200 organizations pledged to defeat the measure.
“If it passes, we are announcing to the world that women and minorities will not be given an equal opportunity to succeed in business in our state,” said Hillegonds. “This is the wrong message to send at a time when we are trying to attract new businesses and develop a talented, multicultural workforce ready to meet the demands of the 21st Century economy.”
State approved bans on affirmative action in higher education also led to fewer Black students in the University of California system as well as at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.
Today the real difference between then and now is that the U.S. Justice Department is resuming a fight for the preservation of white privilege that is armed with resources and personnel that taxpayers of all colors provide.
“President Trump’s Justice Department has hardly been worthy of its name,” said Sherrilynn A. Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. “It has retreated from meaningful police reform, argued on behalf of state laws that suppress minority voting rights, directed prosecutors to seek harsh sentences for nonviolent drug offenses, and extended the federal government’s power to seize the property of innocent Americans.”
“Each of these steps disproportionately and systematically burdens people of color, denying them their constitutional rights and widening the racial divides that this country has struggled for so long to close,” continued Ifill.
The United States Supreme Court recently affirmed the use of affirmative action in admissions decisions in Fisher v. University of Texas. In that ruling, the importance of diversity as a compelling state interest was affirmed as settled law. The decision was also a victory for equal opportunity and recognized again that it is critical for schools to create diverse and inclusive student bodies.
As the cost of higher education tends to increase every year, students of color are the ones most likely to go into debt in search of a degree that will deliver a middle class standard of living. Even four years after graduation, Black college graduates earning a bachelor’s degree owe almost double the debt of their white classmates, according to CRL research.
Said Bailey, “The U.S. Justice Department must enforce inclusive educational policies as they open the doors of opportunity for all.”