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Air Force/ Kemberly Groue

Naturalized citizens (but not natives) must prove their citizenship when registering to vote in Mississippi. Above, members of the military becoming citizens at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi.

Mississippi voting rules biased against immigrant citizens, suit alleges

The latest effort to ease restrictions on voting through litigation is a challenge to Mississippi's requirement that naturalized citizens show proof of their citizenship when they register.

The lawsuit, filed Monday by the Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance, says the law is unconstitutional because it violates of the 14th Amendment's equal protection clause by treating one category of citizens differently from another. People born in the United States need only check a box on the state's registration form attesting they are citizens.

The Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which helped bring the suit, says Mississippi is the only state with a unique mandate for would-be voters who were not born American citizens.


The law was enacted in 1924, four decades before the Voting Rights Act, and has never been challenged under that statute's prohibition of discriminatory state voting laws.

"This law is grounded in white supremacy, xenophobia and racism and should therefore be abolished," MIRA Executive Director Bill Chandler said in a statement.

His group says the state has about 26,000 naturalized citizens, a 50 percent increase in the past two decades, and most of them are not white. It concedes not all counties have been following the statute, but those that do require the presentation of a naturalization certificate. For voters who have lost the document, a replacement costs $500.

The state already has one of the toughest sets of paperwork requirements for registration:

a Mississippi driver's license, proof of a Social Security number and utility bills proving current residency.

The complaint follows another recent high-profile voting lawsuit filed against Mississippi, challenging another Jim Crow-era law requiring statewide candidates to carry most legislative districts as well as win the overall vote.
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The House on Friday passed legislation to restore a provision of the Voting Rights Act struck down by the Supreme Court in 2013. The bill would require advance approval of voting changes in states with a history of discrimination. Here President Lyndon Johnson shares one of the pens he used to sign the Voting Rights Act of 1965 with civil rights leader the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Passage of historic voting rights law takes a partisan turn

In a partisan vote on an issue that once was bipartisan, House Democrats pushed through legislation Friday that would restore a key portion of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

The Voting Rights Advancement Act passed the House 228-187, with all Democrats voting for the bill and all but one Republican, Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, voting against it.

The bill faces virtually no chance of being considered in the Republican-controlled Senate.

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Big Picture

TV stations fight FCC over political ad disclosure

Broadcasters are pushing back against the Federal Communications Commission after the agency made clear it wants broader public disclosure regarding TV political ads.

With the 2020 election less than a year away and political TV ads running more frequently, the FCC issued a lengthy order to clear up any ambiguities licensees of TV stations had regarding their responsibility to record information about ad content and sponsorship. In response, a dozen broadcasting stations sent a petition to the agency, asking it to consider a more narrow interpretation of the law.

This dispute over disclosure rules for TV ads comes at a time when digital ads are subject to little regulation. Efforts to apply the same rules for TV, radio and print advertising across the internet have been stymied by Congress's partisanship and the Federal Election Commission being effectively out of commission.

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1952 Eisenhower Answers America

On TV, political ads are regulated – but online, anything goes

Lightman is a professor of digital media and marketing at Carnegie Mellon University.

With the 2020 election less than a year away, Facebook is under fire from presidential candidates, lawmakers, civil rights groups and even its own employees to provide more transparency on political ads and potentially stop running them altogether.

Meanwhile, Twitter has announced that it will not allow any political ads on its platform.

Modern-day online ads use sophisticated tools to promote political agendas with a high degree of specificity.

I have closely studied how information propagates through social channels and its impact on political messaging and advertising.

Looking back at the history of mass media and political ads in the national narrative, I think it's important to focus on how TV advertising, which is monitored by the Federal Communications Commission, differs fundamentally with the world of social media.

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