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Alabama photo ID requirement for voters upheld by federal appeals court

Alabama's strict photo identification law is not racially discriminatory and can remain in force, a divided federal appeals court has ruled.

The decision is the latest courthouse development in a state with one of the highest volumes of voting rights disputes. The pace has accelerated because of the view that already restrictive election rules will amplify voter suppression during the coronavirus pandemic — concern that just this week prompted the Republican elections chief to allow anyone to vote by mail this fall.

The case, decided 2-1 on Tuesday by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, predates the arrival of Covid-19 but nonetheless reflects the currently familiar narrative: Civil rights groups challenge a law on the grounds it violates the electorate's political rights under the Voting Rights Act and the Constitution, and the state defends the statute as necessary to prevent election fraud.

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The 11 states that would face federal oversight under a new Voting Rights Act

A growing chorus of congressional Democrats are saying that enacting a new Voting Rights Act is the best way for Congress to honor John Lewis, the civil rights icon and veteran Atlanta congressman who died last week.

The Republicans running the Senate have signaled no interest in debating the bill, designed to revive the racial discrimination protections enshrined in the original 1965 landmark law. The Democratic House passed the measure in December, with Lewis wielding the gavel during the vote.

Many of his colleagues now say the measure should be dubbed the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act. There's talk of pushing it through the House a second time this summer, perhaps with election assistance aid to the states tacked on.

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Access to absentee voting expands in three more states

Proponents of expanded voting by mail during the pandemic won victories Monday in three states, two of them solid blue but one of them reliably red.

The top elections official in Alabama, a Republican, decreed that fear of the coronavirus would be reason enough to vote absentee for president this year. Vermont joined the handful of states that have decided to send return-by-mail ballots to all voters for the general election. And Connecticut's plans to open mail voting to everyone in next month's primary survived a GOP lawsuit.

The various decisions come as policymakers and courts across the country continue to deliberate proposals for separating Covid-19 from the voting booth — a problem that remains intense now that it's clear the nation's public health crisis will continue way beyond November.

Here are the details:

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SPLC puts $30 million toward registering voters of color

The Southern Poverty Law Center is ponying up $30 million to help community organizations further their voter registration efforts.

The "Vote Your Voice" campaign, announced Tuesday, focuses on increasing registration and mobilization of voters of color in five states: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi.

Voting registration efforts across the country have taken a hit because of the coronavirus. Physical distancing and state lockdowns have made it difficult for organizers to do many of the usual voter registration pushes that take place during a presidential election year.

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