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The State of Reform
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Download Unite America's free report analyzing the impact of four key political reforms.
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Judge tosses Louisiana doctor's note rule for citing Covid to vote by mail

A slight easing of access to absentee ballots in Louisiana was ordered by a federal judge Wednesday. But even if her ruling survives a possible appeal, the state's voters will still face some of the strictest restrictions on voting by mail.

A purported compromise for the general election — requiring voters to produce a signed doctor's note before claiming poor health or exposure to the coronavirus makes it unwise to go to the polls — was struck down as an undue burden on voting rights by Judge Shelly Dick of Baton Rouge.

Instead, she said, the state must take voters at their word if their application cites illness, quarantine, caring for a sick relative or high susceptibility to Covid-19. That rule is still more restrictive than what's now been put in effect, at least for the presidential contest, in 45 states.

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Gov. Jon Bel Edwards, at the White House in April, says he's open to easing the regulations again for voting absntee.

Latest lawsuit seeks to make Louisiana relax its voting rules for fall

The courthouse crusade to make it easier to vote in the presidential election has been revived in reliably red Louisiana.

Voting rights groups sued Monday to compel the state to allow sickness or fear of getting sick as a reason for using an absentee ballot and to extend its timetable for early in-person voting. They argue both easements are constitutionally required during the coronavirus pandemic, which by some measures has struck Louisiana as hard as any other state.

The odds of quick and clear success appear long, however. Previous state and federal lawsuits, seeking to make the rules even more permissive than the state agreed to for last month's presidential primary and municipal elections, went nowhere.

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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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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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