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The State of Reform
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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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Members of the Crow tribe in Montana, seen participating in a 2018 powwow, are among those who sued over a new law restricting who can pick up and deliver mail-in ballots.

Judge blocks Montana ballot harvesting law at tribes' urging

A Montana judge has blocked new state restrictions on the collecting of others' ballots, a victory for Native American tribes that say their members rely on the help.

The law probably violates the tribal members' right to vote because it would make it especially difficult for them to make sure their own ballots got from reservations and other remote areas to election offices, District Judge Jessica Fehr of Yellowstone County said Tuesday in putting a hold on the requirements.

Her injunction, while not final, is nonetheless the latest voting rights victory for people in Indian Country, who say too many election rules disregard their special circumstances and amount to suppression. It's also the latest turn in the generally partisan battle over so-called ballot harvesting.

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The convention center was the only polling place in Louisville on primary day, but complaints were limited.

Suit wants Kentucky to keep mail voting rules eased but delay ID law

When it comes to elections during the pandemic, Kentucky has stood apart in two ways. It instituted one of the nation's most restrictive voter identification laws just as the coronavirus was shutting government offices that issue ID cards, but its leaders also cut an unusual bipartisan deal resulting in one of the smoothest vote-by-mail primaries so far.

A civil rights group has now sued to make the state abandon that first move, but stick with the second, at least through the November election.

Filed Tuesday in state court, the lawsuit comes early in what's likely to become a flood of litigation to make voting for president easy and safe this fall. While most states have made accommodations for their primaries, they have not done so for the general election.

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A legal fight over the fate of thousands of names on Wisconsin's rolls is now likely to linger beyond November. Here, Milwaukeeans waiting to vote in the Covid-troubled April primary.

One Midwest win for each side in the voter purge wars

The partisan fight over how to maintain voter registration lists has delivered one victory for each side this week — both in Midwestern states central to the November election.

The top court in Wisconsin decided against fast-tracking a decision about removing from the rolls more than 100,000 people with potentially out of date registrations — a delay that benefits the cause of voting rights advocates. But in neighboring Michigan, a conservative group claimed victory and dropped its lawsuit against Detroit after the city took a group of dead people and duplicate names off the rolls.

The cases capture a debate that pitches those (mostly Democrats) who believe aggressive attempts to remove, or "purge," names from voter rolls are an attempt at voter suppression against those (mostly Republicans) who believe poorly maintained voter lists clogged with the names of the mortally or physically departed provide an opportunity for fraud.

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