Latest News from the Brennan Center

November 18, 2011

Congressional Briefing: Voting Law Changes

At a Congressional forum held earlier this week, Lawrence Norden, co-author of the Brennan Center’s new report, Voting Law Changes in 2012, outlined the rash of new restrictive voting laws. Hosted by Rep. John Conyers, the impetus for the briefing was the Brennan Center's finding that at least 5 million eligible voters could now find it harder to vote in 2012. Read Norden’s statement.

In other voting news: On Election Day, Maine voters repealed a controversial law eliminating Election Day registration. In the Associated Press, the Brennan Center’s Wendy Weiser said this sent “a message to legislatures and administrators that voters don't like their rights curtailed.”

Mississippi voters, however, approved a constitutional amendment to require photo ID at the polls, continuing the wave of restrictive voting laws.

Meanwhile, the Brennan Center has joined the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the NAACP Texas State Conference to oppose Texas’ new voter ID law. The three groups urged the Department of Justice to use its authority under the Voting Rights Act to reject the new law.

Candidates and Super PAC Ads Do Not Mix

Calling the request “absurd,” the Brennan Center urged the Federal Election Commission to deny a request from Karl Rove’s Super PAC to allow federal candidates to coordinate its advertisements with the organization. This would violate election rules, which prohibit Super PACs, like Rove’s American Crossroads, from coordinating with candidates. Stephen Colbert wryly highlighted this coordination request in a segment last week, prompting hundreds of emails to the FEC in opposition. Read the comments here.

Congressional Briefing: Radicalization of American Muslims?

At a Congressional briefing on Thursday, the Brennan Center’s Faiza Patel discussed the “radicalization” of American Muslims and critiqued how some law enforcement agencies seek to spot and deter “homegrown terrorists.” The briefing was sponsored by Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), ranking member of the House Committee on Homeland Security. Patel is the author of Rethinking Radicalization, which documents the ways in which law enforcement officials often rely on stereotypes, not facts, in combating radicalization.

The Other Foreclosure Crisis

The Brennan Center released a new video series about the devastating consequences of families facing the loss of a home without legal representation. The videos were released with new data from state court systems on the volume of unrepresented homeowners facing foreclosures. In New Jersey, for example, 93 percent of defendants in foreclosure cases in 2010 had no attorney on record. Based on interviews conducted around the country, the videos feature homeowners, legal aid lawyers, housing counselors, and community leaders. Watch the video series here and read the report here. Also see our 2009 report on foreclosures.

Update on Arizona's Redistricting Fight

The Arizona Supreme Court ordered the state's independent redistricting commission chair reinstated, after she was ousted by Gov. Jan Brewer. The impeachment of Chairwoman Colleen Coyle Mathis was called a "a cynical attempt to end run the law" by The New York Times. As the Brennan Center's Keesha Gaskins told USA Today, the commission was formed in an attempt to “open the door to what has been a back-room process." Read our citizen’s guide and media guide to redistricting.

Brennan Legacy Awards Dinner

On Tuesday, the Brennan Center hosted the 2011 Brennan Legacy Awards Dinner. We had the privilege of honoring two exceptional leaders: Robert M. Morgenthau for his steadfast service as District Attorney of New York County and his lifelong commitment to the public good, and Jane C. Sherburne, Senior Executive Vice President and General Counsel of BNY Mellon, for her extraordinary leadership in the legal community and dedication to public service. We also announced the creation of the James E. Johnson Legal Intern Fund, named for our former Board Chair. We are grateful to everyone who attended, and to everyone else who has supported our important work over the years.


Ideas on Democracy, Justice, and the Rule of Law

Colbert’s Super PAC Farce – Jonathan Backer

  • Comedian Stephen Colbert exposes the absurd attempt by Super PACs to circumvent campaign finance law.

After Photo ID, Voting's New Challenge – Nicolas Riley

  • With the rash of restrictive state voting laws that have passed in recent months, election administrators must prepare voters for 2012.

The Trial of Assemblyman William Boyland, Jr. – Kelly Williams

  • In closing arguments, Mr. Boyland’s attorneys all but admitted that the Assemblyman did no actual marketing or community outreach work during the time he was paid $35,000 per year as a consultant to Medisys.

Time for Answers on FBI’s New Rules – Erik Opsal

  • Senators must press Attorney General Eric Holder on the FBI's new domestic intelligence guidelines.

Michigan: Taking a Cue from Florida on Voting? – Jonathan Brater

  • State lawmakers are pushing a bill that puts unnecessary restrictions on helping others register to vote.

Privacy Rights in the Digital Age – Michael Price

  • The Supreme Court's decision in the GPS tracking case U.S. v. Jones will be a bellwether for the Court’s approach to privacy rights in the digital age

Wood: Decision-Making on the Bench – Kelly Williams

  • Judge Diane P. Wood of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit delivered the 2011-2012 Brennan Center Jorde Symposium lecture at Berkeley Law School.

What We’re Reading

  • See what the Brennan Center’s reading in this daily round-up of quick hits, clips, and opinion pieces touching on key issues of democracy, justice, liberty and national security. Includes stories on Florida’s new restrictive voting laws, corporate political spending, and the impact of partisan gerrymandering.

Read more blogs here.


  • Nov. 18 – Michael Price participates in a panel discussion in Montreal on anthropological research with terrorist groups.
  • Dec. 7 – Elizabeth Goitein moderates a panel on classification at the American Society of Access Professionals annual symposium in Washington, D.C.

  • Citing our Voting Law Changes in 2012 report, the Los Angeles Times editorial board asked, “Can’t we all just vote?”
  • See more coverage of our report by USA Today, CNN, ABC News, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Agence France-Presse, Columbus Dispatch, and Newsday. Also see coverage by The Hill and TPM of Larry Norden’s testimony before members of the U.S. House on state voting laws.
  • Writing in the New York Times, the Brennan Center’s Liza Goitein wrote about the dangers of excessive government secrecy, the subject of her recently-released report on classification.
  • Bloomberg also editorialized on this important issue of government transparency, calling on the Obama administration to examine the recommendations in our report.
  • In USA Today, the Brennan Center’s Keesha Gaskins commented on the ongoing redistricting battle in Arizona. She also spoke to ProPublica about Minnesota's redistricting battle.
  • “The notion of impartial justice for all is obliterated when judges are forced to think like politicians and to curry favor with monied interests just to keep their jobs,” wrote the Washington Post editorial board, reacting to our report on money in judicial elections.
  • The Associated Press reported on Attorney General Eric Holder’s appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Prior to the hearing, the Brennan Center released a series of questions to press the Attorney General on changes to the FBI’s domestic surveillance rules.
  • The Brennan Center’s Mark Ladov, along with Mike Dean of Common Cause Minnesota, wrote an op-ed for the Duluth News Tribune on the importance of campaign transparency in the state’s same-sex marriage fight.

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