Latest News from the Brennan Center

September 22, 2011

Holding the Super Committee Accountable

The Brennan Center and other reform groups recently urged Super Committee members to “voluntarily disclose their committee-related contacts with lobbyists and publicly report any campaign donations within 48 hours of receiving them.” “Real-time disclosure of large campaign contributions made to [Super Committee members] … is a key way for the American people to ascertain who is trying to curry favor now,” wrote Mimi Marziani at Salon. For more, read coverage of our efforts at Politico.

An Avalanche of New Voting Laws

The Brennan Center is set to release the first comprehensive roundup of all state legislative action so far in 2011 affecting voting rights. Along with descriptions and details on the new laws and bills restricting the right to vote in states across the country, the report will contain analysis of the policies and estimates of key numbers as the 2012 elections approach: how many voters could be affected by these laws, and how many states and electoral votes could be affected by the changes. The Brennan Center continues to be a crucial source of research and analysis on these policies for key media voices like MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, who cited Brennan Center research in her latest coverage of the nationwide push to change voting and election laws. Learn more about the legislation introduced across the country, and the new voter ID laws passed in multiple states.

Victory for Minor Parties in Voting Settlement

Under a new agreement won for minor parties in New York, the state Board of Elections will reprogram voting machines to prevent voters from casting votes for the same candidate on both major and minor party lines. Voters had been mistakenly casting these “double votes,” but under New York’s system, the votes only counted toward the major (Democratic and Republican) party vote totals. The New York Times explains: “While the system did not affect the outcome for any individual candidate, it could have dealt a fatal blow to any minor party, which needs a minimum of 50,000 votes statewide in an election for governor to remain legally recognized for the ensuing four years without having to collect petition signatures each time it fields a candidate.” Led by the Center’s Lawrence Norden, the Brennan Center, with pro bono partners, litigated the case.

Fighting for the Right to Counsel in Maryland

How soon does an arrested individual have the right to a lawyer? The Brennan Center filed a friend of the court brief in DeWolfe v. Richmond. Pending in Maryland’s highest court, the case will determine how early counsel must be provided to a low-income person facing criminal charges.

Massachusetts Rejects Fees for Inmates

A Massachusetts commission has rejected new fees for local jail inmates, stating they will "lead to a host of negative and unintended consequences." Drawing on the Brennan Center’s report, Criminal Justice Debt: A Barrier to Reentry, the commission concluded that new inmate fees could diminish incarcerated people’s limited economic resources and their chances of successful reentry. Read more on the Brennan Center's work on criminal justice debt.

Ideas on Democracy, Justice, and the Rule of Law

New York Times Highlights New Jersey Mosque Case – Erik Opsal

A New York Times editorial calls on a New Jersey town to stop blocking a Muslim community group's attempt to build a mosque. The Brennan Center represents the community group in the case.

Unfair Disparities in Voter ID – Sundeep Iyer

Latino voters in Texas must travel farther than their white counterparts to reach the nearest DMV office — imposing an unfair burden in getting an ID required to vote.

A Look Back on the Supreme Court’s Term – Sidney Rosdeitcher

Sidney Rosdeitcher, a senior policy advisor at the Brennan Center, published the first of three pieces analyzing the Supreme Court’s recent term. The first piece tackles the Court’s decisions on class action lawsuits, which “are often an indispensable device for providing access to justice for vulnerable or disadvantaged persons.” Look for more in the coming weeks on national security, civil liberties, and money in politics.

What We’re Reading Today

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

Read more blogs here.


  • Sept. 23 – Nicole Austin-Hillery participates in a Congressional Black Caucus panel in Washington, DC on protecting the right to vote.
  • Sept. 26 – Myrna Perez speaks on policy advocacy and litigation at the American Constitution Society gathering held at Yale Law School.
  • Oct. 5 – Liberty and National Security Co-Director Liza Goitein releases a report on overclassification at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. Panelists include former Rep. Christopher Shays (R-CT), Bush-era classification czar J. William Leonard, and Martin C. Faga, chair of the Public Interest Declassification Board, the president’s advisory committee on classification. The discussion begins at 12:30 p.m. (lunch will be served).

The Brennan Center In the News

  • In Salon, Brennan Center Counsel Mimi Marziani urges Super Committee members to be transparent in their dealings with lobbyists and campaign contributors. Politico also reports on the letter the Brennan Center and other groups sent to the Super Committee urging voluntary disclosure of campaign contributions in 48 hours.
  • The New York Times’ City Room covered the Brennan Center’s victory for minor parties in New York.
  • For the anniversary of 9/11, the Brennan Center’s Liberty and National Security Program outlined the post 9/11 legal changes for Mother Jones, highlighting civil liberties rollbacks. The Center also penned an op-ed for The Washington Monthly on how intrusive intelligence gathering techniques are now the “new normal” for law enforcement.
  • News outlets across the country, including ABC News, MSNBC, and NPR, continue to rely on the Brennan Center’s research on voter ID, citing our finding that as much as 11% of the voting-age population lacks valid ID. In an op-ed in the Chicago Sun-Times, Jesse Jackson also cited Brennan Center research in support of voting rights.
  • Spurred by last month’s Associated Press report, the CIA has started an internal investigation to examine its role in the NYPD’s intelligence gathering operation. But who is overseeing the NYPD? Liza Goitein told Adam Serwer at Mother Jones that the City Council must step up.
  • The National Council of La Raza and the League of Women Voters of Florida are taking legal action against a new Florida law making it harder to register people to vote. The Brennan Center is part of the team representing the groups in the lawsuit.