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Punish public officials who disenfranchise voters

Catherine Rampell on

In which case, state officials might respond by introducing a new bad law, a la Texas.

One way to change the system would be for courts to more often grant preliminary injunctions against new election laws undergoing a legal challenge.

"Once the damage is done you can't really adequately repair it," says Wendy Weiser, director of the Brennan Center's democracy program. Courts could recognize this and err on the side of keeping the status quo, at least temporarily.

This would address only deliberate policy changes, though, not incompetence (as in Kansas' software glitch). So why not raise the possible costs to getting things wrong, to change the calculus?

Congress or state legislatures could, for example, pass laws making it easier for state officials to be held liable for monetary damages if they have illegally denied someone their right to vote. Right now these officials likely have qualified immunity from such suits, according to Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the University of California at Berkeley School of Law.

For American citizens, voting is a sacred and constitutionally enshrined right. It's time the country, and those paid to serve the public, actually treat it as such.

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Catherine Rampell's email address is crampell@washpost.com. Follow her on Twitter, @crampell.

(c) 2017, Washington Post Writers Group

 

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