State ERAs Can Protect Reproductive Rights Post-Dobbs

Pennsylvania’s highest court held in January that the state’s statutory ban on Medicaid coverage for abortion is sex discrimination under the state’s Equal Rights Amendment—the first time a state supreme court has ruled on how state ERAs impact reproductive rights since Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization dismantled the federal constitutional right to abortion.

This decision proves that reproductive rights have a future post-Dobbs—one firmly rooted in state-level ERAs and their untapped potential to protect and advance reproductive rights.

(This essay is part of “The ERA Is Essential to Democracy” Women & Democracy collection.)

Texas’ Voter Suppression Law Is on Trial

Civil rights groups and voting organizations are in federal court challenging a Texas law that makes it harder to vote, especially for people of color and those with disabilities. Over the course of the trial, which goes until late October, counsel will show how Senate Bill 1 violates the Constitution, the Voting Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

While SB 1 is one of many anti-democracy laws enacted by 19 states in the year after the 2020 election, it stands out for its sheer number of restrictive and discriminatory provisions, which largely target Latino and Black voters. This is likely the only challenge to such an extensive restrictive voting law that will go to trial between now and the 2024 election. 

Threats to Elections Didn’t End on January 6

For the first time, a former president is facing criminal charges for a wide-ranging conspiracy to thwart American democracy. In painstaking detail, the indictment recounts Trump’s scheme “to overturn the legitimate results of the 2020 presidential election by using knowingly false claims of election fraud.” Regardless of how the case proceeds, one thing is already clear: the attacks on our democracy did not end on January 6, 2021.

Alabama Defies the Voting Rights Act

Black voters in Alabama won a major victory at the U.S. Supreme Court in June, after the Court ruled that Republican lawmakers violated the Voting Rights Act when they redrew the state’s congressional map after the 2020 census and failed to create a second Black district. If you stopped watching there, you might be forgiven for thinking that Alabama, thoroughly chastened, would have quickly gone about redrawing its congressional map to add a second district “in which Black voters either comprise a voting-age majority or something quite close to it.” But no.

With control of the U.S. House on the line in 2024, Republicans are fighting for every last gerrymandered seat.

How AI Puts Elections at Risk—And the Needed Safeguards

Next year will bring the first national campaign season in which widely accessible AI tools allow users to synthesize audio in anyone’s voice, generate photo-realistic images of anybody doing nearly anything, and power social media bot accounts with near human-level conversational abilities—and do so on a vast scale and with a reduced or negligible investment of money and time.

Voters need some level of transparency to promote safe AI use when it comes to elections.

How State Constitutions and Courts Can Lead on Reproductive Rights and Gender Equality

One year ago this month, the U.S. Supreme Court abandoned 50 years of precedent and held there is no federal constitutional right to abortion.

Fortunately, the Dobbs majority opinion is not the last word on how other jurists will interpret constitutional guarantees that protect reproductive autonomy. With active cases in 19 states challenging abortion bans since Dobbs, debates over the constitutional meaning of life, liberty, equality and reproductive rights are now taking shape in state courts. And, as new research shows, many state courts have already decided that state equal protection provisions, equal rights amendments, and other state constitutional guarantees are not constrained by federal precedent and require robust, independent legal standards to address sex discrimination. 

What’s at Stake in Wisconsin’s Supreme Court Election

On April 4, Wisconsin will hold an election for a seat on its state supreme court, which has had a clear conservative majority since 2008. Two candidates—judicial conservative Daniel Kelly and progressive Janet Protasiewicz—have advanced out of a four-way primary and are vying to replace a retiring conservative justice. The election, which has already broken records for spending and primary turnout, represents liberals’ first chance in a decade to break the conservative lock.

Media accounts say Wisconsin’s high-profile supreme court election is primarily about two issues: abortion and gerrymandering. That’s true, but the race also tells a broader story about the influence state courts are wielding in the face of divided government and eroding federal rights. The Wisconsin Supreme Court is resolving issues that federal courts and the state’s political branches can’t (or won’t) tackle. Abortion access, electoral maps and executive powers all hang in the balance.

Supreme Court Rejects ‘Independent State Legislature Theory,’ Putting Limits on Lawmakers’ Powers

By a 6-3 vote, the Supreme Court rejected the “independent state legislature” theory in a case about North Carolina’s congressional map. The theory would have emboldened state lawmakers and restricted the power of state courts to review certain election laws.

“Today, the Supreme Court rejected the fringe independent state legislature theory that threatened to upend our democracy and dismantle our system of checks and balances,” tweeted former President Barack Obama. “This ruling rejects the far-right theory that threatened to undermine our democracy, and makes clear that courts can continue defending voters’ rights—in North Carolina and in every state.”