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News you missed: North Carolina voters score major victory

Also this week, New Mexico pledged to invest $300 million for early childhood education, and Kentucky announced a record number of registered voters.

By Dan Desai Martin - February 21, 2020
North Carolina voter ID laws

This week, both North Carolina and Florida saw victories for voting rights, and the University of Southern California announced a plan to help tackle student debt for low-income students.

Read on to see what else flew under the radar this week.

Voting rights victory as North Carolina court strikes down voter ID law

North Carolina’s Court of Appeals blocked a GOP-backed voter ID law on Tuesday after determining it was written with “an intention to target African-American voters,” Reuters reported.

The unanimous ruling means the voter ID law is unlikely to be enforced for the 2020 election, according to Stephen Wolf, a voting rights expert with Daily Kos Elections.

In November, North Carolina will see a competitive Senate race between first-term Republican Sen. Thom Tillis and his likely Democratic opponent, former state Sen. Cal Cunningham, as well as a competitive race for governor, with Democrat Roy Cooper facing reelection. The state will also be a presidential battleground.

New Mexico will invest $300 million in early childhood education

New Mexico’s Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed legislation Tuesday to create a $320 million fund focused on early childhood education, the Sante Fe New Mexican reported.

“Investments for tomorrow will not wait; children deserve opportunity beginning this instant,” Lujan Grisham said in a statement about the new law. “We are clear about the unequivocal benefits of early childhood education and care, and we are implementing policy that reflects both our convictions and the needs of New Mexicans.”

The law created the Early Childhood Trust Fund, which will provide funding for the state’s early childhood programs, such as pre-K initiatives. In future years, the initiative will be funded through revenue from oil and gas sources.

California formally apologizes to Japanese Americans held captive in WWII

The California Legislature passed a resolution on Thursday to formally apologize for the role the state played in the internment of tens of thousands of Japanese Americans during World War II, the Associated Press reported.

“We like to talk a lot about how we lead the nation by example,” said state Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi, an American of Japanese descent. “Unfortunately, in this case, California led the racist anti-Japanese American movement.”

The federal government formally apologized for the internment camps in the late 1980s and provided $20,000 in reparations for each victim. The California resolution does not provide for reparations.

Former felons win voting rights victory in Florida

On Wednesday, a federal appeals court struck down a Florida law that forced ex-felons to pay fees in order to regain their right to vote.

The lawsuit focused on a GOP-backed law that required former felons to pay all fines and fees associated with their conviction before being allowed to register to vote. But the court ruled that the law discriminated against former felons who were unable to afford the fees.

“The long and short of it is that once a state provides an avenue to ending the punishment of disenfranchisement — as the voters of Florida plainly did — it must do so consonant with the principles of equal protection and it may not erect a wealth barrier absent a justification sufficient to overcome heightened scrutiny,” the three-judge panel wrote.

The state’s Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, plans to appeal the ruling.

Kentucky sets new voter registration record

More than 3.4 million Kentucky residents are registered to vote, a new record according to state officials.

The state reported that 48% of voters are registered as Democrats, 43% are Republicans, and 9% have a different affiliation.

In a statement, Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adams encouraged “every eligible person who is not registered to vote to do so by April 20, the last day to register to vote in the May 19 primary.”

In addition to the presidential election in November, Kentucky voters will decide between sending Majority Leader Mitch McConnell back to the Senate or his likely Democratic opponent Amy McGrath, a former Marine fighter pilot.

University of Southern California aims to tackle student debt

The University of Southern California will not charge low- and middle-income students for tuition, the institution announced Thursday.

According to the New York Times, students from families making less than $80,000 per year will have their tuition waived starting in the fall of 2020.

“More students who want to come to USC will be able to choose that,” Carol Folt, the university’s president, told the Times.

Tuition at USC, a private university located in Los Angeles, costs roughly $57,000 per year.

Check back next week for more news you missed.

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