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June 26, 2013

What the Supreme Court Doesn’t Understand About the Voting Rights Act

Filed under: Voter Suppression — millerlf @ 10:07 am

Ari Berman on June 25, 2013 The Nation Magazine

No sooner had the Voting Rights Act passed in 1965, after two hundred years of slavery and nearly 100 years of Jim Crow, than Southern conservatives, who failed to stop the law, began to attack it. South Carolina mounted the first constitutional challenge to the law only a month after it was enacted. President Nixon tried to weaken the law take the “monkey…off the backs off the South,” as did Presidents Ford in 1975 and Reagan in 1982. Every effort to gut the VRA failed. Each time the law’s constitutionality was challenged, in 1966, 1973, 1980 and 1999, the Supreme Court upheld the act. Every congressional reauthorization, in 1970, 1975, 1982 and 2006, made the law stronger, not weaker, in protecting voting rights. Each Congressional reauthorization was signed by a Republican president, cementing the bipartisan consensus supporting the VRA. “The Voting Rights Act became one of the most consequential, efficacious, and amply justified exercises of federal legislative power in our Nation’s history,” Justice Ginsburg wrote in her dissent today.

That consensus held until now, with the Roberts Court finding that Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act is unconstitutional. Section 4 is how states are covered under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, the provision which requires states with the worst history of voting discrimination—those who had a discriminatory voting device on the books and voter turnout of less than 50 percent in the 1964 election—to preclear their voting changes with the federal government. Without Section 4, there’s no Section 5. The most effective provision of the country’s most effective civil rights law is now dead until and unless Congress figures out a new way to cover states where voting discrimination is most prevalent that satisfies the Roberts Court.

Explained the Chief Justice, who has been trying to weaken the VRA ever since he was a young lawyer in the Reagan Justice Department: “Nearly 50 years later, things have changed dramatically. Largely because of the Voting Rights Act, ‘[v]oter turnout and registration rates’ in covered jurisdictions ‘now approach parity. Blatantly discriminatory evasions of federal decrees are rare. And minority candidates hold office at unprecedented levels.’ The tests and devices that blocked ballot access have been forbidden nationwide for over 40 years. Yet the Act has not eased Section 5’s restrictions or narrowed the scope of Section 4’s coverage formula along the way. Instead those extraordinary and unprecedented features have been reauthorized as if nothing has changed, and they have grown even stronger…. In 1965, the States could be divided into those with a recent history of voting tests and low voter registration and turnout and those without those characteristics. Congress based its coverage formula on that distinction. Today the Nation is no longer divided along those lines, yet the Voting Rights Act continues to treat it as if it were.”

Congress, which reauthorized the VRA by a vote of 390-33 in the House and 98-0 in the Senate in 2006, “cannot justify the considerable burdens created by Section 5,” the Chief Justice wrote. The Court’s message to Congress: drop dead. “In the Court’s view, the very success of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act demands its dormancy,” wrote Justice Ginsburg in her powerful dissent. “Congress was of another mind. Recognizing that large progress has been made, Congress determined, based on a voluminous record, that the scourge of discrimination was not yet extirpated. The question this case presents is who decides whether, as currently operative, Section 5 remains justifiable, this Court, or a Congress charged with the obligation to enforce the post–Civil War Amendments ‘by appropriate legislation.’ With overwhelming support in both Houses, Congress concluded that, for two prime reasons, Section 5 should continue in force, unabated. First, continuance would facilitate completion of the impressive gains thus far made; and second, continuance would guard against backsliding. Those assessments were well within Congress’ province to make and should elicit this Court’s unstinting approbation.”

There’s a particular irony to the Court killing Section 5 just months after a presidential election in which voter suppression attempts played a starring role. Congress was prescient when it reauthorized the VRA in 2006 for another twenty-five years. Thirty-one discriminatory voting laws have been blocked by Section 5 since that time. Six of nine states fully covered by Section 5, all in the South, passed new voting restrictions since the 2010 election, when GOP state legislatures approved a wave of voter suppression laws unseen since before 1965. In 2008, Shelby County, Alabama, the plaintiff challenging the VRA, was found guilty of the very type of voter discrimination the VRA was meant to address, after trying to eliminate the only black city council district in the city of Calera. The law’s coverage formula, though dated, is still surprisingly accurate. Law professors Christopher Elmendorf and Douglas Spencer surveyed data on racial stereotypes from the 2008 election and found that “Section 5…is remarkably well tailored to the geography of anti-black prejudice.” If anything, Section 5 should be expanded to encompass the wide scope of twenty-first-century voting discrimination, not narrowed or eliminated.

Today’s opinion by the Roberts Court was the most radical since Citizens United v. FEC and the worst voting rights decision in a century, since the Court upheld poll taxes and literacy tests in Giles v. Harris in 1903. “The Court’s opinion can hardly be described as an exemplar of restrained and moderate decisionmaking,” wrote Ginsburg. “Quite the opposite. Hubris is a fit word for today’s demolition of the VRA.” Just as the Citizens United decision led to an explosion of unregulated dark money spending in US elections, so too will the loss of Section 5 encourage many more of the shadowy voter suppression attempts that we saw in 2012.

What will that mean in practice? Texas’ voter ID law, which was blocked under Section 5 by a federal court last year and could disenfranchise up to 800,000 registered voters without government-issued photo ID, will immediately go into effect. The states of the Old Confederacy will return to the pre-1965 playbook, passing new voter suppression laws that can only be challenged, after years of lengthy litigation, in often-hostile Southern courts, with the burden of proof on those subject to discrimination, rather than those doing the discriminating. Conservatives will be emboldened to challenge the parts of the VRA, like Section 2, that apply nationwide.

“The sad irony of today’s decision lies in its utter failure to grasp why the VRA has proven effective,” wrote Justice Ginsburg. “The Court appears to believe that the VRA’s success in eliminating the specific devices extant in 1965 means that preclearance is no longer needed. With that belief, and the argument derived from it, history repeats itself. The same assumption—that the problem could be solved when particular methods of voting discrimination are identified and eliminated—was indulged and proved wrong repeatedly prior to the VRA’s enactment. Unlike prior statutes, which singled out particular tests or devices, the VRA is grounded in Congress’ recognition of the ‘variety and persistence’ measures designed to impair minority voting rights. In truth, the evolution of voting discrimination into more subtle second-generation barriers is powerful evidence that a remedy as effective as preclearance remains vital to protect minority voting rights and prevent backsliding.”

There will be no easy fix in Congress. The body looked at updating how states were covered in Section 5, but no one could come up with a better answer than the draftees of the VRA in 1965. Changing the places covered by Section 5 would have blown up the entire bill. There was no political will or necessity to expand Section 5 nationwide, and “no objective statistical criteria could have added the most recent bad actors (Ohio and Florida) to the list of currently covered jurisdictions,” wrote Nate Persily, a law professor at Columbia University. “The fact that Section 5 was geographically targeted has always been seen as one of its constitutional saving graces.” Georgia Representative Charlie Norwood offered an amendment that would have exempted the entire Deep South and covered only Hawaii, a state with no history of racial discrimination in voting. The amendment was defeated 318 to 96.

Asking this current Congress, which can hardly do more than name post offices, to revamp the VRA is a very steep task. Representative Steny Hoyer, the number-two ranking Democrat in the House, was pessimistic when I asked him recently what Congress would do if the Court overturned Section 5. “I think right now it would be difficult, because I don’t think, frankly, that the Republican majority in the House would allow it on the floor,” Hoyer said. “And I don’t think the Republican minority in the Senate would refrain from filibustering it. So I don’t think there would be much opportunity for legislative response unless the Democrats take control of the House, in which case there clearly would be a legislative response.”

The VRA hasn’t changed, but the Republican Party has. Today’s 5-4 decision by the Roberts Court gutting the VRA was the result of three factors, as I wrote in February: “a whiter, more Southern, more conservative GOP that has responded to demographic change by trying to suppress an increasingly diverse electorate; a twenty-five-year effort to gut the VRA by conservative intellectuals, who in recent years have received millions of dollars from top right-wing funders, including Charles Koch; and a reactionary Supreme Court that does not support remedies to racial discrimination.” Will the same Republicans who voted overwhelmingly for the VRA’s reauthorization in 2006 do so again? Will a new crop of Tea Party Republicans, such as Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, even allow it?

But the Court’s decision today could also spark a major backlash among minority voters, like the failed voter suppression attempts of 2012 that resulted in black turnout surpassing white turnout for the first time in US history. Just as the VRA’s passage led to counter-mobilization drives led by the likes of George Wallace, who registered to vote hundreds of thousands of conservative white voters in the 1960s, so too could the loss of Section 5 motivate a new wave of minority voting activism. “I absolutely believe that Americans will be even more embolden to hold every elected official accountable on protecting and expanding voting rights,” says Jotaka Eaddy, director of voting rights at the NAACP. “If Congress fails to act it will trigger a very [strong] response from the electorate.”

UPDATE: Congressman John Lewis, whom I profiled recently in The Nation and who almost died to win passage of the VRA in 1965, released this statement following the decision:

Today, the Supreme Court stuck a dagger into the heart of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, one of the most effective pieces of legislation Congress has passed in the last 50 years.

These men never stood in unmovable lines. They were never denied the right to participate in the democratic process. They were never beaten, jailed, run off their farms or fired from their jobs. No one they knew died simply trying to register to vote. They are not the victims of gerrymandering or contemporary unjust schemes to maneuver them out of their constitutional rights.

I remember in the 1960s when people of color were the majority in the small town of Tuskegee, Alabama. To insure that a black person would not be elected, the state gerrymandered Tuskegee Institute and the black sections of town so they fell outside the city limits. This reminds me too much of a case that occurred in Randolph County in my own state of Georgia, when the first black man was elected to the board of education in 2002. The county legislature changed his district so he would not be re-elected.

I disagree with the court that the history of discrimination is somehow irrelevant today. The record clearly demonstrates numerous attempts to impede voting rights still exist, and it does not matter that those attempts are not as “pervasive, widespread or rampant” as they were in 1965. One instance of discrimination is too much in a democracy.

As Justice Ginsberg mentioned, it took a Bloody Sunday for Congress to finally decide to fix on-going, institutionalized discrimination that occurred for 100 years after the rights of freed slaves were nullified at the end of the Civil War. I am deeply concerned that Congress will not have the will to fix what the Supreme Court has broken. I call upon the members of this body to do what is right to insure free and fair access to the ballot box in this country.

What is at stake now that the Supreme Court gutted the VRA? Look at Texas.

Read more: What the Supreme Court Doesn’t Understand About the Voting Rights Act | The Nation


June 25, 2013

Voting Rights Act Section 4 Struck Down By Supreme Court

Filed under: Voter Suppression — millerlf @ 9:46 am

Posted: 06/25/2013 Huffington Post

The Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act on Tuesday, the provision of the landmark civil rights law that designates which parts of the country must have changes to their voting laws cleared by the federal government or in federal court.

The 5-4 ruling, authored by Chief Justice John Roberts joined by Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, found that “things have changed dramatically” in the South nearly 50 years after the Voting Rights Act was signed.

The court’s opinion said it did not strike down the act of Congress “lightly,” and said it “took care to avoid ruling on the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act” back in 2009. “Congress could have updated the coverage formula at that time, but did not do so. Its failure to act leaves us today with no choice but to declare [Section 4] unconstitutional. The formula in that section can no longer be used as a basis for subjecting jurisdictions to preclearance.”

Congress, the court ruled, “may draft another formula based on current conditions.”

“Our country has changed, and while any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks to current conditions,” the majority said.

“There is no doubt that these improvements are in large part because of the Voting Rights Act. The Act has proved immensely successful at redressing racial discrimination and integrating the voting process,” Roberts wrote.

The court did not rule on Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, the preclearance requirement itself, which requires those affected states to have changes to their voting laws cleared by the Justice Department or a federal court in Washington, D.C., before they go into effect.

Nevertheless, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg issued a wide-ranging dissent on behalf of herself and Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan, justifying the continued vitality of the Voting Rights Act’s preclearance provision.

“The sad irony of today’s decision lies in its utter failure to grasp why the VRA has proven effective,” Ginsburg wrote. “The Court appears to believe that the VRA’s success in eliminating the specific devices extant in 1965 means that preclear­ance is no longer needed.”

As for Section 4, Ginsburg wrote that “the record for the 2006 reauthorization makes abundantly clear [that] second-generation barriers to minority voting rights have emerged in the covered jurisdictions as at­tempted substitutes for the first-generation barriers that originally triggered preclearance in those jurisdictions.”

“The Supreme Court has effectively gutted one of the nation’s most important and effective civil rights laws,” Jon Greenbaum, chief counsel for the Lawyers Committee on Civil Rights Under Law, said in a statement. “Minority voters in places with a record of discrimination are now at greater risk of being disenfranchised than they have been in decades. Today’s decision is a blow to democracy. Jurisdictions will be able to enact policies which prevent minorities from voting, and the only recourse these citizens will have will be expensive and time-consuming litigation.”

November 7, 2012

One lesson from Milwaukee: efforts to suppress the vote backfired

Filed under: Right Wing Agenda,Voter Suppression — millerlf @ 3:13 pm

From Barbara Miner’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel blog: View from the Heartland Nov. 7, 2012

One lesson from the City of Milwaukee results: people don’t like efforts to suppress the right to vote; it only makes them more determined.

Or, to put it another way, the Republican game-plan backfired.

In the 2008 presidential election, 275,042 ballots were cast in the City of Milwaukee, for an 80.33 percent voter turnout. Obama/Biden won 77.82 percent of the vote, McCain/Palin won 21.03 percent.

In 2012, 288,459 ballots were cast in the City of Milwaukee, for an 87.24 percent turnout. Obama/Biden won 79.27 percent, Romney/Ryan won 19.72 percent.

U.S. Postage Stamp commemorating the historic 1965 Voting Rights Act, which prohibited Jim Crow-era attempts to suppress the black vote

October 15, 2012

News Conference: Clear Channel Comes under Fire for Biased Advertisements Intended to Intimidate Voters

Filed under: Voter Suppression — millerlf @ 2:25 pm

                                                                          Community Leaders Respond to Voter Suppression Billboards-

                                                                    Demand Clear Channel Remove Billboards Aimed at Intimidating Voters

              Billboard at Corner of Holton and Nash

Today members of the African-American Civic Engagement Roundtable and community partners came together to demand that Clear Channel take down billboards placed throughout Milwaukee that display threatening messages intended to intimidate voters in primarily low-income communities of color. The coalition is requesting that Clear Channel replace the biased and misleading advertisements with information that will help voters exercise their fundamental right to vote in this year’s election.

                          Today’s news conference 10/15/12

Wisconsin law allows ex-felons to vote if they are no longer on probation (Off Papers.) If a citizen is on probation for a misdemeanor, they too are eligible to vote.

June 11, 2012

Rep. Gwen Moore Holding Town Hall Friday at UWM on Voter ID in Wisconsin

Filed under: Right Wing Agenda,Scott Walker,Voter Suppression — millerlf @ 9:47 am




March 3, 2012

A powerful argument for blocking Wisconsin’s voter ID law

Filed under: Voter Suppression — millerlf @ 2:08 pm

Cap Times editorial  Posted: Friday, March 2, 2012

University of Wisconsin political scientist Ken Mayer is one of the most serious and responsible analysts of the politics of the state. Widely respected as fair player, whose work is well regarded by members of both major political parties, Mayer is someone conservatives and liberals listen to for reasoned comment on the political processes of the state. So when Mayer talks about the challenges raised by Wisconsin’s new voter ID law, we should all take him seriously.

In testimony this week before Dane County Circuit Court Judge David Flanagan, Mayer estimated that roughly 220,000 potential voters would be unable to cast ballots in coming elections because of the new voter identification measure.

In his testimony on a motion for a temporary injunction against the law sought by the Milwaukee branch of the NAACP and Voces de la Frontera, Mayer said his estimate was based on a 2005 analysis by a UW-Milwaukee professor that showed a “surprisingly large” number of people in Wisconsin lack valid driver’s licenses — a key form of ID. Additionally, Mayer argued that the state Department of Transportation’s estimates for individuals with proper ID are flawed.

When attorneys for the state questioned Mayer about the error rate, he said that “the error is more likely to increase the number of people who lack ID, but I can’t say how much. I made an effort to be conservative.”

Countering arguments by the state that it would be possible for voters to obtain other forms of identification before the April Wisconsin election, Mayer explained that “for some people it’s extremely difficult if not virtually impossible to obtain a photo ID.”

”Wisconsin’s law is the strictest requirement in the country,” said Mayer, who noted that remedies available in other states with ID requirements were not available under Wisconsin’s law.

Mayer’s testimony was powerful — and damning.

It is difficult to imagine that Flanagan would refuse to issue the temporary injunction.

Such a failure would run the risk of disqualifying voters who want to cast ballots for the municipal, school board and county posts that make the most definitional decisions regarding the delivery of public services, the education of our children, the taxes that Wisconsinites pay and the priorities for spending revenues that are raised. Nothing could be more damaging to the very premise of democracy.

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January 15, 2012

Milwaukee, the New Birmingham

Filed under: Poverty,segregation,Voter Suppression — millerlf @ 8:52 am

James E. Causey Jan. 14, 2012 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Martin Luther King Jr. wrote his letter from the Birmingham City Jail in 1963.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was killed a year before I was born, but I’ve always felt like he was a part of my family.

Today, his picture still hangs on my parents’ living room wall because King provided many African-American families with hope.

Many of the problems King cited in his April 16, 1963, letter from the Birmingham City Jail still exist in Milwaukee today.

I would even say that 2012 Milwaukee mirrors 1963 Birmingham in a lot of ways.

Milwaukee leads the nation or ranks near the top in several negative categories for African-Americans. Many of the problems are amplified by the city’s hypersegregation, high black male unemployment and 50% dropout rate for African-American boys.

Sunday is King’s birthday (Monday is the federal holiday observing his birth). The slain civil rights leader would have been 83. If he were alive, there is no doubt he would have visited Milwaukee to address its similarities to Birmingham.

He would have addressed:

Segregation: In his letter from the Birmingham Jail, King wrote: “Birmingham is probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States.”

In 2011, Milwaukee earned that dubious distinction.

There are many reasons 90% of the African-American population lives on the city’s north side. Some of the reasons stem from race and economics, but you can’t rule out factors such as suburban opposition to affordable housing, either. In New Berlin, for example, it took a federal lawsuit to get the city to rethink a workforce housing development.

The assertion that “people live where they feel comfortable” is not an excuse for the city’s hypersegregation. Race is more complicated than that. If King were alive, he would point out that segregated neighborhoods are not only bad for the health of adults; they are also unhealthy for our nation’s youngest citizens – our children.

Voting: Wisconsin voters this year could be voting in a recall of the governor, president of the United States and any number of key races that will impact them.

In December, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit stating that Wisconsin’s voter ID law “imposes a severe and undue burden on the fundamental right to vote under the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.”

Their biggest fear is that the law will essentially disenfranchise poor blacks, Hispanics, elderly and first-time voters from having a say in what could be tightly contested races.

In his letter, King wrote: “Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever.” King would have fought any laws restricting one’s right to vote.

I also believe King would have been more proactive by encouraging churches to get involved with the communities they are supposed to serve and register to vote those who are the hardest to reach.

Nationally syndicated radio host Joe Madison agreed.

Madison, who was active in the civil rights movement when he was a student at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, told me that black organizations can best honor King on Monday by taking his holiday “beyond the mall.”

“It’s nice to be off on Monday to celebrate King’s legacy, but we can’t just use that as a day off. Monday should be a call-to-action day,” Madison said.

Black churches and organizations should canvas neighborhoods that will be affected the most by the voter ID law.

The best gift that these groups can give to the people of these communities is a voter registration card. Let’s make sure that everyone who can vote is registered to have his or her vote and voice heard.

Poverty: The grip of poverty got even tighter in Milwaukee in 2011 with nearly 30% of its residents labeled as poor. Nearly half of the city’s children were listed as poor.

In King’s letter, he said it’s hard to understand why “20 million Negro brothers (are) smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society.”

It starts with family-supporting jobs, but elected leaders must have the will and creativity to change the city’s status quo. Milwaukee should not be the new Birmingham.

For those who don’t believe this is their problem, King said it best: “Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.”

Think about that, and happy birthday, Dr. King.

James E. Causey is a Journal Sentinel editorial writer, columnist and blogger. Email Twitter:

December 17, 2011


Filed under: Voter Suppression — millerlf @ 11:54 am

The Milwaukee Branch of the NAACP and Voces de la Frontera today filed a lawsuit in Dane County Wisconsin Circuit Court challenging Wisconsin’s Photo ID Law.  The lawsuit, which is attached, asks the court to declare the law unconstitutional because it violates the right to vote under the Article III, Section 1 of the Wisconsin Constitution which – unlike the U.S. Constitution– explicitly guarantees all eligible Wisconsin residents the right to vote.

The NAACP/Voces lawsuit follows the same roadmap that Missouri voters used to successfully overturn the Missouri photo ID law in 2006, when the Missouri Supreme Court invalidated photo ID under the State of Missouri Constitution’s right to vote.

NAACP President James Hall stated: “Hundreds of thousands of otherwise eligible Wisconsin voters lack acceptable photo ID under the new law.   A very large number of these are African-American and Latino voters in Milwaukee.  The photo ID law compels hundreds of thousands of such voters to invest numerous hours, and days in many instances, dealing with various government agencies and bureaucracy just to get the documents like birth certificate, social security cards, and other documents that are required to obtain a photo ID.   Many voters also pay significant amounts for these documents, especially birth certificates.”

Twelve voters who have been forced to incur unreasonable amounts of time and expense attempting to obtain their photo IDs are also plaintiffs in the NAACP/Voces lawsuit.  The individual plaintiffs have spent many days traveling and waiting at various government agencies.

Plaintiff Mary McClintock is a wheelchair-bound elector who had to take three trips via para-transit vans to the downtown DMV offices to obtain her photo ID to vote.  Ms. McClintock stated: “I have voted in every election that I can remember.  This is crazy that I would have to make three separate trips downtown just to be able to do what I have been doing my entire life.”

Plaintiff Danettea Lane, a mother and head of household of four children whose sole source of income is a monthly W-2 check in the amount of $608, had to pay $20 for a birth certificate to the County and also make four different trips to the DMV offices to finally obtain her photo ID in order to vote.

  Another individual plaintiff, Ricky Lewis, who is an honorably discharged U.S. Marine, explained his unsuccessful odyssey to obtain photo ID this way:

 “I have tried, and tried to get a photo ID so I can vote.   I first came right here at the DMV to get my photo ID last summer.  I showed them all kinds of ID.  I showed them photo IDs – one from the V.A and one from Milwaukee County.  I also showed them my discharge papers from the Marines.  I showed them a utility bill.  They said it wasn’t enough and they told me I needed a birth certificate and social security card. So, I went to the social security office, but they couldn’t give me a social security card because I didn’t have a birth certificate.  So I went over to the courthouse, and they didn’t have my birth certificate.  So I wrote a letter to Madison and the vital records office, and sent them a check for $20.  They sent me back a birth certificate.  But guess what.  It had the wrong name – it had my name as Tyrone DeBerry.   Tyrone is my middle name, and DeBerry is my mom’s maiden name.  They said if you want to get your birth certificate corrected, you have to file a lawsuit in circuit court.  Well, I am not gonna do that.  I am gonna stand up and fight with the people of Milwaukee, and the NAACP, and protect everyone’s right to vote and get rid of Gov. Walker’s Photo ID law.”

October 20, 2011

Juan Williams of Fox News Criticizes Republican Voter Suppression, a Reminder of Jim Crow

Filed under: Voter Suppression — millerlf @ 7:05 am

Opinion: GOP seeks to block the vote

By Juan Williams – The Hill 10/17/11

Politics is not Patty Cakes. Everyone plays to win. Generations of political professionals have pushed the rules to the brink with new schemes for raising money, spreading rumors, running negative ads and controlling the press.

But as the 2012 elections come into view, even cruel, old political cynics see something beyond the edge; something frightening.

With a rising number of Hispanic and black voters pushing into the electorate — putting Republicans at a bigger disadvantage every day — the GOP has unleashed a brazen, ugly effort to discourage these new voters from ever getting near the voting booth. They are turning back the clock on voting rights in America.

According to a new study by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University’s School of Law, 5 million eligible voters — overwhelmingly young people and minorities — are likely to be barred from voting in the 2012 elections because of laws being ginned up by Republican governors and state legislators across the country.

These new laws include unprecedented requirements for photo identification and proof of citizenship. It is no secret that 10 percent of all Americans don’t have government-issued identification and that this includes nearly 20 percent of young voters and 25 percent of black voters.

In several states the new laws also eliminate early voting and same-day registration. These laws are being called for as necessary steps to halt voter fraud. But there is no evidence of even a small amount of voter fraud anywhere in the United States. Under President Bush the Justice Department pushed federal prosecutors to find voter fraud and they came up empty.

“There has never been in my lifetime, since we got rid of the poll tax and all the Jim Crow burdens on voting, the determined effort to limit the franchise that we see today,” former President Clinton said in July.

The Brennan study points to 38 states where these new anti-voting laws have emerged in the last year. These include 2012 battleground states like Florida, Ohio and North Carolina.

Florida is the center of the GOP’s battle against the wave of new voters who lean to the Democrats.

The Sunshine State’s new Republican Governor, Rick Scott, and his GOP-controlled legislature enacted several strict new voting regulations earlier this year. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) has filed a formal complaint with the Department of Justice citing a provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

In its letter to DOJ’s voting rights division chief, the DSCC wrote: “[We see] it as no coincidence that the Republican-dominated Florida Legislature would institute voting changes that will disparately affect minority voters in an election year when suppressing the minority vote likely will help Republican candidates, but under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, minority voting rights cannot be bartered in the course of political gamesmanship.”

One particularly egregious tactic in Florida, but also in North Carolina and Ohio, is the elimination of early voting on Sundays. That simple step in the name of ease of voting helped people who have to be at their jobs during the week make it to the polls. Sunday is also the day when many black churches organize their members and help them vote.

There have been small, widely condemned efforts to shut the door on American votes in the last decade.

In a few instances, threatening, anonymous letters flooded poor, black neighborhoods warning that police and creditors would be checking anyone who voted. In another case fliers were posted in black neighborhoods announcing that the election was to take place a day later than previously announced. In a controversial move during the 2000 presidential election, police cars were positioned near polling places in minority neighborhoods in Florida.

With some organizational help from unions and liberal advocacy groups, citizens in some of these states are fighting back, with petition drives and litigation to overturn the voting restrictions.

These days, congressional Republicans seem to spend every news cycle attacking Attorney General Eric Holder. Ironically, one of their charges is that he did not aggressively pursue the most serious possible charges against a member of the New Black Panther Party who stood in intimidating fashion near a Philadelphia polling place in 2008.

It is time for Holder to stand up to something far more pernicious — the Republicans’ very real, widespread effort to distort the nation’s sacred political process.

It is time for the voting rights section of Holder’s Justice Department to accept the DSCC’s call for action against Florida’s Republican politicians.

Let that be Holder’s proud legacy — the 21st century attorney general who drew a line in the sands of history and refused to allow a return to the bad old days.

Juan Williams is an author and political analyst for Fox News Channel.


Koch Brothers Pay for Voter Suppression

Filed under: Koch Brothers,Voter Suppression — millerlf @ 6:59 am
Block the Vote: How the Koch-Backed American Legislative Exchange Council Aims to Keep You from Voting

by Adele Stan, Oct 17, 2011

Across the country, voters in a number of states will face obstacles to casting ballots in the 2012 elections, in large part because of model legislation drafted by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the organization backed by, among others, billionaires Charles and David Koch. It was ALEC’s draft legislation that inspired a spate of recently passed voter ID laws that, if allowed to stand, are expected to marginalize the impact of students and people of color at the polls in Texas, South Carolina, Wisconsin, Tennessee and Kansas. (Under the Texas law, for example, a college ID is not an acceptable form of identification for voting, but a military ID is.)

In a recent article published at The American Prospect, author Patrick Caldwell sheds light on ALEC’s M.O. For all the talk about preventing voter fraud—which was been shown to be a minimal threat to voting integrity—these new laws appear to be more about deciding just what kind of person gets to vote.

One of the most jarring examples of ALEC’s influence is the recent overturning of Maine’s longstanding same-day voting law by a newly elected Republican legislature. Maine’s law had been on the books since 1973, allowing the state to boast a much higher level of civic participation than the nation at large.

Caldwell explains:

After trying and failing to pass a voter-identification law, they succeeded in repealing same-day voter registration. Republican Gov. Paul LePage signed the bill in June.

The push against voting rights in Maine is just one example of the most direct assault on ballot access since the Jim Crow era. The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the influential corporate-funded group that writes model bills for Republican state legislators, has pushed Republicans across the country to impose new restrictions on voting and to overturn progressive laws like Maine’s. “I don’t want everybody to vote,” ALEC co-founder Paul Weyrich said three decades ago. “As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.”

In Ohio, where voters will vote next month on whether to overturn an ALEC-modeled law passed earlier this year that would greatly curtail collective bargaining for public employees and abolish binding arbitration for the settling of disputes, the assembly also passed a law that is designed to repress the vote through new absentee-ballot restrictions and new rules for poll workers.

In some states, Caldwell writes, the voter ID laws seem to directly target African Americans:

As many as one in four African Americans lack the identification these states now require, leading Georgia Congressman John Lewis to call the laws “poll taxes by another name.” (Under the Voting Rights Act, voter-ID laws in Texas and South Carolina must be approved by the Department of Justice because of those states’ history of minority-voter suppression. At press time, the department had not yet ruled.)

Rock the Vote has a map on its site of where new laws designed to suppress voter turnout have been enacted, and is encouraging activism to overturn the restrictions and/or minimize their impact.

The people of Maine will have the opportunity to overturn the state’s new voting restrictions and restore same-day voting by voting yes on Question 1, a public referendum question that will appear on the November 8 ballot. According to Project Maine Votes, a coalition of 18 groups that support the restoration of full voting rights, more than 70,000 signatures were gathered in less than a month on a petition to get Question 1 on the ballot.

In Ohio, where the legislature passed House Bill 194, which will shorten the time period allowed for early and absentee voting, Ohio activists, with the help of the AFL-CIO, gathered more than enough petition signatures to prevent the new restrictions from taking effect in the 2012 elections. The Ohio law would also forbid a poll worker from informing a voter that she or he was casting a ballot in the wrong precinct, setting that voter’s ballot up for rejection in a recount.

Elsewhere, the labor-allied One Wisconsin Now is calling attention to an attempt by tea party-aligned members of the state legislature to alter the formula by which the states electoral college votes are determined in the presidential election.

You can read Patrick Caldwell’s article, “Who Stole the Election?” at The American Prospect.

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