Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Left Side of the Aisle #119 - Part 2

Update 2: Impact of gutting of Voting Right Act increasing

The Supreme Court's gutting of the Voting Rights Act is already having an impact.

Within hours of the ruling, officials in Texas, Mississippi, and Alabama said that they would begin enforcing strict photo identification requirement for voters, which has a demonstrably disparate racial impact.

North Carolina is moving to impose similar limits. The state Senate has approved legislation that would eliminate same-day voter registration, cut early voting by a week, and require all voters to show specific forms of state-issued ID at the polls.

In the Jim Crow era, black people trying to vote faced poll taxes, literacy tests, and violence. Today, the mechanisms of disenfranchisement may be more sophisticated, but they can be just as effective.

And it's not just the South. More than 30 states have passed laws in recent years requiring voters to display photo identification, which minorities and low-income folks disproportionately lack. And if the bludgeon isn't enough, there is always the stiletto of redistricting, which by diluting the strength of minority votes, can turn a razor-thin reactionary majority into a crushing one - as has happened in North Carolina.

The impacts are being felt at the courthouses as well as the statehouses.

For example, in Florida, a federal court has dismissed a lawsuit filed by an Hispanic civic group and two naturalized citizens to block a voter purge in Florida. The court found that the Supreme Court decision meant that the purge could not be blocked.

The Supreme Court decision gutting the Voting Rights Act invited Congress to simply re-do the section it struck down, to come up with a new formula to determine what districts of the country were sufficiently bigoted to require preclearance of changes in their voting laws. When I talked about this, I asked if you could imagine Congress doing any such thing anytime in the foreseeable future.

Well, if you did imagine that, you were wrong.

Members of Congress, especially the right wingers, have no interest in, and no intention of, doing anything about fixing the Voting Rights Act. Not a damn thing. In the words of knuckle-dragger Rep. Joe Barton, “Ain’t gonna happen.”

And why should it, they say. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte opened a recent hearing by saying that even after the Supreme Court’s decision, “other very important provisions of the Voting Rights Act remain in place.”

Which they do. One of them empowers courts to require preclearance for jurisdictions which are found to have intentionally discriminated under the 14th or 15th Amendments to the Constitution, and private groups in Texas have filed suit for Texas to be subject to preclearance under just that provision. To its credit, the Obama administration has filed a statement of interest in support of those groups, saying Texas should be subject to preclearance for 10 years.

AttGen Eric Holder said this is the first such move in response to the SCOTUS ruling and, he said, "it will not be our last." Let's hope so.

Footnote: Remember Bob Goodlatte saying that “other very important provisions of the Voting Rights Act remain in place?” According to the House reactionaries, because the Obama administration has used one of those other provisions, it has "poisoned the well" so it's their fault that nothing will be done.

Sometimes ya just gotta laugh.


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