While we were all being entertained by the slandering of a returning POW, and then by the road company production of Weasel’s End in Virginia last night, the Supreme Court quietly accepted for review yet another case that involves the franchise, and the rights of minority voters to exercise it. Before we get to what it all might mean for the country that is still in the throes of John Roberts’s Day Of Jubilee, we should pause for a moment and gaze in awe at the glorious legal hypocrisy of the state of Alabama.
You may recall that the Day Of Jubilee was first declared when the Supreme Court ruled for Shelby County, Alabama in gutting Section V of the Voting Rights Act and, thereby, rendering the entire act virtually toothless. The current case involves the creation of gerrymandered majority-minority districts the defense of which Alabama has based in…wait for it…Section V of the Voting Rights Act. Pity me, Your Honor. I’m an orphan.
In dissent, Judge Myron H. Thompson said “there is a cruel irony to these cases” in light of the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in the Shelby County case. “Even as it was asking the Supreme Court to strike down” Section 5 “for failure to speak to current conditions,” Judge Thompson wrote, “the State of Alabama was relying on racial quotas with absolutely no evidence that they had anything to do with current conditions, and seeking to justify those quotas with the very provision it was helping to render inert.”
In the context of the Court’s declaration of the Day Of Jubilee, and the huge effort in the states to suppress votes and restrict the franchise, an effort that the Court itself largely has put beyond the reach of federal law, this case is part of a generalized assault not only on the voting rights of targeted populations, but also to put in place a de facto suppression of the mind, to inculcate in those targeted populations that the system has been so rigged against them that there isn’t much point in putting in the effort it would take to exercise your right to vote. Get an ID. No, sorry, get another ID. No, still the wrong one. Register sometime between 4 and 4:03 on the fourth Tuesday of Nevermember. The most effective form of voter suppression is to convince people that the franchise is out of their reach. Couple that with the increasingly deadening effect of money on our politics — something that this Court also blessed when it gave First Amendment protection to influence-peddling — and you see a kind of democratic malaise settling in, and this in a country where too many people have to be pried off the couch to vote even in the best of times. This is the way rights evaporate. First, you make their exercise inconvenient, or dangerous. Then you can easily make them disappear.
No, seriously, tell us what you really think. A Texas Tea Party leader admitted recently what most of us already knew, the Republican party doesn’t want African-Americans to vote.
When asked at a meeting of Texas Republicans “what can Republicans do to get black people to vote,” a Texas Tea Party leader, Ken Emanuelson, gave the following answer:
“I’m going to be real honest with you, the Republican Party doesn’t want black people to vote if they’re going to vote 9-to-1 for Democrats.”
And remember Paul Weyerich’s very intentional candor on voting back in 1980:
As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections, quite candidly, goes up as the voting populace goes down.
All of which brings you back to one central point: if you care about the integrity of elections and people actually being able to vote, the supposed cures for vote fraud are vastly more destructive than the problem. All evidence suggests that vote fraud is a minuscule, minuscule problem. Voter ID and most of the other nostrums are solutions looking for a problem. The people who support these policies are either ignorant of the facts or actually want to cull a certain subsection of the population from democratic participation. There are simply no two ways about it.
Using means now familiar in other states, North Carolina Republicans are proposing several ways of making it harder to vote. But one of the tactics is new to me. Republican State Senator Bill Cook wants to make voting harder for college students in particular, and to do that, he’s pushing a bill that ties students’ voter registration to their parents’ taxes. If the student registers to vote at their college address, the parents would get a tax hike. They could no longer claim the student as a dependent, so the family would pay more in taxes.
So, like Maddow, this one is new to me: If you’re College age in NC, and you try to actually register to vote, they’ll punish your parents for it.
Remember, the College age Vote is what threw Bush the First out of office, to which the Republicans responded with the “lazy college slacker” meme to try and influence and entire generation out of civil action. Frankly, I’m surprised it took them losing 2 more times to think up a way to directly try to prevent college students from voting like this.
And of course, the GOP voter suppression SIG, “True the Vote,” is directly involved with this.
Now, the reason the NC GOP is doing this, as well as trying to declare North Carolina as theocracy and immune to federal law, is because they have a veto proof majority.
So in other words, what we’re seeing in North Carolina is the true face of the modern Republican party. If they had their way, if not for those meddling Democrats in other states, they would do the exact same thing to every other state, and worse on the federal level.
Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 is a provision that requires sixteen states with a history of voter suppression and racial discrimination to clear any proposed changes in voting laws with the Justice Department before they can go into effect. It is being challenged in the US Supreme Court, and today was the first day oral arguments were heard, and it wasn’t pretty. Justice Antonin Scalia unintentionally made the case for why Section 5 is still very much needed:
The Voting Rights Act took a beating from conservative justices Wednesday during oral arguments at the Supreme Court.
At issue is the constitutionality of Section 5 of the 1965 law, which requires state and local governments with a history of voter disenfranchisement to pre-approve any changes that affect voting with the Justice Department or a federal court.
Oral arguments showed a sharp divide along ideological lines and suggested that the conservative majority is strongly inclined to overturn Section 5 of the half-century-old law.
Justice Antonin Scalia attributed the continued congressional reauthorization to the “perpetuation of racial entitlement” and suggested that it will be renewed endlessly because members of Congress would never let it lapse for fear for political repercussions.
“I don’t think there is anything to be gained by any Senator to vote against continuation of this act,” Scalia said. “They are going to lose votes if they do not reenact the Voting Rights Act. Even the name of it is wonderful — the Voting Rights Act. Who is going to vote against that in the future?”
Here are Scalia’s full remarks, via the Daily Kos
JUSTICE SCALIA: …This Court doesn’t like to get involved in — in racial questions such as this one. It’s something that can be left — left to Congress.
The problem here, however, is suggested by the comment I made earlier, that the initial enactment of this legislation in a — in a time when the need for it was so much more abundantly clear was — in the Senate, there — it was double-digits against it. And that was only a 5-year term.
Then, it is reenacted 5 years later, again for a 5-year term. Double-digits against it in the Senate. Then it was reenacted for 7 years. Single digits against it. Then enacted for 25 years, 8 Senate votes against it.
And this last enactment, not a single vote in the Senate against it. And the House is pretty much the same. Now, I don’t think that’s attributable to the fact that it is so much clearer now that we need this. I think it is attributable, very likely attributable, to a phenomenon that is called perpetuation of racial entitlement. It’s been written about. Whenever a society adopts racial entitlements, it is very difficult to get out of them through the normal political processes.
I don’t think there is anything to be gained by any Senator to vote against continuation of this act. And I am fairly confident it will be reenacted in perpetuity unless — unless a court can say it does not comport with the Constitution. You have to show, when you are treating different States differently, that there’s a good reason for it.
That’s the — that’s the concern that those of us who — who have some questions about this statute have. It’s — it’s a concern that this is not the kind of a question you can leave to Congress. There are certain districts in the House that are black districts by law just about now. And even the Virginia Senators, they have no interest in voting against this. The State government is not their government, and they are going to lose — they are going to lose votes if they do not reenact the Voting Rights Act.
Even the name of it is wonderful: The Voting Rights Act. Who is going to vote against that in the future?
Hat tip - Crooks and Liars
It may be an American’s right to vote on Election Day, but that right was hampered in last November’s elections by excessively long waits, a limited number of voting machines, a lack of Spanish-speaking translators and — in one case — an “intimidating” police presence at the polls.
Those were just a few of the stories that people told legislative members of both the House Voter and Election Committee and the Senate Rules Committee on Saturday morning. The special session was dedicated to hearing testimony on unexpected and unpleasant challenges facing New Mexico voters in last November’s general election.
“There’s no such thing as a perfect election, but it’s always troubling to hear of issues on Election Day,” said Maggie Toulouse Oliver, who has served as county clerk for Bernalillo County since 2007. She was one of about 20 people offering first-hand testimony — and also the only county clerk to show up for the event.
Others — many of whom spoke Spanish during the hearing — told first-hand stories of waiting at least three hours in lengthy lines and finding very little guidance in the way of signage or Spanish-language documents. Many said that officials and volunteers manning polling sites asked them for photo identification documents despite the fact that they had their voter registration card on them.
Bilingual access to all state services is in the New Mexico Constitution.
Voter turn-out activists, take note of this testimony:
Uribe garnered a rare laugh during the relatively somber proceedings when he said one way to lure older voters to the polls is to offer them a ride in a limousine. “It’s cheaper to rent a 15-seat limo for five hours than to get a 15-seat van for the day,” he said. “You offer them a ride to the polls in a van and they say ‘no.’ You take a 15-seat limo, they all jump in.”
Read the whole article here: Joint Panel Hears About Election Day Challenges - the Santa Fe New Mexican
See another article about the hearings here: Ugly Showdown in Chaparral, New Mexico, on Election Day.
There was a legislative hearing today on problems that occurred in New Mexico during Election Day last November.
Gov. Susana Martinez received plaudits for delivering pizza and encouragement to voters who stood in long lines on Election Night in Rio Rancho.
But in the border town of Chaparral, nonpartisan volunteers who offered stranded voters water, food and chairs were threatened with arrest.
Eight uniformed officers of the Otero County Sheriff’s Office put up yellow crime-scene tape around the Chaparral polling place. Then they intimidated volunteers whose only mission was to make sure voters could stick it out long enough to exercise their right to cast a ballot, said Mariaelena Johnson of the group community group New Mexico Café.
Johnson said she called Holmes early on Election Day when lines already were long and no translators were at the Chaparral precinct. Johnson said Holmes sent two people to serve as translators, but they stayed only two hours, leaving even before the nighttime rush as people got off work and went to vote.
Johnson and other community organizers stood by to help. Fluent in Spanish, they could serve as translators if voters requested their help. But simply by being outside the precinct, they rankled election judge Mayes, Johnson said.
Johnson said the only chanting that occurred was well after sheriff’s deputies arrived. By that time, Johnson’s parents, 88 and 89 years old, were stilling standing in line to vote.
[Republican Otero County Clerk Robyn] Holmes said the large turnout in Chaparral blindsided her and her staff.
‘We weren’t prepared,’ she said.
Typically about 250 people vote in the Chaparral precinct, but twice as many showed up in November, she said. The last person in line in Chaparral finally voted at 10:45 p.m.
For Johnson, the confrontation in Chaparral was generational. She said the election judge and poll workers were all Caucasian and not attuned to helping large numbers of Hispanic people who arrived to exercise their right to vote.
Read the whole article here: Ugly Showdown in Chaparral - NM Capitol Report
It’s not technically correct to say one side in the conflict was Caucasian and the other was largely Hispanic since most Hispanics in New Mexico are Caucasian, but in a way it is correct to say it was a generational divide, since the long-time residents in positions of power were white and the relative newcomers are said to be 85% Hispanic.
This was not supposed to have been an easy year for U.S. liberals. After the Tea Party wave of 2010 and the unprecedented flood of money brought in by the Citizens United ruling, the deck was stacked against many on the left. But liberals fought back and won: this was the year of resilience.
The fight against right-wing voter suppression was perhaps the biggest success. More than half the states in this country considered voter ID laws, and some lawmakers were open about their intent. Pennsylvania Senate Majority Leader Mike Turzai put it simply: “Voter ID, which is going to allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania- done.”
But it wasn’t done. Voting rights advocates successfully blocked that law in Pennsylvania, and blocked similar laws in Wisconsin and beyond. Obama went on to win the state’s electoral votes.
Despite the odds, the massive liberal ground game ultimately overcame the billionaire boys club.In Florida, voter suppression measures backfired and inspired many voters to go to the polls, where some stood in line for six or seven hours, waiting to vote. But eventually all the ballots were casts, and the voice of the people was heard.
Not everyone had an easy time accepting the defeat, especially Karl Rove, who’d spent three hundred million dollars trying to win an election, and failed. Despite the odds, the massive liberal ground game ultimately overcame the billionaire boys club.
One common myth explained:
MYTH #2: St. Lucie County, FL had 141 percent turnout!
A second popular myth, is that Democrats stuffed the ballot boxes in St. Lucie County, Florida, where 141 percent turnout helped Barack Obama carry the county. This myth was circulated by Free Republic, Town Hall and Kyle Rogers at the Examiner. Each of these sites went apoplectic when they jumped to the conclusion that 247,000 ballots were cast in a county with only 175,000 registered voters.
The myth appears to have been started during Republican Rep. Allen West’s short-lived challenge to the results of his race in that county, when the first page of the 11/11/12 St. Lucie County’s Election Summary Report [PDF] said there were 175,554 “Registered Voters” in the county and 247,383 “Cards Cast” in this year’s election. The result was what appeared by the incurious to be a 140.92% turnout.
Naturally, that number was taken as a clear sign of voter fraud on a massive scale.
Of course, there was a simple explanation. The ballot was printed on two pages and 247,000 ballots cast actually meant about 123,500 people had voted.
The front page of the St. Lucie County Elections website even explains, in all caps:
NOTE* - TURNOUT PERCENTAGE WILL SHOW OVER 100% DUE TO A TWO PAGE BALLOT. THE TABULATION SYSTEM (GEMS) PROVIDES VOTER TURNOUT AS EQUAL TO THE TOTAL CARDS CAST IN THE ELECTION DIVIDED BY THE NUMBER OF REGISTERED VOTERS. ALSO NOTE THAT SOME VOTERS CHOSE NOTE TO RETURN BY MAIL THE SECOND CARD CONTAINING THE AMENDMENTS.
Read the whole thing at The BRAD Blog.
It’s also helpful to remember again that voter suppression has been an article of faith among the right wing for decades, as Paul Weyerich explicitly laid out back in 1980:
“I don’t want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of people. They never have been from the beginning of our country, and they are not now. As a matter of fact our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.”
The Nation has has a nice writeupabout how Teabaggers and right wingers are having trouble coming to terms with the fact that they lost a presidential election for the second consecutive time, and instead of being personally responsible and doing a little self analysis to discover why it is they lost, the personal responsibility crowd is engaging in time honored tradition right wingers have perfected since the late 1960’s - blame someone or something else.
This time it’s the dreaded bugaboo of…VOTER FRAUD! Of course, the number of verified instances where true, in person voter fraud has been caught couldn’t tip the balance of an election for dog catcher, yet these teabagger groups are convinced that it is happening, and in some instances, may have violated a federal consent decree against targeting people of color for challenges of their eligibility to vote:
On October 5, an e-mail circulated around Allegheny County from Patti Weaver, head of the Pittsburgh Tea Party Movement, that was a clarion call for volunteers to be poll watchers on Election Day. In that message Weaver included a caveat:
Be warned that some of the areas that need poll watchers are not in the nicest part of town. However, this is an excellent opportunity to serve your country.… We are working with the Republican Committees so that they can place people at the locations with the highest likelihood of fraud.
This was interesting because for years, Tea Party groups and True the Vote have sworn that they aren’t targeting minority neighborhoods in their poll work. They’ve been denying this not just to sound moral but because they know it could be found a violation of the Voting Rights Act. And if it is happening in coordination with the Republican Party, then it’s in violation of a longstanding legal consent decree that grew out of the party’s previous efforts to suppress black voters.
But in the post-election fog of finger-pointing on the right, True the Vote and Tea Party groups are directing blame for Mitt Romney’s loss to that very consent decree. They believe that Obama was fraudulently elected both this November and in 2008, and that the Republican Party is unfairly restricted from rooting out that fraud because of the consent decree.
The party has had trouble following these rules. Federal courts found the RNC in violation of the consent decree in 1990 and again in 2004 in Ohio (pdf), where the GOP targeted black voting districts with voter challenge lists.
Republicans have tried to have the decree dismantled as recently as this year, but federal courts have refused (pdf) , citing how demonstrably effective it’s been in stopping the Republican Party from intimidating voters.
At this point, it’s helpful to remember Paul Weyerich’s take on voting - he doesn’t want everyone to be able to do it: