The House Republicans held their first hearing on the Voting Rights Act Thursday to consider what, if anything, might be done as a consequence of the Supreme Court's striking down Section 4. That section set formulas for figuring out which jurisdictions are required to "pre-clear" any changes in their voting laws because they discriminated against citizens of color in the past. As expected, some lawmakers don't want to do anything:
The two Republican witnesses at Thursday’s hearing were in complete agreement: Even with Section 4 struck down, the Voting Rights Act ain’t broke so there’s no need to fix it. In fact, Hans von Spakovsky, a former Bush-era Justice Department official who is now a scholar with the Heritage Foundation, said that the requirement to submit election law changes in advance had “led to a virtual apartheid system of redistricting,” because it bars changes that would have the effect of diluting minority voting power, not just the intention. [...]The Pennsylvania GOP just keeps opening its collective big mouth, and admitting that voter ID has nothing to do with fraud, and everything to do with politics.
Von Spakovsky compared the “preclearance” requirement in the Voting Rights Act to arresting someone and forcing them to prove their innocence rather than requiring the state to prove their guilt. As a rejoinder, Spencer Overton, a former Justice Department official who now teaches law at Georgetown University, said “when I came into this building today, I went through a metal detector, that’s not a due process violation.” The point, Overton explained, was that preclearance exists to address voting discrimination where it remains most acute.
Now PA GOP party chairman Rob Gleason has set off a new round of criticism by crediting voter ID with helping narrow Obama's margin of victory last fall. In an interview broadcast on PCN-TV, Gleason was asked whether he thought the attention drawn to Voter ID affected last year’s elections. He replied."Yeah, I think a little bit. We probably had a better election. Think about this, we cut Obama by 5%, which was big. A lot of people lost sight of that. He won, he beat McCain by 10%, he only beat Romney by 5%. I think that probably Voter ID had helped a bit in that."More war on voters below the fold.
North Carolina is one of several states where right-wing lawmakers have seen the Supreme Court's decision to gut the Voting Rights Act of 1965 as an opportunity to suppress the vote, though they will never, of course, call it that. Bob Hall, executive director of Democracy North Carolina, examines the differences between a House and Senate photo I.D. bill:
The Senate bill takes a double swipe at college students, making it harder for them to vote. It refuses to accept student IDs from any college; the House at least accepts those from the UNC and community college systems. And it restricts the use of an out-of-state driver’s license to 90 days from the day of becoming a NC registered voter; the House accepts the out-of-state driver’s licenses as a legitimate government-issued photo ID. These are unnecessary, mean-spirited changes that target and punish college students who want to participate in the civic life of their college community. The Senate version keeps a House provision that will make the NC law one of the most restrictive in the nation—harsher than the ones in Florida, Idaho, Michigan and several other states with a photo ID requirement. Those states allow the voter who lacks or forgets to bring the photo ID to sign an attestation under penalty of perjury and, in some cases, provide an identifying number, such as a birth date or Social Security number, that the board of elections can verify before counting the ballot. The proposed NC law would make that voter come back another day and show the correct ID to have their provisional ballot count. This is significant: 70% of North Carolina voters say our law should also have that back-up provision for the voter without an ID who signs the attestation and gives an identifying number.A federal judge in Ohio has made permanent a ruling that voters who are misdirected to incorrect polling places will still have their votes counted, even if they vote in the "wrong" location.
Last year, two organizations filed suit against Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted (R) after he attempted to block the counting of provision ballots cast voters who vote in the wrong place within a polling place (often “right church,” but “wrong pew” voters) — even though they were incorrectly sent there by poll workers. A federal appeals court ruled against Husted in October, holding that such a practice violated the U.S. Constitution. U.S. District Judge Algenon L. Marbley issued an injunction preventing Ohio from discarding those votes in November’s election.That injunction is now permanent.
John Paul Stevens reviews Gary May's Bending Toward Justice: The Voting Rights Act and the Transformation of American Democracy:
Professor Gary May describes a number of the conflicts between white supremacists in Alabama and nonviolent civil rights workers that led to the enactment of the Voting Rights Act of 1965—often just called the VRA. The book also describes political developments that influenced President Lyndon Johnson to support the act in 1965, and later events that supported the congressional reenactments of the VRA signed by President Richard Nixon in 1970, by President Gerald Ford in 1975, by President Ronald Reagan in 1982, and by President George W. Bush in 2006. [...]Republican who chucked voter registration forms goes scot-free:
May’s book contains a wealth of information about the events that led to the enactment of the 1965 statute—and about the dedication and heroism of little-known participants in the events that came to national attention in 1964 and 1965. It includes both favorable and unfavorable information about well-known figures like Martin Luther King Jr. and J. Edgar Hoover, and about some of the methods used by whites to prevent blacks from voting and from registering to vote.
A judge in Virginia dropped several misdemeanor charges against Colin Small on Wednesday, meaning the 23-year-old will not face any penalties for discarding a number of voter registration forms. Felony charges were dropped back in April, but Small was still facing five misdemeanor counts until this week.
During a four-hour court hearing on Tuesday, Small's lawyer John C. Holloran argued that Small simply made a mistake and wasn't trying to purposefully prevent anyone from registering to vote. [...]
Small had been registering voters on behalf of the Republican Party and was paid by Strategic Allied Consulting until the Republican National Committee ended its relationship with the firm.