Voter Suppression – 2016

vra-1The Voting Rights Act, signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson on August 6, 1965, aimed to overcome legal barriers at the state and local levels that prevented African Americans from exercising their right to vote under the 15th Amendment (1870) to the Constitution of the United States. The act significantly widened the franchise and is considered among the most far-reaching pieces of civil rights legislation in U.S. history.

In 2013, the Supreme Court declared that voter discrimination was no longer a problem and effectively struck down the only portion of the act designed to stop discrimination before it affects an election. The court let stand the provisions of the act that allow lawsuits after a discriminatory law takes effect, but unfortunately, the United States has learned the hard way that there is no satisfactory cure for discrimination after an election occurs.

vra-2Under the 1965 law, jurisdictions with a history of discrimination had to submit changes in voting practices to the Justice Department for review. But in 2013’s Shelby County v. Holder, the Supreme Court struck down the trigger used to determine which jurisdictions would be subject to preclearance, effectively removing this safeguard. In 2015, U.S. Representative Jim Sensenbrenner, U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy, and U.S. Representative John Conyers introduced the Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2015 which would apply preclearance evenly among all 50 states. Under the new law, any state or jurisdiction that demonstrates a consistent pattern of discriminatory voting practices would be subject to preclearance. When the discrimination stops, the jurisdiction would automatically be freed from the requirement. This bill offers a modern and thoughtful response to voter discrimination that ensures the minimal possible federal interference in state elections. Unfortunately, despite the legislation having more than 100 co-sponsors, Congress still has not acted on it.

vra-3Which brings us to today, less than a week from election day, and in seven southern states alone, some 868 polling locations have been eliminated, thus ensuring that in the areas where polling places were closed, voters will have longer distances to travel and longer lines to stand in.  Arizona’s most populous county, Maricopa County (coincidentally home to controversial Sheriff Joe Arpaio) slashed the number of available polling places from 200 to 60, calling it a “cost-effective” move. In the March primary, this county saw voters waiting in line for 5 hours, many turning away rather than wait, and some polling places ran out of ballots.  There was, in Maricopa County, approximately 1 polling place for every 21,000 voters.

poll-closings

# of polling locations closed in 7 southern states = 868

More than a few times in the past year, I have stated my belief that when it comes to civil rights we are moving backward rather than forward.  The fact that 868 polling places closed in a mere 7 states, all southern states, seems to validate my belief.  It isn’t just in the south, either.  Rhode Island cut 66% of its polling places, as did some counties in Indiana where hundreds of voters were turned away after the polls closed.

In March 2012, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett signed into law one of the most restrictive Voter ID laws on the books.  Republicans praised the bill as a measure to prevent voter fraud, while Democrats accused them of trying to disenfranchise minority, elderly and urban voters. Three months later, Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Mike Turzai was caught on videotape saying, “Voter ID, which is going to allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania: done.”

This year in North Carolina, GOP leaders launched a meticulous and coordinated effort to deter black voters, who overwhelmingly vote for Democrats. The law, created and passed entirely by white legislators, evoked the state’s ugly history of blocking African Americans from voting. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of the Appeals for the 4th Circuit recognized the legislature’s discriminatory intent and struck down the law. Republican Governor Pat McCrory tried to appeal, but the Supreme Court refused to stay the lower court’s order, thus the law will not be in effect for this year’s election. Score one for justice!

Federal courts have also struck down new voting restrictions in Texas, Wisconsin, Kansas and North Dakota. In all cases, the laws were enacted by Republican legislatures and governors. And in all cases, discriminatory impact on minority voters is at issue.  What’s next … literacy tests?  Poll taxes?  This whole thing reminds me of trying to blow out those trick candles that keep re-lighting themselves on a birthday cake … you think you’ve blown out all the candles, then another starts burning again, then another.  Just when we thought we had fairness and justice for all in voting rights, fires keep popping up, trying to deprive U.S. citizens of their Constitutional right! 

Federal Judge James Peterson, who struck down a series of voting restrictions in Wisconsin this year, wrote: “The Wisconsin experience demonstrates that a preoccupation with mostly phantom election fraud leads to real incidents of disenfranchisement, which undermine rather than enhance confidence in elections, particularly in minority communities. To put it bluntly, Wisconsin’s strict version of voter ID law is a cure worse than the disease.”.

We elect people to represent us in our counties, our states, and in Washington.  We elect these public servants with the expectation that they will be fair and honest and do the best job they can to represent all the people of the United States, not just people with light skin or European ancestry! All these attempts by the GOP to keep African-Americans from voting this year indicate one thing:  Republicans do not have faith that their candidates can win an honest election. To disenfranchise African-Americans, Hispanics, and other groups simply to win is an abomination! Are we, as a nation, truly willing to reverse the strides in equality, gains in the democratic process, that were made more than 50 years ago?  If we are, then perhaps we deserve what we get. Think about it.

18 thoughts on “Voter Suppression – 2016

  1. Pingback: Are United States of America citizens going to show their senses | Marcus Ampe's Space

  2. Dear Jill and friends,

    It looks like the republicans have to sell their souls to win. They can’t win by sharing their message in the wider marketplace. This is why they have to cheat by limiting access to the ballot box; tolerating party members like their standard bearer who spout racist, xenophobic and sexist members without censure as well as demonizing the opposition because that please their base.

    Hugs, Gronda

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Being in NC, when the Appellate Court said our Voter ID was unconstitutional earlier this year as it used a laser like focus to discriminate, the GOP leadership went about a purposeful campaign of compliance that would look like it was fair, but in fact was regressing and even more Jim Crow like. Emails were leaked of strong arm tactics on County Boards of Elections to limit compliance and now we learn some folks were struck from the voter ledgers.

    If Trump is looking for fraud, this is what it looks like. Our GOP led General Assembly just this year had the Voter ID law overturned, but also two different redistrictings were ruled as gerrymandered. one for the state house, the other for the US house.

    When the Voter ID law was being debated, I shared with legislators this law would be unconstitutional and was Jim Crow like. One of its authors ripped me a new one, but I said simply, “as a white man who used to be a Republican, you and I both know what this law is all about.”

    Trump is declaring a rigged system as he reads from hacked emails from his opponents likely doctored by the Russians, as he sends his storm troopers to intimidate voters, and as he has other voter suppression strategies in place. My thesis is simple. If you must rely on fewer voters, then your argument does not hold much water.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Excellent post. But I spy a dilemma when it comes to literacy tests. We would want our citizens to be able to read and write — if for no other reason than to find out where the candidates stand on critical issues. But those tests can (and are) used to discriminate against minorities, as you say. The only way out of this dilemma is through adequate education of ALL citizens and a required civics class in every high school across this great land of ours.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! Yes, I have that dilemma … on the one hand, this year more than any before, I think voters should have to pass tests to determine if they even have brains. But on the other hand, any form of testing goes against the Constitution and is likely to be discriminatory to one group or another. As with most questions worth asking, there are no easy answers. But I agree with you that every high school shoulc be teaching civics. I cannot see how anybody thinks that is unimportant!

      Like

  5. As an outsider, I just just shake my head. The whole world is watching your circus loosely described as Democracy in action, and I have to believe that all the circus members (both in the ring and working in the background), are aware of such world-wide interest. I can only conclude that the circus owners are so pig-headed that they really don’t care about the rest of the world; they are so arrogant that worldly opinion is of no interest to them; that the future stability of all US citizens cannot be on the agenda with egotists and profiteers. ; that hypocrisy and democracy together will be a recipe for future issues.
    It really is exasperating to see such abuse of power in a purported democratic society. I wouldn’t want to predict an outcome following the election, but if I were living there, I think my responsibility would be to my family and we would move elsewhere! Home of the brave! Land of the free! Only in Hollywood…… may be!

    Liked by 1 person

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