Archive for Vote Suppression

Apr
28

Who do you think you’re fooling?

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Not that long ago, campaigns here fretted that black voters did not take advantage of early voting. With the exception of Sunday voting (souls to the polls), seeing neighbors at the polls on Election Day was a kind of communal celebration. Responding in the New York Times to Monday’s federal court ruling upholding North Carolina’s 2013 voting restrictions, Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, president of the North Carolina N.A.A.C.P., notes how dramatically that changed:

The law eliminated voting rules that had enabled North Carolina to have the fourth best per capita voter turnout in the country. In 2012, 70 percent of black voters used early voting — and cast ballots at a slightly higher percentage than whites. Although black voters made up about 20 percent of the electorate, they made up 41 percent of voters who used same-day registration.

The North Carolina Legislature set out to change those figures and suppress minority votes. Its many impediments to voting all disproportionately affect African-American and Latino voters. None of their attacks would have survived pre-clearance under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. A Republican official defended the law this way: “If it hurts a bunch of lazy blacks that want the government to give them everything, so be it.”

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Apr
26

Back to the voting booth

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Well, that didn’t go as hoped. This morning’s headline in the Charlotte Observer online reads, “Federal judge who backed limits on early ballots upholds voter ID requirement.” Slate summarizes:

A federal judge on Monday upheld a 2013 North Carolina voter ID law that increased the requirements a voter must meet to cast a ballot, a move that critics say is an effort to discourage black and Hispanic voters from political participation. The suit was brought by the U.S. Department of Justice, the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP, as well as a group of North Carolina voters, and claimed the new measure, one of the strictest in the country, violated the Voting Rights Act and the Constitution. U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder, however, disagreed and in his 485-page opinion wrote “North Carolina has provided legitimate state interests for its voter ID requirement and electoral system.”

Critics condemned the ruling, which they will likely appeal to the 4th Circuit:

“This is just one step in a legal battle that is going to continue in the courts,” said Penda Hair, an attorney representing the NAACP. The law “targets the provisions that once made North Carolina among the states with the highest turnout in the nation. This progress was especially clear among African-American and Latino voters, who came to rely on measures like early voting, same-day registration and out-of-precinct provisional ballots to ensure their voices were heard.”

The New York Times explains what was on the table:

The opinion, by Judge Thomas D. Schroeder of Federal District Court in Winston-Salem, upheld the repeal of a provision that allowed people to register and vote on the same day. It also upheld a seven-day reduction in the early-voting period; the end of preregistration, which allowed some people to sign up before their 18th birthdays; and the repeal of a provision that allowed for the counting of ballots cast outside voters’ home precinct.

It also left intact North Carolina’s voter identification requirement, which legislators softened last year to permit residents to cast ballots, even if they lack the required documentation, if they submit affidavits.

Just weeks ahead of a hearing last July, Republicans in the legislature swapped out some of the barricades to voting for hoops.

Rick Hasen at Election Law Blog has additional analysis of the opinion, including these observations on the original impetus behind the bill:

5. On the need for the voter id law to prevent voter fraud, the court says first that it is hard to find impersonation fraud without an id requirement, but more importantly the Supreme Court in the Crawford case said there need not be evidence of impersonation fraud to justify the law. So while the plaintiffs have to present tons of evidence of burden, the state can get by with no evidence of a need. (This seems perverse to me.)

So plaintiffs provided insufficient proof of a burden and the state provided no justification for the law. Let’s call it even.

6. The court also finds that the state did not act with discriminatory intent, citing (without an appreciation for irony) at p. 387 the testimony of Hans von Spakovsky to the legislature on the need for this restrictive law. Whether or not his testimony was true, the court says, the legislature could have believed it true, thereby negating possibility of discriminatory intent.

Spakovsky, the Professor Harold Hill of voter fraud, testified that the “potential for abuse exists.” And windmills might be giants. Sufficient enough reason to pass a law restricting them.

It’s back to the voting booth, people, if voters expect to stop them from stopping voters.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

Apr
16

Cokie’s Law: Beyond the Beltway

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Digby long ago dubbed it Cokie’s Law after newswoman/commentator Cokie Roberts: “It doesn’t matter if it’s true or not, it’s out there.” That’s all the justification the press needs to keep reporting a falsehood until “unsubstantiated gossip masquerading as news” becomes something “everyone knows.” But the press is late to the game. This has been the M.O. of the right regarding voting for decades.

Cokie’s Law is the essential justification for big gummint haters requiring voters to present state-issued identity cards before they can exercise formal power in this country. Because “everyone knows” voter fraud is a problem. It doesn’t matter if it’s true or not, it’s out there. I’ve been writing about this technique for some time:

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Apr
03

“Frontiers of wrongness”

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Puzzling over how the next few months are going to shake out, it is easy to sympathize with Salon’s Andrew O’Hehir. He writes about a conference call this week in which strategist Tad Devine explained how the Bernie Sanders campaign means to whittle away at Hillary Clinton’s delegate lead:

One reason the thought-leaders of media groupthink listened so eagerly to Devine’s Gandalfian pronouncements is that we’ve been wrong about damn near everything in 2016 — wrong about Sanders, wrong about Trump, wrong about the enduring power of the “Republican establishment” and wrong about the stability of the two-party system. Who is to say we’re not wrong this time too? Who can imagine what new frontiers of wrongness lie ahead?

“Frontiers of wrongness” brought to mind the flat-earthers’ maps. Perhaps the most tantalizing aspect of their wrongness is the notion that beyond Antarctica lie uncharted lands still left to explore. Perhaps Donald Trump will build a resort/casino there? Perhaps North Carolina can send its unwanted gay and transgender people there?

Frank Bruni comments on both the wrongness and the shortsightedness of Republican’s anti-gay agenda, a provincial and retrograde attempt to stand athwart history as it bends towards equality and justice. Plus, sponsors are getting nervous about particpating in the RNC convention, what with the “brew of misogyny, racism and xenophobia stirred up by Trump.” Bruni writes:

THE party’s anti-gay efforts not only undermine its pro-business stance but also contradict conservatives’ exaltation of local decision making. The North Carolina law was drafted and passed expressly to undo and override an ordinance in the state’s most populous city, Charlotte, that extended L.G.B.T. protections against discrimination to transgender people who want to use bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity. The law went so far as to forbid any municipality from instituting its own anti-discrimination protections, lest they contradict the state’s.

Apparently conservatives love the concept of local control when the locality being given control tilts right, but they have a different view when it leans left. Rural sensibilities must be defended while cosmopolitan ones are dismissed.

And don’t miss the Trojan Horse provisions in that NC law that significantly indemnify discrimination by employers.

Charlie Pierce is in Madison, Wisconsin to cover the primary on Tuesday and has a few choice words on the wrongness of Gov. Scott Walker’s voter ID legislation. Bernie Sanders had more biting ones:

“It has never occurred to me and I think to most candidates that the way you try to win an election is to make it harder for people who might vote against you to participate in the election,” Sanders said. “That is political cowardice.”

The room erupted in cheers — including one man who yelled “Go get ‘em, Bernie!” — as he accused Walker and other Republican governors who support laws requiring a government-issued photo ID to vote of trying to deny people of color, poor people and the elderly their right to vote.

“If you don’t have the guts to participate in a free, open and fair election, get another job. Get outta politics,” Sanders said.

But getting back to O’Hehir’s frontiers of wrongness, where will Sanders supporters go this fall should he not win the Democratic nomination? Furthermore, where will Trump’s go if he wins the nomination and loses badly in the fall? Michael Bourne wonders:

For a generation, gun advocates have defended the right to bear arms as a check against tyranny, and for just as long liberals have dismissed this as a melodramatic talking point. But what if we take them at their word, and accept that it is possible we are witnessing the opening phase of a still-inchoate violent uprising by a broad class of Americans, who, ignored politically, bypassed economically, and dismissed socially, are beginning to take matters into their own hands?

What if, in other words, Donald Trump isn’t an aberration created by the miscalculations of a party elite, but the political expression of a much deeper, and more dangerous, frustration among a very large, well-armed segment of our population? What if Trump isn’t a proto-Mussolini, but rather a regrettably short finger in the dike holding back a flood of white violence and anger this country hasn’t seen since the long economic boom of the 1950s and ’60s helped put an end to the Jim Crow era?

What is most worrisome about the uncertainty ahead is the sense that on both the left and the right many people have convinced themselves that the republic is beyond repair. Decades of right-wing “voter fraud” propaganda have done their work, to where even the left believes, as Sen. Elizabeth Warren reminds us, “the game is rigged.” She may be speaking primarily (and accurately) about the economy, but the rigged meme is widespread, with even lefty activists quick to see conspiracies first and ask sober questions later.

There is a kind of Nero impulse afoot. Susan Sarandon’s comments captured the mood well. And if there are those on the left prepared to see the republic restored in cleansing fire, Bourne’s concerns about the right may be well-founded. The question is whether all the talk of revolution isn’t more Trumpian-style bluster. The thing about bringing down purifying fire is that innocent villagers tend to get sprayed with napalm.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

Mar
26

Can you feel the integrity?

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Can you feel the election integrity? By now, you’ve heard of the mess in Arizona during primary voting this week. Or rather specifically, in Maricopa County. The Arizona Republic diagnosed the problem succinctly:

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Mar
19

Crisis of confidence

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The loss of confidence in this country for its institutions and distrust among citizens for each other has really reached toxic levels. Enter Donald Trump and supporters who seem bent on making the country great again by burning the place to the ground. But those levels of distrust are present now across party and ideological lines. In this primary season especially, everyone seems hypervigilant for the stab in the back from allies and quick to read the worst intentions into any statements or government actions. Not without some priming.

After Ronald Reagan declared that government is the problem, his fans worked assiduously at proving it. With success. For thirty years or more, Republicans have worked at undermining confidence in American elections by promoting the idea that widespread fraud is at work undetected. Since 1982, the RNC has been under a consent decree prohibiting it from implementing its own voter fraud prevention measures — or voter suppression, if you see them through jaundiced eyes. In 2012, the last time (of which I am aware) that the Republican Party tried to get the 1982 consent decree voided, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit essentially laughed them out of court. Again. So they have turned after years of such rejection to state legislatures to accomplish the same thing through voter ID. Through relentless propagandizing, they convinced a large swath of the country that the threat from the elusive zombie voter is real and justifies such restrictive measures.

On Tuesday, there were some lines at the polls here in North Carolina and other issues with the new voter ID law. It will be worse in November.

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Mar
18

NC’s new identity hurdle blocks the vote

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Students arrived in a steady stream at the Board of Elections office in Asheville, NC late Tuesday afternoon. It was Primary Day, the first election operating under the state’s new voter ID law. Students found that their out-of-state IDs and state-issued student IDs were unacceptable under the new law and many could not vote a regular ballot. They had come trying to fix voter registration issues, and some to cast provisional ballots. During early voting in the state, “the highest concentrations of provisional ballots from voters without ID were in places with college campuses.”

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Feb
12

Voter ID and GOP women: acceptable losses

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GOP-sponsored voting restrictions passed across the country in recent years will come into full force as the primaries roll on. Laws such as North Carolina’s massive 2013 election law, for example, ostensibly passed to combat all-but-nonexistent voter fraud. The Voter Information Verification Act (VIVA) is awaiting the judgment of a federal court, much like the federal court that last Friday overturned the GOP’s congressional redistricting in the state. Republicans weakened some of VIVA’s provisions just days in advance of going to court. Why? Because they knew.

We will begin to see soon who the casualties are. Some of the effects were felt this month by Reba Bowser, 86, of Asheville, North Carolina. A staunch Republican, Bowser attempted to comply with the new voter identification requirements put in place by her party’s state leadership. She went with her son, Ed, to obtain a photo ID at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Peter Onge of the Charlotte Observer takes up the tale:

On Monday, they went to the Department of Motor Vehicles in west Asheville. There, they laid out all of Reba’s paperwork for a DMV official – her birth records from Pennsylvania, her Social Security card, the N.H. driver’s license she let expire because she no longer wanted to drive.

But there was a problem. When Reba got married in 1950, she had her name legally changed. Like millions upon millions of women, she swapped out her middle name for her maiden name.

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Feb
02

So many states, so many votes to suppress

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The Iowa caucuses are over. The pollsters are licking their wounds. Donald Trump met his Waterloo, writes Joan Walsh, bested by Ted Cruz. Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton are in a tie so close that several precincts resorted to a coin toss, “one of many oddities of the Iowa caucuses.”

What that means is upcoming primaries and the even general election could feel the impact of new voter ID laws in place for their first presidential election. A recent study begins to support that despite assurances to the contrary that they do indeed have a discriminatory effect. More on that in a minute.

Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio thinks voter purges, long lines at the polls, and voter ID laws are no big deal. Ari Berman writes that the GOP is now the party of Ted Cruz, who championed Texas’ strict voter ID law and, as Texas’ solicitor general, filed a brief in support of Indiana’s ID law that argued “there is no right to be free from any inconvenience or burden in voting.” The GOP has erected hurdles to voting in state after state as though democracy is a track and field event.

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Jan
25

Voter ID goes to court in NC

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Rev. William Barber speaking at Moral March on Raleigh2015. Flickr photo by AGFE via Creative Commons

Rev. William Barber speaking at Moral March on Raleigh
2015. Flickr photo by AGFE via Creative Commons

U.S. federal Judge Thomas Schroeder in Winston-Salem, North Carolina today hears a case against the state over its sweeping voter ID bill. HB 589 changed overnight from about 17 pages to over 50 in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Shelby County v. Holder that weakened the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The NAACP, the U.S. Justice Department and others claim the photo ID requirement unduly burdens black and Hispanic voters:

The trial over North Carolina’s voter ID law is set to begin Monday in front of Schroeder, a federal judge since 2008 who was appointed to the bench by President George W. Bush.

The legal battle is one of several being watched across the nation as the courts address questions of the fairness and lasting impacts that ID laws have on voting rights.

In North Carolina, voters will be required this year to use one of six specified IDs when they cast ballots — unless they can show they faced a “reasonable impediment” for getting one.

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