Archive for Vote Suppression
“Your honor, I hope that I can persuade you that it was not a nefarious thing,” replied Thomas A. Farr, an attorney for the state of North Carolina. He was arguing yesterday to uphold the state’s sweeping 2013 voting changes before the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond. One of the judges seemed skeptical:
Judge Henry F. Floyd questioned the timing of the changes — done after Republicans took control of state government for the first time in a century and after the U.S. Supreme Court undid key provisions of the Voting Rights Act — and whether they weren’t done to suppress minority votes for political gain.
“It looks pretty bad to me,” Floyd said.
Floyd was not the only judge on the panel who appeared skeptical. Talking Points Memo:
The U.S. Justice Department, state NAACP, League of Women Voters and others sued the state, saying the restrictions violated the remaining provisions of the federal Voting Rights Act and the Constitution. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals fast-tracked the review in an expected presidential battleground state, with competitive races for governor and U.S. Senate.
Voters must now show one of six qualifying IDs, although those with “reasonable impediments” can fill out a form and cast a provisional ballot. The voter ID mandate began with this year’s March primary.
At Tuesday’s hearing, Judge James A. Wynn Jr. asked pointed questions about why public assistance IDs, used disproportionally by minorities, were not acceptable in the final version of the law.
“Why did they take it out?” asked Wynn, a former North Carolina state appeals judge.
It boggles the mind to watch voter ID proponents stand before the cameras with their hands over their hearts and their flys unzipped and announce how they truly are defending democracy by designing ways to make it harder for minorities, students, and the elderly to vote. As if false earnestness can mask what they are really up to. Everybody’s wise to Eddie except Eddie.
Talking Points Memo reports on testimony in a case challenging Wisconsin’s voter ID law:
The former staffer to a Wisconsin state Republican senator who went public last month with accusations that the state’s voter ID law was passed by GOPers looking for a political advantage elaborated on the claims in federal court Monday and identified the previously unnamed legislators he said were gleeful over the law.
Todd Allbaugh, testifying in a case challenging the law, named then-Sens. Mary Lazich, Glenn Grothman, Leah Vukmir and Randy Hopper as being “giddy” in a 2011 private caucus meeting about passing the bill, the Journal Sentinel reported. Allbaugh previously confirmed to TPM that Grothman, now a U.S. congressman, was among the state legislators who cheered the political implications of the voter ID requirement — which opponents say disenfranchise minorities and lower income people — after Grothman told a local TV station it would help Republicans win the state in 2016.
According to Allbaugh’s testimony Monday, Grothman said at the 2011 meeting, “‘What I’m concerned about here is winning and that’s what really matters here. … We better get this done quickly while we have the opportunity.”
“They were talking about impeding peoples’ constitutional rights, and they were happy about it,” Allbaugh testified Monday. Other Republicans in the room were “ashen-faced” over the discussion, according to Allbaugh.
In testimony, Allbaugh said Grothman contacted him after he went public to correct the former staffer’s memory on the meeting, WisPolitics.com reports. “Here’s the thing. I fundamentally believe that Democrats cheat, and I don’t believe our side does, and that’s why we need this bill.”
A lot of people fundamentally believe a lot of things. That has now become an acceptable basis for public policy.
Jay DeLancy, leader of North Carolina’s Voter Integrity Project, committed a Kinsley gaffe during recent comments on North Carolina’s ID law, carolinacoastonline.com reports:
DeLancy, in an interview on Viewpoints, a call-in show on WTKF-FM, which is owned by Carteret Publishing, Tideland News’ parent company, discussed the ruling upholding HB 589. He advised proponents to be vigilant, even in the face of success. DeLancy acknowledged that challenges would continue and that if North Carolina were not careful, it could end up like Virginia, “a blue state,” he said, meaning, if people are allowed to vote, Democrats would win. Host Lockwood Phillips quickly questioned DeLancy on the comment. DeLancy backtracked, claiming the Voter Integrity Project is “nonpartisan,” but he also said that he believed it is Democrats who are behind cases of voter fraud.
It’s fundamental: the only plausible explanation for Republicans losing elections is their opponents must have cheated.
(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)
Pretty soon Republicans won’t need to insist voters present photo identity cards at the polls. The will have trained “wrong thinking people” not to try. The New York Times reported on studies indicating how that works: people confused about how the ID laws work simply stay home:
“What voters hear is that you need to have an ID,” said Mark P. Jones of the Baker Institute, an author of the study. “But they don’t get the second part that says if you have one of these types of IDs, you’re O.K.”
Representative Pete Gallego, a Texas Democrat, lost his 2014 reelection bid by just 2,422 votes. This year he is asking voters if they have a driver’s license.
After Mr. Gallego’s narrow loss in 2014, researchers from the Baker Institute and the University of Houston’s Hobby Center for Public Policy polled 400 registered voters in the district who sat out the election. All were asked why they did not vote, rating on a scale of 1 to 5 from a list of seven explanations — being ill, having transportation problems, being too busy, being out of town, lacking interest, disliking the candidates and lacking a required photo identification.
Nearly 26 percent said the main reason was that they were too busy. At the other end, 5.8 percent said the main reason was lacking a proper photo ID, with another 7 percent citing it as one reason. Most surprising, however, was what researchers found when they double-checked that response: The vast majority of those who claimed not to have voted because they lacked a proper ID actually possessed one, but did not know it.
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.”
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.
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.)
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:
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.
“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.)
Lines out the doors for Arizona primary voting. Media reports officials having a hard time keeping up with crowds. pic.twitter.com/1tXEOyrdMr
— John Nichols (@NicholsUprising) March 22, 2016
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:
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.
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.”