Archive for Vote Suppression


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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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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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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Pushing back the crazy in North Carolina

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There is enough crazy (and crazies) in NC to fill several wildlife refuges. Still, Gov. Pat McCrory is rated one of the most vulnerable Republican governors seeking reelection this fall. With state agencies allegedly dragging their feet over complying with federal voter registration laws, activists are not sitting around waiting for Bernie or Hillary to swoop in and save the day. The North Carolina NAACP and Democracy North Carolina are mounting a multi-pronged get-out-the-vote effort across the state. Rev. Dr. William Barber, president of the state NAACP and leader of the Forward Together Moral Monday Movement came to Asheville, North Carolina this week to promote the “It’s Our Time — It’s Our Vote” campaign. The coalition announced the campaign on December 1, the 60th anniversary of Rosa Parks’ protest on a Montgomery, Alabama bus. Mountain Xpress reports:

“Others have had their time over past few years to vote on regressive policies. It’s our time now,” Barber commented. “In North Carolina, we have been fighting the worst voter suppression law in the country.” In partnership with other organizations, the NAACP has challenged new voting laws passed in 2013, including voter identification requirements, the elimination of same-day voter registration and the elimination of out-of-precinct voting. Barber asked attendees to spread the word about a July 2015 change in the North Carolina General Assembly statute which allows voting without ID in the case of a “reasonable impediment” to obtaining identification.

“Go and vote,” urged Barber. “The law has not been fully adjudicated. They had to water it down because they knew what they had passed was totally unconstitutional. That came from our efforts and those of our partners.”

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Restoring the white franchise

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Give me that old time religion. Or at least, that old time franchise. Bring back the good old days when white, Christian men could run this great democracy the way God intended when he handed down the U.S. Constitution on tablets to George Washington in 1776.
Writing in the Washington Post, William H. Frey of the Brookings Institution examines the latest rearguard effort to stave off white political obsolescence. The Supreme Court earlier this month heard arguments in Evenwel v. Abbott. At issue: whether government exists to represent all the people or just eligible voters. As Dahlia Lithwick explained:

If the court sides with Evenwel and accepts the view that only voters or even registered voters are to be counted when drawing district lines, children, legal residents, and people who have committed felonies or the mentally ill—all of whom are certainly affected when legislators legislate—are not to be counted for apportionment purposes. In the words of the Obama administration, which sides with Texas in this case against the two plaintiffs, whole swaths of the population become “invisible or irrelevant to our system of representative democracy.”

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At an event Saturday night in eastern Tennessee, an organizer brought up the meme that poor people tend to “vote against their best interests,” for Republicans who vote to slash safety net programs that keep them afloat. This complaint, as I have written, is an old pet peeve. First, because it’s a lefty dog whistle for saying those voters are stupid — which they hear clearly even if we cannot. And second, as liberals do we really want our neighbors to go into the voting booth to vote what’s best for No. 1 rather than for an America that aspires to something better? But Saturday night, the same organizer offered a new twist from a New York Timesarticle by ProPublica’s Alec MacGillis:

In eastern Kentucky and other former Democratic bastions that have swung Republican in the past several decades, the people who most rely on the safety-net programs secured by Democrats are, by and large, not voting against their own interests by electing Republicans. Rather, they are not voting, period. They have, as voting data, surveys and my own reporting suggest, become profoundly disconnected from the political process.The people in these communities who are voting Republican in larger proportions are those who are a notch or two up the economic ladder — the sheriff’s deputy, the teacher, the highway worker, the motel clerk, the gas station owner and the coal miner. And their growing allegiance to the Republicans is, in part, a reaction against what they perceive, among those below them on the economic ladder, as a growing dependency on the safety net, the most visible manifestation of downward mobility in their declining towns.

This is perhaps a manifestation of the “last place aversion” I wrote about in February. It is the need to have someone to look down on so you do not see yourself on the bottom rung of life’s ladder: Read More→


National Voter Registration Day – Tuesday

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In which Latino voters flex their American muscle. And in which I agree with Team Trump. Politico reviews the part Latino voters will play in the 2016 elections:

Hispanic activists have two words for Donald Trump — thank you.

“I think the greatest thing to ever happen to the Hispanic electorate is a gentleman named Donald Trump, he has crystalized the angst and anger of the Hispanic community,” U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Javier Palomarez told POLITICO in an interview. “I think that we can all rest assured that Hispanics can turn out in record numbers.”

Let’s hope that’s true.

The Trump camp is not worried, and it says it sees more Hispanic voters as a good thing.

“I don’t hear any empirical evidence that that is going to happen,” campaign manager Corey Lewandowski said about the idea that more Hispanic voters could hurt his chances. “The more people that take part in the election process, the better, and I think it’s clear that Mr. Trump has invigorated people who aren’t traditionally participating in the process.”

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Lying to themselves at you

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One hears repeatedly that questioning people’s motives is rude. Impolitic. Impolite. Paul Waldman a few years ago posted that motive questioning is toxic because it is akin to calling people liars and bad people. Then again:

I’m not saying that on certain occasions it isn’t reasonable to question someone’s motives. In fact, voter ID laws offer one such case. The idea that all these Republican legislatures set out to address the non-existent problem of people impersonating other people at the polls just because they care so deeply about the integrity of the ballot, and did so in a way that purely by accident has the potential to significantly reduce turnout by some of the people most likely to vote Democratic, is more than a little hard to swallow. I’ll absolutely grant that Democrats dislike voter ID laws primarily for the same political reason, because it means their voters may find it difficult to vote. But on the substantive merits, Democrats also happen to be right.

Perfect example. In fact, on several occasions federal courts have questioned the stated rationale behind passing these laws as without substance, including just days ago in the Texas case. But one of the most frustrating things about attempting to engage “a Republican argument” is precisely how often the arguments seem disingenuous. It is not as if rank-and-file activists are actively lying about their motives. It is that they have never questioned them themselves. They have simply heard and regurgitated the talking points so often that they believe their own bullshit and are beyond questioning it. The frustrating thing is not that they are lying to you. It is that in effect (to borrow a Colbert construction), they are lying to themselves at you.

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Having “a Republican argument”

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It could be weeks before U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder rules on whether North Carolina’s House Bill 589 violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. The NAACP and the U.S. Department of Justice filed suit alleging that the law discriminated against racial minorities, the elderly and young people. In addition to requiring photo IDs for voting, H.B. 589 eliminated same-day voter registration, out-of-precinct provisional voting, preregistration for 16- and 17-year-olds, and reduced early voting from 17 to 10 days. (In advance of the trial, state legislators loosened the ID requirements.)

At Plum Line, Greg Sargent spoke with Chris Brook, one of the ACLU attorneys on the case, about “the mother of all voter suppression bills”:

PLUM LINE: What is the case against the North Carolina law?

BROOK: It makes it more difficult for all North Carolinians to vote, but in particular for racial minorities in our state. Beyond that, the legislature knew full well, when they passed this raft of voting restrictions, that it would make it more difficult for African Americans to vote. Yet they plowed forward despite that fact. We’re challenging these measures pursuant to the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as well as Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.

PLUM LINE: The judge in this case is trying to determine whether the impact of the law is discriminatory or merely inconveniencing. It seems like proving discrimination is a high bar.

BROOK: There’s grounds for optimism, because over the course of the trial, we were able to put on a strong case featuring dozens of North Carolinians who were disenfranchised in 2014. These restrictions are not mere inconveniences. They resulted in many North Carolinians not being able to vote.

More than 1,000 North Carolinians cast out-of-precinct provisional ballots in 2014 that previously would have been counted and were not counted. Approximately 11,000 North Carolinians registered to vote during the same-day registration window in 2014. They were not able to participate. This is something that has kept North Carolinians from voting.

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“This is our Selma!”

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On Monday at 8 a.m. EDT, the North Carolina NAACP chapter takes NC Gov. Pat McCrory and the cheerfully nicknamed VIVA voter suppression act to court:

On July 13, a federal court in Winston-Salem will hear North Carolina NAACP v. McCrory, our lawsuit to reverse North Carolina’s unconstitutional and immoral voter suppression law. North Carolina’s law is the first and the worst since the 2013 Shelby v. Holder decision that gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Our voting rights, gained because people stood up despite great consequences in Selma and across the South, have been compromised. Now we must march!

The outcome of this historic case in North Carolina will have an impact on voting rights across the nation. This is a battle for voting rights for all of us. We will not surrender the most fundamental right of a democracy: the right to vote. 
 Just like in Selma, we must march!

Join us in Winston-Salem on July 13 at 5:00 p.m. for a Mass Moral Monday March for Voting Rights.  

This is Our Selma!

Activists believe Winston-Salem was chosen as the venue for hearing the case because its small size. Few observers will get inside and no audio or video feed will be available. The NAACP will nonetheless hold a press conference at 8 a.m. at the courthouse, plus other events during the day, prior to the planned march led by Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, president of the North Carolina NAACP and leader of the weekly Moral Monday marches.

Republicans in the legislature appear nervous about the case. After hundreds of citizens spoke against the law at State Board of Elections forums held across the state, the legislature amended the law to loosen the ID requirements just weeks ahead of the July hearing. Think Progress:

[V]oters who lack the an ID will still be able to cast a ballot, but only if they sign an affidavit swearing they fall into one of the acceptable categories of reasons they couldn’t obtain a government photo ID: a lack of transportation, disability or illness, lost or stolen photo ID, a lack of a birth certificate or other documents to obtain a photo ID, work schedules or family responsibilities. The voter would also need to present an “alternate form of identification,” the last four digits of their Social Security number, and their date of birth.

That is, they swapped out some of the barricades against voting for hoops.

Yet the voter ID provision — which does not allow for the use of student IDs — is just one piece of the sweeping voting law overhaul that the state passed just weeks after the Supreme Court struck down a cornerstone of the Voting Rights Act. The law also eliminated same-day voter registration, cut a full week of early voting, barred voters from casting a ballot outside their home precinct, ended straight-ticket voting, and scrapped a program to pre-register high school students who would turn 18 by Election Day.

University of California law professor Richard Hasen, of Election Law Blog, described the law in 2013, saying:

It rolls into a single piece of legislation just about all of the tools we’ve seen legislatures use in recent years to try to make it harder for people to register and vote.

On Monday, we’ll see if we can’t roll it back.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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