Friday, June 6, 2014

Voter ID Laws: Good News Turns Crappy (Again)










First the Good News  (segment below from MSNBC) has some good news in the battle to overturn or completely toss harsh voter ID laws regarding voting rights.


Then this crappy news story from Media Matters to pour water on our desert tray:



Then ask yourself this question: Do GOP-RED state voter ID laws, that most of us call voter suppression laws work in the worst possible way? Short answer: Yes they do. Then imagine that Mr. Willie Mims were your father, brother, grandfather, neighbor, or hell, even you. How would you feel?

Mr. Mims, age 93, showed up to vote at his polling place in Escambia County, Alabama recently to vote in the primary election.  He is Africa-American and no longer drives or doesn't have a license, and has no other form of ID. As a result, he was turned away without being able to vote, or not even offered the chance to cast a provisional ballot as the law requires in that situation. 

Jenny McCarren of Empower Alabama, a progressive group that gave Mr. Mims a ride to the polls recounted the story for MSNBC, adding that Mr. Mims's voter file showed he has voted in every election since 2000, as far back as the records go for that area.

So, how many Alabamans lack the proper photo/ID card to vote isn't known, in part because the state made no effort to find out before the ID law. However, nationwide, most studies put the figure at around 11%, and as high as 25% for African Americans, and I would note: guess which party they mostly vote for?

Mr. Mims said in an interview, in part, that he tired to vote, could not, was turned away, got mad, and just went home and laid down and took a nap ... you gotta luv this old guy.

Got it figured out now?

Back to the original post with this from Wisconsin that comes on top of this news re: Arkansas Voter ID Law Struck Down (April 24, 2014):  An Arkansas law requiring voters to present government-approved forms of ID was struck down by a state circuit court judge today for being unconstitutional. Last April, the Arkansas legislature overrode its own governor's veto to pass the law, which still allowed voters without ID to cast a provisional vote that would only count if they were later able to provide ID to an official or demonstrate that they were too poor to obtain one. No provisions were included in the law to provide transportation for the people who were too poor to afford an ID. While student IDs from out of state schools were not considered acceptable forms of ID, concealed handgun carry licenses were.

Updated (April 18, 2014): Recent quote from President Obama in a speech:

“Americans did not stand up and did not march and did not sacrifice to gain the right to vote, for themselves and for others, only to see it denied to their kids and their grandkids.”

Background from this Update: Last year alone (2013), at least 93 restrictive voting bills were introduced in 33 states, according to a Brennan Center for Justice at NYU, which builds on an earlier wave of voter suppression laws advanced in 2011 and 2012.

The vast majority of these harsh measure were pushed by Republicans bent on making voting harder, not easier, and many of roadblocks disproportionately affect minority, low-income, seniors, and students away from home.

The most restrictive are like Texas’s voter ID law and North Carolina’s sweeping voting law. However, they are being challenged in court. But that process may not move fast enough for Democrats (where most of the voters impacted normally vote), as they prepare for several critical midterm races that could determine control of the Senate for the rest of Mr. Obama’s presidency.

Two Segments in this prior update:

First Segment from Politics Nation 



Second Segment from HARDBALL 



Major update and review of this topic as well as this introduction from the article:

One of the enduring mysteries of Chief Justice John Roberts’s opinion striking down part of the Voting Rights Act is which part of the Constitution the landmark civil rights law actually violated. The Chief Justice argued that the Voting Rights Act violated the “tradition of equal sovereignty” of the states.

That concept is far more dubious than it might seem at first glance, according to a legal paper published by two longtime voting rights experts: one from UC Davis (CA) and one from the Loyola Law School (Los Angeles). They say in part: (my emphasis):

"Equal sovereignty was the basis of the longstanding argument, going all the way back to the founding of the United States, between the slave states and the free states. The slave states claimed that they were equally sovereign with the other states to decide whether to have slavery or not to have slavery. The equal sovereignty doctrine that Chief Justice Roberts relied on last year is rooted in the jurisprudence of slavery."

With that in mind, ask yourself: Do you believe that there is not need to protect minority rights in voting? Do you believe that the voter ID laws in some 20 states (many have been over turned) are fair and do not hamper the right to vote? Do you believe as I do that nothing should interfere with our right to vote as long as we are eligible, qualified, and registered to vote, and that the right to vote should be easy, open, and free in order for us to choose the kind of government we want and not the kind someone tells us is the kind they want us to have. Voting is the most-fundamental of our rights – it speaks to the kind of government we want that will set the rules we all must live under. That must not be suppressed or infringed on in any way.

Please continue from here and thanks for stopping by.
  
Review of this subject posted July 19, 2013 follows here: A good look back in history here. The highlights: “Section 2 is a ripe target,” stated Christopher Elmendorf, a law professor at the University of California Davis. His point was dealing with a forthcoming USSC hearing on the ACA, with this concern expressed by many:

If the Roberts court were to strike down or substantially weaken Section 2, then the Voting Rights Act (VRA) would technically still exist and would retain a few historically important functions  like the ban on poll taxes and literacy tests, for instance. But, on top of the demise of Section 5, the most successful civil rights law in the nation’s history would be all but a dead letter.  “There’s no question that Section 2 and 5 together are really the heart of the law,” said Justin Levitt, a professor at Loyola Law School.

What would a suspected 5-4 Roberts court do? Naturally no one knows for sure in advance, but not for their lack of trying and that is based on the recent 5-4 ruling that triggered me to start this tracking the subject on this Blog. A very good analysis of where we are and how we got here is in order.

From the same author is seen here, and the most-important aspect is this: Less than one year after Sections 4 and 5 of the Voting Rights Act stymied voter suppression efforts in the 2012 election in Florida,  Texas and South Carolina, Chief Justice John Roberts in his opinion in Shelby County v. Holder (above link) heralded that the “reat strides the nation has made in combating such suppression and the fact that blatantly discriminatory evasions of federal decrees are rare.” But, not so rare. Even before the sun set that day, June 25th, officials in Texas and North Carolina had moved forward with restrictive voting measures that had been blocked by the federal law.
 
Quite frankly Andrew Cohen's two pieces are excellent sources on the topic for anyone interested in this subject, and also as frank: we should all be interested and greatly concerned. To suppress the vote, or employ anything makes voting more difficult or registration more of a burden is in a word: un-American. It is the greatest single most-important right we have: the right to vote easily and choose the kind of government we want. Apparently, 5-4 decisions like this one take away from that premise, at least in my view.

That June 25, 2013 Supreme Court (5-4) decision to roll back an important and critical part of the law, cited here in part that was overturned is reported on by NBC News and from USA TODAY this way:

The Voting Rights Act requires nine states with a history of discrimination at the polls, mostly in the South, to get approval from the Justice Department or a special panel of judges before they change their voting laws. The rule also applies to 12 cities and 57 counties elsewhere.  The law was renewed most recently in 2006, but the coverage map still uses election data from 1972 to determine who is covered. Some jurisdictions, including a county in Alabama brought the case, complained that they were being punished for the sins of many decades ago. 

Chief Justice Roberts cited census data showing that black voter turnout now exceeds white turnout in five of the six states originally covered by the law and he wrote in part: “Our country has changed, and while any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks to current conditions.”

Another excellent source for information on voting and voters rights is the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU. Their statement on that 5-4 ruling follows (the emphasis is mine): 

The Brennan Center for Justice released the following statement:  “The Supreme Court’s decision is at odds with recent history. The Voting Rights Act was vital in 2012, not just 1965. For nearly five decades, it has been the nation’s most effective tool to eradicate racial discrimination in voting. And it is still critical today. Last year, Section 5 helped block laws making it harder to vote. There is a path forward. Section 5 stands. Congress now has the duty to upgrade this key protection and ensure our elections remain free, fair, and accessible for all Americans.”

I hope we all can agree on this part of statement: “... to ensure our elections remain free, fair, and accessible for all Americans.” I strongly believe nothing should ever hamper that right. 

What or how will Congress update the law quickly as to not cause any disruption for the 2014 midterms and beyond? That is questionable considering the stalemate and gridlock attitude down in DC with this harm-everything and be anti-everything Congress.

I draw their attention to this quote from Chief Justice Earl Warren in the Reynolds v. Sims (1964) case: “Legislators represent people, not trees or acres. Legislators are elected by voters, not farms or cities or economic interests.” That still has strong merit today and unless people can freely, openly, and not hampered in that vote then nothing will have changed for the good and the ugliness of all those past decades and the "good old days (that some still want)" will stick up that ugly head and we will be no better than a third rate nation moving backwards.

Finally, I wonder if any member of the GOP side of Congress or at the state levels knows what it means for all the grand daughters and grand sons in the future not to have the right to vote freely and openly. What is means to the future of our country for everyone? That is the question.

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