Dysfunction and conflict continue to roil the Federal Election Commission (FEC), where Republican commissioners hope to exploit their short-term majority and pass wrongheaded changes to the agency’s rules. This summer, Vice Chairman Donald F. McGhan and two other Republican commissioners proposed barring the FEC’s general counsel, when judging whether to pursue an enforcement matter, from consulting publicly available information without commission approval. This would prohibit the FEC staff from using Google, Facebook or a newspaper to look into a possible violation of campaign finance laws without prior approval. The proposal would also limit the FEC’s ability to share information with the Justice Department.
Editorials: The US civil war is playing out again – this time over voter rights | David A Love/theguardian.com
Nearly 150 years after the end of the US civil war, the South and the federal government are poised for a rematch over the voting rights of black Americans, and ultimately over the fundamental rights of all Americans. Once again, the former Confederate states are determined to defend their traditions and way of life, while the Union forces in the North – the federal government – are positioning themselves to defend justice and equality. But this time, in an ironic twist, two black men – President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder – are leading the charge. In the 1860s, the fight between the North and the South was about slavery and the right of the Confederate states to maintain a dreaded institution that kept people of African descent in bondage. Unprecedented carnage resulted. A century later – in light of the 1954 US supreme court decision in Brown v Board of Education of Topeka, which ended racial segregation in public schools – the South struggled to maintain a Jim Crow system that kept black people legally and politically impotent, all in the name of states’ rights. Two hallmarks of the civil rights movement are the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965. Passed by Congress and signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson, the legislative victories were achieved only through the blood of civil rights workers, both black and white, who were beaten, sprayed with fire hoses, shot, firebombed, bitten by police dogs and lynched.
Cokie’s mother, Lindy Claiborne Boggs, was born on a plantation in the segregated south before women could vote. When she died last week at 97, Barack and Michelle Obama celebrated “her legacy as a champion of women’s and civil rights [that] will continue to inspire generations to come.” Protecting the right to vote was the central principle of Lindy’s political career. During the Louisiana governor’s race of 1939, she organized a group of women to prevent a corrupt machine from stealing the election. One of her cohorts stayed through the night “in a rough waterfront precinct” guarding a ballot box. Another was “pasted” by a rival and wound up with “a black eye and a swollen lip,” Lindy wrote in her memoir, “Washington Through a Purple Veil.” Lindy eventually served 18 years in Congress, succeeding her husband Hale, who was killed in a plane crash in 1972. Hale risked his career to support the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and a cross was later burned on their lawn in New Orleans to protest his vote. “Hale and I strongly believed that the freedom to register and to vote were inherent rights of all citizens of the United States, and that only through the exercise of those rights could true democracy operate,” Lindy wrote.
Editorials: Quick assault on voting rights in GOP-controlled states reveals Supreme Court’s mistake | Lexington Herald-Leader
In her dissent to last month’s wrongheaded Supreme Court decision striking down the heart of the Voting Rights Act, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg wrote that ending the preclearance requirement for districts with a history of discrimination was “like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.” Just one month later, Republican lawmakers are flooding the country with voter suppression laws masquerading as voter ID laws and redistricting plans. Texas gleefully announced within two hours of the decision its plan to institute a redistricting map and strict voter ID laws that had been challenged by the Department of Justice as discriminatory. Attorney General Eric Holder is commendably trying to battle Texas’ discriminatory laws under a different section of the Voting Rights Act, but draconian voter ID laws are rapidly spreading through Republican-controlled states. North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory says he will sign a nakedly partisan voter suppression bill, though he admits that he has not read it. Perhaps he should.
The U.S. Department of Justice announced on July 25 that it would seek renewed federal oversight of some jurisdictions previously subject to DOJ “preclearance” because of their history of racial discrimination in voting. The DOJ’s move, which will begin with Texas, is made under the Voting Rights Act’s little-used “bail in” provision—and it is risky, both politically and legally. But given the few alternatives to protect minority voters, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder probably figures the risks are worth taking. In late June, the U.S. Supreme Court in Shelby County v. Holder stripped the U.S. Department of Justice of a key tool used to protect minority voters. Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act required states and localities with a history of racial discrimination in voting to get approval or preclearance from the DOJ or a three-judge court in Washington D.C. before making any changes in their voting laws. The Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional the formula in Section 4 used to define jurisdictions subject to preclearance, rendering Section 5 mostly inoperable.
Editorials: Texas Shows Congress Must Update the Voting Rights Act | Spencer Overton/Huffington Post
A recent court action against Texas is important, but it should not fool us into believing that existing laws are sufficient to protect voting rights. Indeed, the central lesson from Texas is that Congress must update the Voting Rights Act. Last week, the Justice Department joined several civil rights groups in asking a federal court to require that Texas preclear its future voting changes with federal officials. The Department relied on Section three of the Voting Rights Act, which remains in force even after last month’s Supreme Court decision. Section three allows a court to “bail in” to coverage areas with contemporary, intentional voting discrimination. Significant discrimination persists in Texas, and the court should order Texas to preclear future voting changes.
Editorials: Another Citizens United, but Worse, Goes to the Supreme Court | Jeffrey Toobin/ The New Yorker
Think the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United was bad? A worse one may be on the horizon. To recognize the problem, it’s necessary to review some of the Court’s gnarled history on the subject of campaign finance. In Citizens United, which was decided in 2010, the Court rejected any limits on what a person or corporation (or labor union) could spend on an independent effort to help a candidate win an election. Thus the rise of Super PACs; that’s why Sheldon Adelson could spend sixty million dollars to help Mitt Romney in 2012. But, though Citizens United deregulated independent expenditures on behalf of candidates, the case said nothing about direct contributions to the candidates themselves. That’s where the new case comes in. Current federal law allows individual donors to give up to two thousand six hundred dollars to any one candidate during a single election. In addition, they can give only an aggregate hundred and twenty-three thousand dollars to candidates, political action committees, and parties over a two-year period. Shaun McCutcheon, an Alabama Republican, wants to give more money to the candidates he supports, so he has sued to invalidate the rules limiting the over-all amounts he can give. (Indeed, the patriotically minded McCutcheon wanted to give “$1,776” to enough candidates to exceed the current limits on direct contributions.) The Supreme Court will hear his case in the fall, and he has a good chance of winning.
The Voting Rights Act (VRA) is one of the most important pieces of civil rights legislation ever passed. It began a healing process that ameliorated decades of discrimination and is vital to our commitment to never again permit racial prejudices in our electoral process. At a time of social upheaval and political inequality, the VRA helped distinguish America as the world’s premier example of democracy. Free, fair and accessible elections are sacrosanct, and the right of every legal voter to cast their ballot must be unassailable. In contrast to past attempts to end discrimination, the VRA required federal preclearance of changes to voting laws in areas with histories of discrimination. Section 5 of the VRA was the only federal remedy that could stop discriminatory practices before they impacted elections. Prior to the 2006 reauthorization, the Judiciary Committees held multiple hearings examining the VRA. Congress amassed a legislative record of over 15,000 pages, documenting invidious discrimination and demonstrating “the continued need for federal oversight.”
Jeffrey Toobin is up with a piece today, “Another Citizens United – But Worse,” about the Supreme Court’s next money in politics case. In McCutcheon v. FEC, slated for oral argument in October, appellants challenge contribution limits on the total amount of money one individual can transfer in direct contributions. If the Supreme Court strikes these aggregate contribution limits, a person now limited to making $123,200 in direct contributions could make—and be solicited for—as much as $3.5 million in contributions directly to candidates, parties, and committees. Contribution limits are one of the last bastions of campaign finance law regularly upheld by courts, along with disclosure requirements, even after the floodgates on independent expenditures were opened in Citizens United. So it is no wonder they are under assault from those who advocate a Wild West of campaign spending, lacking common sense rules to prevent the capture of democratic government by concentrated economic power. Toobin paints a dreary picture of the prospects for the case, encapsulated in a quote from the lower court that upheld the contribution limits but raised the “possibility that Citizens United undermined the entire contribution limits scheme.” But he is wrong that Citizens United itself “said nothing about direct contributions to the candidates themselves.” In fact, Kennedy’s opinion reiterates the legitimate need for contribution limits to fight the reality and appearance of corruption.
Dusting off a little-used section of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, Attorney General Eric Holder made headlines last week when he asked a federal court in San Antonio to take back control of Texas’s voting rules. The move is thought to be a prelude to a broader battle with Republican states following a landmark Supreme Court ruling that gave GOP regions more autonomy over their election laws. But Mr. Holder’s fight with Texas may not be worth it, at least according to University of California-Irvine law professor Richard Hasen, an electoral law expert who supports tougher voting-rights protections. The best thing that can be said about the Justice Department’s legal strategy is that it’s better than nothing, he said. While the Supreme Court freed nine states and several counties from having to get permission before making changes to voter rules, it left intact Section 3 of the Voting Rights Act. Under that provision, a court can impose special oversight of a jurisdiction. It’s a process known as “bailing in.”
Gov. Pat McCrory of North Carolina didn’t like our recent editorial that criticized the state for abandoning its traditions of racial equality, strong public schools, and economic fairness. He wrote a letter to the editor saying he was leading the state to a “powerful comeback.” That’s demonstrably untrue when it comes to the economy and the schools. But as yesterday’s events in the state capital showed, one thing is making a comeback: an old habit of suppressing the votes of minorities, young people and the poor, all in the hopes of preserving Republican power. Freed of federal election supervision by the Supreme Court, the North Carolina legislature passed a bill that combines every idea for suppressing voter turnout that Republicans have advanced in other states. Rick Hasen, an election-law expert at the University of California, Irvine, called it “the most sweeping anti-voter law in at least decades.”
Legislation that North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) plans to sign into law — despite not reading the entire bill — will make it more difficult for college students to vote in the Tar Heel state. The GOP-backed bill, H.B. 589, will require voters to display specific types of government-issued IDs at the polls, and it doesn’t recognize college ID as valid identification. The measure also removes preregistration for high school students, cuts early voting time and eliminates same-day registration. “It’s clearly targeting student voters,” Diana Kasdan, senior counsel at the New York University School of Law’s Brennan Center for Justice, told the Chronicle of Higher Education. “They tend to vote Democratic, and it’s a Republican-controlled state legislature that passed it.” Although former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) won North Carolina in 2012, two-thirds of voters under age 30 voted Democratic. U.S. Supreme Court precedent allows out-of-state students to vote where they attend college, but few students seek to obtain a driver’s license in the state where they attend school. For this reason, critics contend that voter ID laws that do not allow college-issued cards create an extra hurdle for young voters.
Editorials: In Going After Texas Voting Policies, Holder Takes John Roberts at His Word | Garrett Epps/The Atlantic
“The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in 2007, “is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.” We will now find out whether Roberts’s anti-racist rhetoric is serious, or is a code phrase meaning that the era of civil rights is now over by judicial fiat. On Thursday, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Justice Department would ask a federal District Court to require the state of Texas to obtain prior permission before implementing its voter ID and other new voting laws. As is widely known, the Supreme Court in June gutted Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act–the “preclearance” requirement that obliged states and local governments with long racist histories to obtain advance permission for changes in their voting systems. Roberts himself wrote the 5-4 opinion. Most news accounts focused on his blithe statement that (in the era of Trayvon Martin and Paula Deen) “our Nation has made great strides,” and thus need not suspect Southern state governments of racism.
Ever since the Supreme Court gutted a centerpiece of the Voting Rights Act and threw it back in Congress’s lap, lawmakers in both parties have engaged in happy talk about the prospects of patching the provision used to proactively snuff out voter discrimination against minorities in the state and local governments where it’s most prevalent. But it’s looking less and less likely that a fix will be agreed to because Republicans have little to gain and a lot to lose politically if they cooperate. “Ain’t gonna happen,” Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) said late last week, according to Roll Call. A recent House Judiciary Committee hearing made clear that Republicans have little to no interest in reconstituting the Voting Rights Act. Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-TX) opened by emphasizing that even after the Supreme Court’s decision, “other very important provisions of the Voting Rights Act remain in place.”
Pro-tip: When you win a big court case giving you the go-ahead to suppress voter turnout for your political opponents, don’t gloat about it. That is surely one of the lessons in the remarkable news that the U.S. Department of Justice is challenging new voting-rights laws in Texas and elsewhere even after the Supreme Court ruling that eviscerated the part of the Voting Rights Act that the feds had relied on for decades to challenge voting restrictions. What made the ruling especially galling was the celebration that followed from Republicans in states, including Texas, who immediately vowed to proceed with voting restrictions that had been challenged under the now-undermined part of the VRA. The alacrity with which Texas, North Carolina and other states have rushed to take advantage of the ruling seriously weakened the sober conservative argument, from Chief Justice John Roberts and others, that Southern states no longer needed to be singled out for special scrutiny because they had long since left their discriminatory ways behind. And it all but invited Attorney General Eric Holder to take this new step, to announce that his department would still do everything in its power to ensure fairness at the polls.
Attorney General Eric Holder has opened what will be an epic battle over whether our country will remain committed to equal rights at the ballot box. In a display of egregious judicial activism in late June, the conservative majority on the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act. Holder made clear last week he intends to fight back. The struggle will begin in Texas, but it won’t end there. “We cannot allow the slow unraveling of the progress that so many, throughout history, have sacrificed so much to achieve,” Holder told the National Urban League’s annual conference. He wasn’t exaggerating the stakes. From the moment the Supreme Court threw out Section 4 of the act, which subjected the voting laws in states and jurisdictions with a history of discrimination to Justice Department scrutiny, conservative legislators in those places gleefully signaled their intention to pass laws to make it harder to vote. In addition, Texas reimposed a redistricting map that a federal court had already ruled was discriminatory. These hasty moves were unseemly but entirely predictable, proving that Chief Justice John Roberts’s opinion in the case will become a Magna Carta for voter suppression. Without having to worry about “pre-clearance” from the Justice Department, legislators can go about their business of making it more difficult for voters who would throw them out of office to reach the polls — and of drawing racially gerrymandered districts that prolong their tenure. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg understood a logic here that escaped Roberts. “A governing political coalition,” she wrote in her dissent, “has an incentive to prevent changes in the existing balance of voting power.”
The same day, last month, that the Supreme Court struck down a key section of the Voting Rights Act, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott declared that Texas laws that had been stopped by the Act—because courts found them to be discriminatory—would immediately go into effect. On Friday, Attorney General Eric Holder struck back. In the color-blind wish-world of Chief Justice Roberts and his four conservative colleagues on the Supreme Court, Jim Crow-era restrictions on minority voting represent a sad, historical curiosity, unrelated to modern reality. Surveying the landscape from their marble aerie, these five Justices decided in Shelby County v. Holder that requiring the pre-clearance of election-law changes in certain jurisdictions, a provision of Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, was now unconstitutional. Congress had passed the Act in 1965 in response to the broad denial of the right to vote; as recently as 2006, an overwhelming majority of Congress found that it was still necessary. The Court simply disagreed: “Nearly 50 years later, things have changed dramatically.” The majority Justices cited a newly minted “fundamental principle of equal sovereignty” of states as trumping the need to assure the equal voting rights of minorities. This is consistent with their concern for the rights of entities rather than individuals. So how did states exercise their “equal sovereignty” in response to the Court’s decision? Texas is a clear example. In 2011, the Texas Legislature had approved a state-issued photo-I.D. requirement. A Washington, D.C., court struck the law down, determining that it “imposes strict, unforgiving burdens on the poor and racial minorities in Texas.” With the Supreme Court decision, the law was unstruck and became the law of Texas. Similarly, after Texas redrew political boundaries in 2011, another court found that minority groups “provided more evidence of discriminatory intent than we have space, or need, to address here” and threw the maps out. Now, with the Supreme Court decision, Texas can draw any maps it wants and they are excluded from pre-clearance.
The Justice Department on Thursday announced that it is fighting back after the Supreme Court effectively invalidated part of the Voting Rights Act. In its first step, Justice signaled that it would support a lawsuit against Texas’s GOP-drawn redistricting plan and seek to get a federal judge to require the state to continue to obtain pre-clearance for any electoral changes — as it did before part of the VRA was struck down. Justice is also expect to sue to stop Texas’s new Voter ID law. The move is a significant one, for a few reasons. First, it signals that the Obama administration is not going to wait and cross its fingers hoping Congress will replace the VRA language that was struck down. The Supreme Court struck down the formula that determines which states and areas with a history of racial discrimination are required to gain pre-clearance for electoral changes — effectively rendering pre-clearance inoperable until a new formula is established. In its decision, the court noted that Congress can simply replace the formula with a new one.
Editorials: Voting Rights Of Black Americans Trampled By ‘New Jim Crow,’ Civil Rights Advocates Say | Huffington Post
By most standards, Desmonde Meade is an overachiever. The 46-year-old is a fourth-year law student at Florida International University. He made the 2013 dean’s list. And he’s about to start working as a regional coordinator for a national anti-violence organization. But, barring some unforeseen policy change, he won’t ever get the chance to practice law in his state. And this promising, African-American law student isn’t allowed to vote. Nearly two decades ago, after a struggle with drugs and alcohol led to a series of run-ins with the law, Meade served three years in prison. In 2005, he checked himself into a substance abuse program and stopped using drugs. Yet, because of a policy adopted by Florida Gov. Rick Scott in 2011, he is prohibited not only from voting, but also from serving on a jury and becoming a member of the Florida bar. “I was in prison because I had an addiction to drugs and alcohol,” he said. “Should I be ostracized for the rest of my life because I fell victim to the grip of addiction? No. Should I pay the price for any crimes I committed? Yes, I should pay the price. But once I serve my time, I’m still an American.”
Not content to be merely ineffectual while they’re in office, the three Republicans on the Federal Election Commission are now trying to inhibit the agency from enforcing campaign finance laws after they leave. Ordinarily, they wouldn’t have the power to impose their ideological agenda, but a vacancy on the Democratic side of the panel gives them a temporary majority. Using it to push through the changes they’ve proposed would be a cynical move giving candidates and special interests even more freedom to thumb their noses at campaign finance law. The 1974 statute that created the FEC takes pains to keep the commission from becoming partisan, mandating that the president appoint three commissioners from each party and requiring the support of at least four commissioners to launch an investigation, sue a suspected lawbreaker or issue an advisory opinion. The four-vote requirement doesn’t apply, however, to amending the commission’s enforcement manual, which outlines how the agency launches investigations and carries out other duties. With one of the Democratic seats vacant, the three GOP commissioners are pushing for changes in the manual that would hamstring the agency’s staff and shift much of the fact-finding burden onto the people who bring complaints.
As of July 15, 2013, felons convicted of non-violent offenses in Virginia will have their voting rights automatically restored after they’ve finished their sentences (including parole, probation, restitution and other court-ordered actions) and have no pending charges. The qualifying non-violent convictions currently range from bank or welfare fraud to breaking and entering without a weapon and DUI. Drug possession is also considered non-violent as long as there was no conviction of intent to distribute. In short, if money, property or an identity was stolen and no one was hurt or killed in the process, chances are the ex-felon can have his civil rights restored. This will make Virginia one of 20 states that restore voting rights after the term of their incarceration (including parole and probation) has been served. It’s estimated that 350,000 Virginians have been convicted of felonies, including non-violent offenses. Virginia is one of only four states that require ex-felons to file a petition to restore their voting rights. The new law only applies to non-violent felony convictions. All others must still use the petition process.
North Carolina is proving itself to be the poster child for all that is wrong with modern American democracy and—with thanks to Moral Mondays—also highlighting all that may someday save it. Once a temperate and tolerant beacon of the South, the state is poised to enact a rash of inexpressibly awful legislation, rushed through a Republican legislature. Because the GOP has veto-proof super-majorities in the state House and Senate, and a Republican governor for the first time since Reconstruction, the party has been on a spree. Republican-controlled redistricting was fantastically effective. So much so that in the 2012 elections, nearly 51 percent of North Carolina voters picked a Democrat for the U.S. House, yet Republicans won nine of the state’s 13 House seats, as Chris Kromm and Sue Sturgis recently pointed out. Some of the gems advanced recently in the legislature include an abortion bill tacked first onto an anti-Sharia law and then snuck in through a motorcycle safety law (new TRAP regulations may shutter all but one clinic in the state). Another bill forces all educators to teach seventh graders that abortion causes preterm birth (it doesn’t). Lawmakers also enacted legislation (described here and elsewhere as “the harshest unemployment insurance program cuts in our nation’s history”) that resulted in 70,000 North Carolina citizens losing their unemployment benefits.
Anyone wondering about the importance of the Supreme Court’s recent ruling hobbling a key part of the Voting Rights Act needs look no further than North Carolina, whose Republican legislature is poised to enact one of the strictest voting laws in the Nation, one which will make it harder to register and vote, likely hurting minority voters most. North Carolina is making it harder to vote now because it can, but recent experience in Florida and elsewhere shows it is a decision North Carolina Republicans may come to regret. Until last month, 40 of North Carolina’s 100 counties were covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. This meant that the state could not make any changes in its voting rules, however major or minor, without first getting permission from either the U.S. Department of Justice or a three-judge court in Washington D.C. To get approval, it was up to North Carolina to demonstrate to the satisfaction of the feds that any proposed voting changes wouldn’t have the purpose or effect of making minority members worse off.
Election officials overseeing Zimbabwe’s July 31 ballot insist the country is ready to hold general elections in less than a week. However, fears of vote rigging and a lack of funding are worrying Zimbabweans. “Elections will be credible, free and fair. We are ready for the elections,” Zimbabwe’s Electoral Commission [ZEC] deputy chairperson, Joyce Kazeme, told international election observers stationed in the country on Tuesday (24.07.2013). Some 600 foreign observers have been endorsed to scrutinize the country’s July 31 election as well as pre-poll voting for security officials assigned to work on election day. Close to 6,000 Zimbabwean observers will also monitor voting. International observers include representatives of the African Union, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
The United States Supreme Court’s June 25, 2013 decision, Shelby County v. Holder, struck down Section 4 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, eliminating a “preclearance” coverage formula that had subjected numerous jurisdictions with checkered voting rights histories to the U.S. Department of Justice’s oversight. Although the decision allows Congress to create a new coverage formula, in today’s political climate that appears unlikely. While the preclearance system was often associated with deep Southern states like Alabama and Mississippi, in 1971 three New York City counties – Bronx, Kings and New York – were added as covered jurisdictions, and since then the DOJ has blocked New York voting laws on several occasions to protect the rights of minority voters. This article examines Shelby County v. Holder, its consequences for minority voting rights across the country, particularly in New York, and possible local remedies in the event of Congressional inaction.
Editorials: North Carolina Republicans Push Extreme Voter Suppression Measures | Ari Berman/The Nation
This week, the North Carolina legislature will almost certainly pass a strict new voter ID law that could disenfranchise 318,000 registered voters who don’t have the narrow forms of accepted state-issued ID. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the bill has since been amended by Republicans to include a slew of appalling voter suppression measures. They include cutting a week of early voting, ending same-day registration during the early voting period and making it easier for vigilante poll-watchers to challenge eligible voters. The bill is being debated this afternoon in the Senate Rules Committee.
Like the coming of the messiah, depressed southern Europe nations await Angela Merkel’s likely victory in Germany’s September election with a mixture of hope and trepidation. Four years into the euro zone debt crisis, people in debt-laden Spain, Italy, Greece, Portugal and Cyprus are deeply worried that a third term in power for the conservative chancellor may only bring them more austerity and pain. The five countries that implemented Merkel’s anti-crisis recipes and cut spending massively in areas such as health and education, have been in or close to recession since 2008. Unemployment tops 27 percent in Spain and Greece. Their leaders, however, disagree. Confident that Merkel will tone down her budget cutting mantra and accept more burden-sharing within the euro zone, they are positioning themselves as close allies of Europe’s main paymaster.
One of the most frustrating discussions of 2012 was about voter identification laws. Voter ID laws seemed like they would disproportionately impact non-white, student, and elderly voters, who were widely assumed to tilt Democratic. There were big, flashy numbers about the number of registered voters without photo identification. Pennsylvania, for instance, famously announced that 759,000 registered voters didn’t have photo identification, causing a hyperventilating Dave Weigel to depict the law as “an apocalypse waiting to happen.” But voter ID laws had been implemented across the country over the last decade, and there just wasn’t solid evidence that voter ID laws meaningfully reduced turnout, let alone hurt the performance of Democratic candidates. Even the best studies were very weak, and there were states like Georgia and Indiana, where Obama excelled after voter ID laws were enacted. The consequences of voter ID laws were imperceptible. But finally, there are better numbers on how voter ID laws might influence one critical battleground state. North Carolina is considering a strict new voter ID law, so North Carolina’s Secretary of State has conducted an analysis estimating how many voters have a state-issued photo ID.
We’ve said all along that GOP lawmakers’ push for voter ID in North Carolina was more about suppressing the votes of Democrats than tackling fraud. The restrictive N.C. Senate bill unveiled last week that some legislators are trying to ram through in the waning days of the legislative session this week proves the point. The bill reduces by half the types of photo identification that were allowed under the House version, and makes it particularly onerous for college students to vote. Under the Senate bill, no college ID card would be acceptable. The House bill does allow student IDs, but only from N.C. schools. The Senate limits acceptable IDs to those issued by the government – driver’s license, passports, non-driver IDs and military or veteran cards. The bill also eliminates measures designed to educate voters about vote law changes.
Editorials: The Court & the Right to Vote: A Dissent by John Paul Stevens | The New York Review of Books
… Writing for the five-man majority in Shelby County, the recently decided Supreme Court case challenging the VRA, Chief Justice John Roberts noted that “times have changed” since 1965. The tests and devices that blocked African-American access to the ballot in 1965 have been forbidden nationwide for over forty-eight years; the levels of registration and voting by African-Americans in southern states are now comparable to, or greater than, those of whites. Moreover, the two southern cities, Philadelphia, Mississippi and Selma, Alabama, where the most publicized misconduct by white police officials occurred in 1964 and 1965, now have African-American mayors. In view of the changes that have occurred in the South, the majority concluded that the current enforcement of the preclearance requirement against the few states identified in the statute violates an unwritten rule requiring Congress to treat all of the states as equal sovereigns. The Court’s heavy reliance on the importance of a “fundamental principle of equal sovereignty among the States,” while supported by language in an earlier opinion by Chief Justice Roberts, ignored the fact that Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution created a serious inequality among the states. That clause counted “three fifths” of a state’s slaves for the purpose of measuring the size of its congressional delegation and its representation in the Electoral College. That provision was offensive because it treated African-Americans as though each of them was equal to only three fifths of a white person, but it was even more offensive because it increased the power of the southern states by counting three fifths of their slaves even though those slaves were not allowed to vote. The northern states would have been politically better off if the slave population had been simply omitted from the number used to measure the voting power of the slave states.