A recent panel discussion on the Latino vote at the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, moderated by actress Eva Longoria, took a couple of unexpected turns. One was the claim of a Republican strategist who said he was blacklisted on the orders of panelist John Pérez, the state Assembly speaker, a flap that drew the most media attention. The other, and more consequential, takeaway was the content of the session itself. The focus was not on immigration reform, education, high unemployment rates or even the Republican Party’s inability to connect with an emerging demographic force in American politics. The main topic of the day? Vote suppression. “This is the No. 1 issue that Latinos and other communities should be worried about,” Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Santa Ana, told the gathered journalists. Sanchez knows a little something about vote-chilling tactics. In 2006, a mailer was sent to 14,000 registered voters with Latino surnames and foreign birthplaces telling them it was a crime for immigrants to vote in a federal election. Her Republican opponent was convicted of obstruction of justice in connection with the scheme.
But the modern-day efforts at holding down turnout among people of color, students, the elderly and others considered likely to vote Democratic are usually more subtle, legal and cloaked in the rationale of trying to prevent voter fraud. The effect of these laws on minorities is now subject to less scrutiny after the U.S. Supreme Court in June struck down one of the pillars of the Voting Rights Act of 1965: a requirement that nine states with a history of discriminatory laws must receive U.S. Justice Department clearance before changing their election rules, from registration requirements to redistricting.
Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that singling out the nine states (and scores of counties and municipalities elsewhere) was “based on 40-year-old facts having no logical relationship to the present day.”
In a follow-up interview last week, panelist Pérez said the absence of the “intensity and breadth” of vote-suppression measures since the days of poll taxes and literacy tests can be attributed to the efficacy of the Voting Rights Act.
But the barriers are there – and mounting. Within two weeks of the high court ruling that lifted the federal supervision over North Carolina, its Gov. Pat McCrory signed what amounted to the complete Republican toolkit for voter screening. Photo identification would be required to vote. No extended hours in cases of long lines. A shortened early voting window. No paid voter registration drives.
Full Article: Creating barriers to voting – SFGate.