During his Senate hearing yesterday, Debo Adegbile, President Obama’s pick for Justice Department Civil Rights Division chief, was asked by Sen. Chuck Grassley if he would block state voter ID laws if confirmed. In his previous capacity, Adegible served as attorney and one-time acting president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, which has been in litigation with Texas over its voter ID law for the past three years. Adegbile also twice argued before the U.S. Supreme Court in defense of the Voting Rights Act. Sen. Grassley’s question mistakenly assumed that the assistant attorney general could unilaterally veto a state’s law, through dictatorship or executive order or something. The role of the Assistant Attorney General is not “to determine in the first instance how states run their voting systems,” said Adegbile in response to Grassley. “It’s only in the context of a particular law that is passed that [it] then occasionally becomes subject to review either because of the way in which it was passed or because of its impact.”
Sen. Grassley failed to acknowledge that attorneys general don’t kill laws, racism kills laws—if the Justice Department finds racism in them. But the courts will have a lot of say over the next few years about when and how the Justice Department goes about those findings.
When the November midterm election comes this year, there will be 16 states requiring voters to show some form of photo ID to vote. Four lawsuits challenging voter ID laws in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Texas and North Carolina will determine if that list shrinks or expands—and that’s only assuming no other state passes a similar law this year.
You’re mistaken, though, if you think these laws are just about showing ID at the polls. There are broader questions at play in the current legal battles over voter ID, the answers of which will determine how the Justice Department can intervene in voting rights matters heading into the 2016 presidential elections. Republicans in other states are taking note—at least 92 restrictive voting bills were introduced in 33 states last year according to Brennan Center for Justice, many of which died, but only to come back in another legislative session. The drafters of these failed measures are watching how judges rule in the current voter ID cases to see how they should proceed in the future.
Full Article: It’s Bigger Than Voter ID | Demos.