Republicans and Democrats in the Senate argued bitterly Wednesday about the need for a new law to protect the voting rights of minorities. The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on proposed legislation to resuscitate a critical provision of the Voting Rights Act struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court a year ago. The court invalidated the system whereby most Southern states were required to clear changes to their voting laws in advance with the Justice Department. The new bill would attempt to get around the court’s objections by creating a new system in which any state with more than five voting rights violations in the previous 15 years would have to seek “pre-clearance.” Currently only Texas, Georgia, Mississippi and Louisiana would be covered, which provoked outrage from Texas’ two senators, who both sit on the committee. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) asked why only four states would be covered, and not others such as Minnesota, which is represented on the committee by two Democrats. “Every state is covered by this if they violate the law five times in 15 years,” replied Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn).
Voter fraud whack-a-mole continues. Remember the bottom line here: no one has found convincing evidence of any recent, significant level of voter fraud. The cases that have been alleged often turn out to be phony. And the voter suppression “remedies” Republicans like don’t have anything to do with whatever fraud is generally alleged. So: the latest conservative talking point is the claim that there were a bunch of felons who voted improperly in Minnesota in 2008 — perhaps enough to have flipped the very close Senate race in that cycle from Democratic Al Franken to Republican Norm Coleman. Conservative columnist Byron York points out correctly that flipping that seat would have been hugely consequential; the Affordable Care Act, Dodd-Frank, and other legislation might well have failed if Dems had lost just one more Senate seat. But the accusations are old and long ago debunked. The evidence that York discusses is in a new book by a conservative journalist and a former Bush administration lawyer — charges that were pretty convincingly rebutted when they were made back in 2010.