In allowing Texas’ voter identification law to go into effect, at least for the November election, the U.S. Supreme Court last week showed the nation precisely what it meant in 2013 when its conservatives struck down the heart of the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County vs. Holder. The Texas law, one of the most discriminatory voting laws in modern history, runs afoul of constitutional norms and reasonable standards of justice. It is hard to chronicle in a short space the ways in which the Texas law, one of the most discriminatory voting laws in modern history, runs afoul of constitutional norms and reasonable standards of justice. State lawmakers rammed through the measure, jettisoning procedural protections that had been used for generations in the state Legislature. By requiring registered voters to present a certain kind of photo identification card, and by making it difficult for those without such cards to obtain one, the law’s Republican architects would ensure that poor voters, or ill ones, or the elderly or blacks or Latinos — all likely Democratic voters — would be disenfranchised, all in the name of preventing a type of voter fraud that does not materially exist. These lawmakers — and for that matter the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court judges who now have sanctioned the law’s implementation for next month’s election — were shown mountains of evidence on what the law’s discriminatory impact would be on minority communities. Witness after witness testified that the new law amounted to a poll tax on people who had, even in the deepest recesses of Texas, been able for decades to adequately identify themselves before lawfully casting their ballot.
A series of billboards placed in poor, minority neighborhoods in Cleveland telling people that voter fraud is a felony have reignited concerns over voter intimidation and suppression tactics in key battleground states. Efforts to restrict or suppress the voting rights of certain groups are not new. Since 2011, several state governments have proposed or passed legislation either requiring proof of citizenship to register to vote, or requiring photo identification in order to vote. Many voter rights groups view this as an intentional effort to disenfranchise minority voters. That’s because these acts tend to impact African Americans and Hispanics who live in low-income neighborhoods and are less likely to have government issued photo ID.
In an election year where just a handful of votes could sway a tight election, some states are enacting laws to make it more difficult for citizens to vote. Voter identification laws have been passed or modified in 10 states since 2010 when Republicans made big gains in national politics through the Tea Party movement. Critics say these voter ID laws disproportionately affect voters who come from traditional minority communities.Although much attention has been given to African American and Latino voters these laws may have an even greater affect on Asian American voters. Pennsylvania’s new voter ID law is being challenged on just that idea. Due to the diversity of language, foreign name structure and customs, voter rolls are frequently fraught with clerical errors that could cause legally registered voters to be turned away at the polls.
As Jamila Gatlin waited in line at a northside Milwaukee elementary school to cast her ballot June 5 in the proposed recall of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, she noticed three people in the back of the room. They were watching, taking notes. Officially called “election observers,” they were white. Gatlin, and almost everyone else in line, was black. “That’s pretty harassing right there, if you ask me,” Gatlin said in the hall outside the gym. “Why do we have to be watched while we vote?” Two of the observers were from a Houston-based group called True the Vote, an offshoot of the Houston tea party known as the King Street Patriots. Their stated goal is to prevent voter fraud, which the group and founder Catherine Engelbrecht claims is undermining free and fair elections. The national anti-vote fraud movement represented by groups such as True the Vote is one of the most hotly debated issues of the 2012 election. Proponents say it’s about preserving the integrity of the electoral process, while critics contend that the movement is more about voter intimidation and vote suppression in Democratic strongholds and minority communities.
Some see South Carolina’s voter ID law and other states’ efforts to tighten early voting as less of an attempt to curb voter fraud than some of the earliest volleys in the 2012 presidential race. At least that is how the laws were painted by Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), as well as NAACP members and union leaders who spoke before more than 100 people at a Tuesday evening rally in Charleston, S.C. Clyburn said he has visited Florida four times in the past six weeks to work on anti-voter-suppression efforts with the Democratic National Congressional Committee. He noted that national GOP strategist Karl Rove has forecast that President Barack Obama could win South Carolina this fall, and Republicans are fighting to keep this state — and other swing states — in the GOP column. “They have put in these draconian rules and regulations and laws because they have calculated that if they can suppress the vote by 1 percent in nine different states, we lose the national election in November,” Clyburn said. “That’s their calculation.” Most experts put the Palmetto State solidly in the Republican column.
The GOP’s efforts to narrow voting rights in Florida have now engendered legal resistance. The League of Women Voters and other civic groups, claiming that a new state law unconstitutionally “burdens their efforts” to simply register voters, filed suit in state court last week seeking to dismantle the new legislation.
Attorneys for the League of Women Voters of Florida, Rock the Vote and the Florida Public Interest Research Group argue that Florida’s new law 40 requires so-called “third party voter registration” organizations such as theirs to pre-register with the state and satisfy a number of cumbersome disclosure requirements before engaging in any voter registration activities. Under the law, they are now also required to continually submit updates about their organization’s status, an act the groups call “burdensome.”
“There is no indication that Florida’s existing law was inadequate in addressing the state’s interest in preventing voter registration fraud and ensuring the integrity of the registration process,” the complaint reads. “Furthermore, even if the state had discovered shortcomings in the existing law, the new law burdens far more speech and associated activity than is necessary to accomplish any legitimate government interest.”
States all over the country are bringing or joining lawsuits that claim the Voting Rights Act is unconstitutional. Against this backdrop, redistricting battles in states that are tinged with racial and ethnic overtones are beginning to spill into federal territory. There can no longer be any doubt: As the 2012 election season rolls around, the constitutional fate of the Voting Rights Act will have a considerable impact on the political playing field.
In the most dramatic episode thus far, Texas directly petitioned the Supreme Court this week to delay the implementation of a redistricting plan recently drawn up by three federal judges for temporary use as election season begins. The latest federal Census shows a sharp growth in Texas’s Hispanic population, thus making the redistricting politics there especially contentious.
National: Democrats see election laws as revival of poll tax and threat to democratic process | TheHill.com
A wave of state election laws poses the single greatest threat to democracy and civil rights in generations, a number of House Democratic leaders charged Monday. The lawmakers said the reform laws — including new voter ID and registration requirements — are politically motivated efforts from Republicans to suppress voter turnout, particularly in minority communities that tend to vote Democratic. They compare the new mandates to the poll taxes adopted by Southern states to discourage African-Americans from voting after the Civil War.
“We know that voter suppression has been taking place, is [taking] place and is planned [to affect the next election],” Rep. Steny Hoyer (Md.), the Democratic whip, said Monday during a Capitol Hill hearing on the new laws. “We are witnessing a concerted effort to place new obstacles in front of minorities, low-income families and young people who seek to exercise their right to vote.
South Carolina: Minority Precincts Hit Hardest by Voter ID Laws, AP Analysis Shows | Campus Progress
Voter ID laws have been called the modern-era Jim Crow—and evidence keeps piling up to support that notion. A new analysis by the Associated Press reveals that South Carolina’s Voter ID law is hitting precincts with a large amount of black voters the hardest—including some colleges.
More than 200,000 active, registered voters in South Carolina lack satisfactory IDs under the state’s law, which would be a sobering number even without racial inequality. Statewide in South Carolina, 66 percent of voters without proper ID are white and 34 percent are non-white, fairly close to the ratio of all registered voters—70 percent white, 30 percent non-white. But at the precinct level, the numbers tell a different story.
The Electoral Commission is looking for fluent Maori speakers to make sure Maori communities are informed about this year’s referendum on the electoral system.
Maori Media co-ordinator Mabel Wharekawa-Burt says the referendum gives people a chance to say how they think MPs should be elected.