The widespread condemnation of the vile prejudice expressed by a professional basketball team owner and a Nevada rancher underscored the progress America has made on race. On the same day Donald Sterling, the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, was banned from the game for life for making racist comments, another story with more important racial implications was unfolding: A federal judge in Wisconsin struck down a law passed by that state’s Republican legislators that would have made voting harder by requiring state-approved photo identification at polling places. More than 30 states have sought to impose voting restrictions over the past three years. Supporters of the measures claim they are aimed at preventing voter fraud. Critics say they are designed to disenfranchise, particularly black Americans and members of other minorities, and are the greatest threat since the Voting Rights Act was passed almost a half century ago. They are fighting back.
“We’re in the most intense national struggle over voting since the 1960s,” said Wendy R. Weiser, who directs a program for the Brennan Center for Justice, a liberal advocacy group. After the United States Supreme Court weakened enforcement of the Voting Rights Act last year, states were emboldened to make voting harder for some. The principal weapons were the requirement for photo IDs and curbs on early voting.
Almost every reputable study shows that such measures disproportionately affect black and Hispanic voters, college students and people with disabilities — groups that vote overwhelmingly Democratic. Advocates for the restrictions have a difficult time documenting real voter fraud.
“The defendants could not point to a single instance of known voter impersonation occurring in Wisconsin at any time in the recent past,” the Wisconsin judge declared in last week’s ruling. (Courts have overturned similar laws in Pennsylvania and Arkansas.)
Full Article: The Battle to Protect Voting Rights – NYTimes.com.