In 2006, Congress reauthorized Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act with nearly unanimous Republican support. In 2012, Republican officials declared war on minority voting and have challenged the constitutionality of Section 5 — which requires states and localities with egregious histories of voting discrimination to seek federal approval before making any election changes — in multiple court cases. What happened? Consider: Republican support among African-Americans for presidential nominee Mitt Romney finally hit zero in a recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll and the GOP’s strength among Latino voters is nearly as anemic. These numbers make minority voters, sadly, irresistible targets for Republican vote suppression efforts. Legal battles over when ballots can be cast and whose votes will be counted, The New York Times reported Monday, could substantially affect the outcome of 2012 elections.In many states, only the Voting Rights Act is standing in the GOP’s way. Rather than showing respect for the voting rights of minorities and winning their votes with appealing policies, Republicans appear to have instead decided to try to expel them from the electorate and attack the biggest legal obstacle to their expulsion — the Voting Rights Act. The rights of minority voters, however, are not fair game in partisan battles. Partisanship must not be allowed to trump equal opportunity in voting. Republicans have whipped up a phony frenzy over the extent of voter fraud to justify their assault on minority voters.
Rather than working overtime to stir up fears, they should join in efforts to broaden the franchise to include as many Americans as possible. The true scandal in our electoral process is our shockingly low turnout level. Nearly every other advanced democracy has higher voter participation. Yet we now have one political party working mightily to reduce that turnout through unwarranted restrictions that disproportionately burden minority voters.
The math is simple. The Voting Rights Act increases the number and effectiveness of minority voters. And minority voters now overwhelmingly support Democrats. President Barack Obama’s support among African-Americans has reached 94 percent. Latinos have voted increasingly Democratic since California Gov. Pete Wilson launched the GOP’s war against undocumented immigrants with Proposition 187 in 1994. The Republicans’ current hard-line immigration policies have only advanced this trend. Reduce the minority vote and Republicans improve their chances of winning. This shameful calculation has been embraced by the party of Lincoln. Republicans in state legislatures have produced a flurry of photo ID laws, discriminatory redistrictings, restrictions on registration, cutbacks on early voting, reinstatement of strict felon disfranchisement rules and erroneous purges of voter lists.