It’s the latest fad among state officials looking to make voting harder: We’re not racist, we’re just partisan. Some background: In June, the Supreme Court struck down a core provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, under which nine states and portions of others had to get federal approval before changing their election laws. One of those states, Texas, is again in court, facing a Justice Department suit seeking to get the state under federal oversight again. To do so, the Justice Department must prove intentional racial discrimination. Texas’ defense? It’s discrimination, all right — but it’s on the basis of party, not race, and therefore it’s O.K. Says Texas: “It is perfectly constitutional for a Republican-controlled legislature to make partisan districting decisions, even if there are incidental effects on minority voters who support Democratic candidates.” Leaving aside that whopper — laws that dilute black and Hispanic voting power have more than an “incidental” impact — the statement, part of a court filing in August, was pretty brazen. Minority voters, in Texas and elsewhere, tend to support Democrats. So Republican officials, especially but not only in the South, want to reduce early voting; impose voter-identification requirements; restrict voter registration; and, critically, draw districts either to crowd as many minority voters into as few districts as possible, or dilute concentrations of minority voters by dispersing them into as many white-controlled districts as possible.
The Supreme Court decision unleashed all manner of new efforts to suppress minority voting — and a new batch of legal challenges.
Just this week, a federal judge in Milwaukee considered whether Wisconsin’s tough new voter-ID law violates the 1965 law by placing illegal burdens on minority voters. As in the Texas suit, the Justice Department has sued North Carolina, which in August passed the toughest set of voting rules since the passage of the Voting Rights Act, arguing that the law was passed with racist intent. If successful, Texas and North Carolina could be put back under federal supervision.
Unlike with race-based discrimination, which, if proved, could violate both the Voting Rights Act and the Constitution, the Supreme Court has refused to recognize a standard for policing even nakedly partisan gerrymandering.
Full Article: Voter Suppression’s New Pretext – NYTimes.com.