Tag Archives: Voting Rights Act

Republicans Must Turn Over Emails On North Carolina Voting Law, Federal Judge Rules

 

The Huffington Post

State Republicans hand over key e-mails

Any race-related emails that North Carolina Republicans may have sent in connection with the voter restrictions they passed last summer could soon be public, thanks to a ruling by a federal judge.

Before the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down a key portion of the Voting Rights Act, simply demonstrating a discriminatory impact could be enough to overturn a discriminatory law. Now, in order to have North Carolina’s voting law struck down, civil rights groups and the Justice Department have to demonstrate that state lawmakers deliberately engaged in racial discrimination against voters.

The sweeping law requires voters to show certain forms of photo identification, eliminates same-day registration and reduces early voting — all measures which voting rights advocates say are intended to make it harder for Democratic-leaning minorities to vote.

The emails sent by legislators are crucial to proving racial motivations played some role in the legislation.

North Carolina wanted to keep legislator emails secret. But U.S. Magistrate Judge Joi Elizabeth Peake ruled Thursday that the state couldn’t withhold all the emails. She did, however, say that North Carolina might be able to argue that emails only between legislators and their staffers could be kept private.

Of course, if legislators have nothing to hide about the motivations for passing the restrictive laws, they can individually waive their legislative immunity, as Peake noted.

Voting rights advocates welcomed the judge’s decision.

“North Carolinians have a right to know what motivated their lawmakers to make it harder for them to vote,” Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, said in a statement. “Legislators should not be shrouding their intentions in secrecy. The people deserve better.”

In previous voting rights cases, legislator emails have demonstrated racial motivations. A legislator in South Carolina replied “Amen” when a constituent compared black voters to a “swarm of bees going after a watermelon,” while in Texas, a Republican member of Congress acknowledged wanting to move a country club from a heavily Hispanic district into his own, in order to increase the number of white voters.

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Filed under North Carolina, Voter Disenfranchisement

Justice Department Calls In The Big Guns To Stop Voter Suppression

Pamela Karlan

Pamela Karlan

This post is a couple of days old but very relevant in the months to come…

Think Progress

It’s difficult to exaggerate the prominence Stanford Law Professor Pam Karlan enjoys within the progressive legal community. Karlan is one of the most active members of the Supreme Court bar — among other things, she co-authored the brief that convinced the justices to strike down the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act last June. She is a former litigator for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and she is among the most widely regarded voting rights experts in the nation. If President Obama had shown more courage in the early years of his presidency, or if Senate Democrats had deployed the nuclear option sooner, she would be a federal appellate judge today. Many Court watchers, including myself, would choose her if we could place only one person on the Supreme Court.

So when the Justice Department revealed on Friday that Karlan would become the nation’s top voting rights attorney, it was as if Marsellus Wallace called up the many voters being disenfranchised in states like Texas and North Carolina, and told them that he’s sending The Wolf.

Karlan will take over as Deputy Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Civil Rights Division’s voting rights section. In this role, she will oversee the Justice Department’s most important challenges to voter suppression laws — including its efforts to restore federal oversight of Texas’ election law and its challenge to the nation’s worst voter suppression law in North Carolina.

As a senior member of the Civil Rights Division, Karlan will work under soon-to-be Assistant Attorney General Debo Adegbile, who President Obama recently nominated as the nation’s top civil rights attorney. Like Karlan, Adegbile is himself a leading expert on voting rights law – indeed, he twice appeared before the Supreme Court to try to save the Voting Rights Act from the Court’s conservative majority.

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Filed under United States Dept. of Justice, Voting Rights Act

Ohio Is Trying To ‘Suppress The Voting Rights Of African Americans,’ Congresswoman Claims

Most Americans knew this already but confirmation from an elected official adds a multitude of weight to the issues of suppressing early voting and the general election in Ohio…

Think Progress

Ohio Congresswoman Marcia Fudge (D) has asked Attorney General Eric Holder to review two voting measures making their way through the state legislature that she claims could “suppress the voting rights of African Americans and other minorities.”

The proposed bills (S. 238 and H.B. 269) would reduce the number of absentee-voting days by six, prevent newly registered voters from voting the day they register, and require voters to present valid identification — a driver’s license, a state or military ID card, or a passport — when casting a ballot.

In her letter, Fudge charges that the legislation violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which “prohibits any voting qualification or practice applied by the state which results in the denial or abridgment of the right to vote based on race.” “Recent estimates indicate that over 900,000 eligible voters in Ohio” lack the necessary ID, including as many as “one in four eligible African Americans,” the letter says. Same-day registration and voting “have recently been used at a higher rate by African Americans and lower-income voters.”

“With no indication that voter fraud is a widespread problem in Ohio, this proposal is a thinly veiled attempt to reduce the number of people able to exercise their right to vote,” she writes. “They are attempts to suppress the voting rights of African Americans and other minorities.”

Supporters of the effort argue that limiting early voting would free-up overstressed election boards “during their busiest time of year” and note that the legislation “allows for free photo IDs for people who can’t afford to purchase one and who are at or below the federal poverty level.”

“I think we can have a reasonable debate about policy here,” said State Sen. Frank LaRose (R), the sponsor of the early voting change. “To invoke the specter of a racial matter, I think, takes it too far. It is kind of shameful to do that. What we are talking about is a very modest reduction in the number of early voting days that still leaves Ohio as a leader in the nation, by far, for early voting.”

On Saturday, The Cleveland Plain Dealer’s editorial board came out against the limitation, writing that “absent compelling evidence of election fraud…there is no good, pro-voter reason to end the practice.” It also condemned a separate measure that would change absentee ballot rules.

During the 2012 presidential election, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted (R) attempted to limit early voting to weekdays, and he defied a court order requiring early voting hours to be restored — although he eventually backed down.

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Filed under Early Voting, Voter Suppression, Voting Rights Act

10 craziest right-wing statements of the week –Tea Party meltdown edition

10 craziest right-wing statements of the week --Tea Party meltdown edition

Rick Scarborough (Credit: YouTube)

Salon

1. Justice Antonin Scalia: “The 14th Amendment protects all races, not only the blacks.”

No friend of affirmative action, voting rights protections, or anything he deems “racial entitlements,” the high court’s least inhibited conservative was at it again this week during oral arguments in a case in which advocates for minorities are challenging Michigan’s voter-approved ban on affirmative action in college admissions. The case reached the Supreme Court after a federal appeals court held the ban violates the 14th Amendment’s equal protection guarantee, in that it prevents minorities from lobbying for racial preferences, when other groups can lobby for their favored programs, Huffpo explained.

A lawyer challenging the ban argued that the original goal of the 14th Amendment was to protect minority rights against a white majority.

Scalia begged to differ. “My goodness,” he said. “I thought we’ve held that the 14th Amendment protects all races. I mean, that was the argument in the early years, that it protected only—only the blacks. But I thought we rejected that. You say now that we have to proceed as though its purpose is not to protect whites, only to protect minorities?”

A little history: the 14th Amendment was approved three years after the end of the Civil War, and it was definitely about protecting the rights of former slaves. Scalia has not made any secret of his view that the country is all done with that racism stuff. If anything, the pendulum has swung too far the other way, he seems to think.

In February, Scalia said Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act was a “perpetuation of racial entitlement.” He later joined the majority in voting to strike down the provision, which quickly led to several states enacting voter ID laws that are blatantly discriminatory.

Wonder how he’ll vote this time.

2. Confused Republican thought the debt deal included money for Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army.

With all the dopey things said and done by intransigent Republicans in last week’s shitstorm of dopey intransigence, Republican Rep. Mick Mulvaney earned his place right up there in the pantheon. When the 11th hour deal to raise the debt ceiling and reopen the government was struck between Senate leaders Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell, it did not have much trouble getting through both houses of Congress. But there were those Republicans deluding themselves that they could fight on.



Rep. Mulvaney of South Carolina was one—and among his objections? The deal, he said, included funding for Joseph Kony’s Uganda-based Lord’s Resistance Army. Now, that would be pretty evil if it were true. Kony is an exiled war criminal with a messianic complex known for kidnapping children, and turning them into sex slaves and soldiers who kill their own families. The funding, if Mr. Mulvaney had read a little closer, was a small amount earmarked to the Pentagon which is funding African troops trying to capture Kony and end his reign of terror and atrocity. Ohhhh…oops. It seems Sen. David Vitter isn’t the only Republican in Congress Harry Reid could legitimately claim was not playing with a full deck.

3. Tony Perkins: Democrats are the theocrats for wanting to help the poor.

This will be news to biblical scholars. The Bible apparently says that government should have no role in helping the poor. Expressly forbids it.

This comes straight from the horse’s mouth, Tony Perkins, head of the right-wing Family Research Council, in a radio interview with conservative host Janet Mefferd. He then follows what can only be termed a rather bizarre train of thought to its illogical conclusion which is that it is the liberals who are trying to establish a theocracy in this country, not conservatives, because liberals want government to help the poor. Wait, we thought Christianity forbids that. Color us confused.

Perkins’ organization does have a unique take on the Bible and its treatment of the poor. Another spokesman for the group recently said there is “nothing more Christian” than eliminating millions of food stamp recipients from the government rolls.

But in this round Perkins does not merely want to stick it to the poor, he wants to flip the whole argument about which group is conflating church and state. It’s those liberals, you see. “They accuse evangelicals of wanting to create a theocracy, which is the farthest thing from the truth, when in fact, they are treating the government as if it had divine instruction from God to be a form of theocracy.”

So there!

4. S.C. official: Trans people should be put in camps.

It is tempting to suggest: Don’t drink and tweet. Well, we don’t know for sure that drinking was involved, but the former head of the South Carolina Republican Party went a bit bonkers with some recent rants on Twitter about transgender people and the people who support them.

“There are people who respect transgender rights,” Todd Kincannon tweeted this week. “And there are people who think you should all be put in a camp. That’s me.”

People? Or you?

Kincannon further opined that transgender people are “sick freaks” who should be “locked up in mental institutions and their care paid for by the state.” He thinks this shows his compassion for these “sick freaks.”

This Kincannon fellow has a heart as big as all outdoors. Previously, he’s drawn attention to himself for calling it a shame an Iraq veteran did not come home in a body bag, mocked murdered teenager Trayvon Martin, and scoffed at the victims of Hurricane Katrina. But in another tweet, he said his hatred was limited: to commies.

Good to know.

5. Tea Party leader suggests “class action suit” against “homosexuality.”

While most rational people interpreted this week’s events as a rather strong rebuke to the Tea Party, Tea Partiers really didn’t feel too bad. So at their Tea Party Unity event on Thursday, Chairman Rick Scarborough floated another novel idea for the assembled haters and nut jobs to rally behind now that the darn federal government is reopened: filing a “class action lawsuit” against “homosexuality.”

Now, how exactly would that work, you might ask? Or, maybe more to the point, how does that even make sense? Here goes:

“Homosexuality,” argued Scarborough, a former Baptist minister, “is much more likely to lead to AIDS than smoking is to lead to cancer. And yet the entire nation has rejected smoking, billions of dollars are put into a trust fund to help cancer victims and the tobacco industry was held accountable for that.”

So, similarly, the gay industry, whatever that is, could be held accountable.

Continue reading here…

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Filed under Tea Party

Scalia: Constitution doesn’t protect ‘only the blacks’

Justice Antonin Scalia has previously called for an end to “racial entitlements“.  Now he  has doubled down by saying that the 14th Amendment is for everyone, not only “the Blacks”.  Which is actually true on its face.  But, in 2011 he argued that the Constitution  does not protect gays or women.

Thus, Scalia has some explaining to do.  Just who does he think is protected by the 14th amendment and who is not?  Inquiring minds want to know…

The Huffington Post

During oral arguments on an affirmative action case on Tuesday, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said the 14th Amendment protects everyone, not “only the blacks.”

The quote was tweeted by the New York Times’ David Leonhardt:

The high court debated Tuesday whether voters can ban affirmative action programs through a referendum. The case is centered around a 2006 Michigan vote that approved a ballot initiative amending the state’s constitution to ban affirmative action programs in higher education.

Scalia has brought race into previous arguments. In February 2013, Scalia suggested that the continuation of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act represented the “perpetuation of racial entitlement,” saying that lawmakers had only voted to renew the act in 2006 because there wasn’t anything to be gained politically from voting against it.

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Filed under 14th Amendment, Justice Antonin Scalia

Justice Department to challenge North Carolina voter ID law

Eric Holder is pictured. | AP Photo

The justices’ 5-4 ruling outraged civil rights advocates. | AP Photo

Politico

The Justice Department will file suit against North Carolina on Monday, charging that the Tar Heel State’s new law requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls violates the Voting Rights Act by discriminating against African Americans, according to a person familiar with the planned litigation.

Attorney General Eric Holder is expected to announce the lawsuit at 11 a.m. Monday at Justice Department headquarters, flanked by the three U.S. Attorneys from North Carolina.

The suit, set to be filed in Greensboro, N.C., will ask that the state be barred from enforcing the new voter ID law, the source said. However, the case will also go further, demanding that the entire state of North Carolina be placed under a requirement to have all changes to voting laws, procedures and polling places “precleared” by either the Justice Department or a federal court, the source added.

Until this year, 40 North Carolina counties were under such a requirement. However, in June, the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional the formula Congress used to subject parts or all of 15 states to preclearance in recent decades.

The justices’ 5-4 ruling outraged civil rights advocates, but did not disturb a rarely-used “bail in” provision in the law that allows judges to put states or localities under the preclearance requirement. Civil rights groups and the Justice Department have since seized on that provision to try to recreate part of the regime that existed prior to the Supreme Court decision.

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) signed the voter ID measure into law last last month.

“Common practices like boarding an airplane and purchasing Sudafed require photo ID and we should expect nothing less for the protection of our right to vote,” McCrory said at the time. “This new law brings our state in line with a healthy majority of other states throughout the country. This common sense safeguard is common-place.”

A law mandating a photo ID for voting was not on the books in North Carolina during the 2012 presidential election. Such a measure passed in 2011, but it was vetoed by then-Gov. Bev Perdue (D). The legislature failed to override her veto.

According to the source, DOJ’s lawsuit will object to the law’s photo ID requirement as well as three other key provisions: the elimination of the first 7 days of early voting that took place in 2012, the end to same-day voter registration during the early voting period, and the end to the option of provisional ballots for voters who show up at the wrong polling place.

The complaint will allege that the law was passed with discriminatory intent and as part of a deliberate effort to deny African Americans the right to vote, the source said. A North Carolina Board of Elections study in April of this year found that more than 300,000 registered voters in the state did not have a Department of Motor Vehicles-issued ID. African Americans accounted for 34 percent of those who did not match with the DMV records, although they account for only about 22 percent of registered voters in the state.

DOJ moved in July to put Texas, which had been subject to preclearance statewide until the June Supreme Court ruling, back under preclearance requirements. That move came first in a pending lawsuit over redistricting in the state and later in another case over that state’s voter ID law.

Judges have yet to act on those requests. However, Gov. Rick Perry (R) complained that the Justice Department’s demand disrespected the Supreme Court decision.

“This end run around the Supreme Court undermines the will of the people of Texas, and casts unfair aspersions on our state’s common-sense efforts to preserve the integrity of our elections process,” Perry said in a statement.

In 2008, the Supreme Court ruled, 6-3, that an Indiana voter ID law was constitutional. However, the justices did not deal with the question of whether that law or a similar law in another state might violate the Voting Rights Act. Civil rights advocates have insisted that the Voting Rights Act puts a greater burden on states seeking to restrict voting when doing so disproportionately affects minority groups.

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Filed under AG Eric Holder, Dept of Justice, Voter Suppression

Bill Clinton Explains The Real Way To Honor King’s Dream

Bill Clinton Thumbs Up (Featured)

Think Progress

President Bill Clinton connected Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic “I have a dream” speech to the struggles still facing the nation during a speech on Wednesday commemorating the 50th anniversary of the historic address.

“I would respectfully suggest that Martin Luther King did not live and die to hear his heirs whine about political gridlock,” Clinton argued. “It is time to stop complaining and put our shoulders against the stubborn gates holding the american people back,” he said, laying out five ways Americans can improve the country:

Ensure equal access to education. “We cannot be disheartened by the forces of resistance to building modern economy of good jobs and rising incomes or to rebuilding our education system to give all our children a common core of knowledge necessary to ensure success. Or to give Americans of all ages access to affordable college and training programs. And we thank the president for his efforts in those regards.”

Implement Obamacare. “We cannot relax in our efforts to implement health care reform in a way that ends discrimination against those with pre-existing conditions, one of which is inadequate income to pay for rising health care. A health care reform that will lower cost and lengthen lives.”

Invest in science. “Nor can we stop investing in science and technology to train our young people of all races for the jobs of tomorrow and to act on what we learn about our bodies, our businesses, and our climate.”

Protect the vote. “We cannot be discouraged by a Supreme Court decision that said we don’t need this critical provision of the Voting Rights Act because look at the states. It made it harder for African-Americans and Hispanics and students and the elderly and the infirm and poor working folks to vote. What do you know? They showed up, stood in line for hours, and voted anyway, so obviously we don’t need any kind of law.”

Expand gun safety. “But a great democracy does not make it harder to vote than to buy an assault weapon.”

Watch it:

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Filed under Bill Clinton, MOW 2013

Colin Powell: Voter ID Laws Will ‘Backfire’ For Republicans

The Huffington Post

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell warned Republicans on Sunday that the strict voter identification laws they’re pursuing around the country will damage the party’s standing with growing blocs of voters.

“[H]ere’s what I say to my Republican friends: The country is becoming more diverse,” Powell told Bob Schieffer on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “You say you want to reach out, you say you want to have a new message. You say you want to see if you can bring some of these voters to the Republican side. This is not the way to do it.”

“The way to do it is to make it easier for them to vote and then give them something to vote for that they can believe in,” Powell added.

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling that struck down a key portion of the Voting Rights Act, Republicans in states like North Carolina, Florida and Texas have sought voter restrictions that critics, including Powell, say will disproportionately hurt minorities at the polls. North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) signed legislation earlier this month that requires voter identification, rolls back early voting hours and ends a state-supported voter registration drive. Powell condemned that particular law at an event in Raleigh last week.

Powell pointed out that there was no evidence of widespread voter fraud, the very premise of the identification statutes.

“You need a photo ID. Well, you didn’t need a photo ID for decades before,” Powell said. “Is it really necessary now? And they claim that there’s widespread abuse and voter fraud, but nothing documents, nothing substantiates that. There isn’t widespread abuse.”

Powell predicted that such measures will blow up in Republicans’ faces.

“These kind of procedures that are being put in place to slow the process down and make it likely that fewer Hispanics and African Americans might vote, I think, are going to backfire, because these people are going to come out and do what they have to do in order to vote, and I encourage that,” he said.

During the interview, Powell also reflected on the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, recalling times when he couldn’t eat in certain places due to the color of his skin, even though he’d just served his country.

“In my lifetime, over a long career in public life, you know, I’ve been refused access to restaurants where I couldn’t eat, even though I just came back from Vietnam: ‘We can’t give you a hamburger, come back some other time,’” Powell recalled. “And I did, right after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed, I went right back to that same place and got my hamburger, and they were more than happy to serve me now. It removed a cross from their back, but we’re not there yet. We’re not there yet. And so we’ve got to keep working on it.”

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Filed under Colin Powell, Voter Suppression

The Justice Department messes with Texas over its voter ID law

He’s a lot feistier than he looks…

The Week

The move comes in response to the Supreme Court striking down a key piece of the Voting Rights Act

The Justice Department announced Thursday that it would sue Texas over its voter ID law, in the wake of a Supreme Court ruling this year that made it easier for states to implement restrictive new voting laws without federal oversight.

In June, the Supreme Court struck down a central piece of the Voting Rights Act that determined which jurisdictions had to receive “preclearance” from the DOJ before making any changes to their voting laws. Following that ruling, Texas and a handful of other states with a history of racial discrimination pushed forward with voting legislation that had previously been blocked by the Justice Department.

“Today’s action marks another step forward in the Justice Department’s continuing effort to protect the voting rights of all eligible Americans,” said Attorney General Eric Holder. “We will not allow the Supreme Court’s recent decision to be interpreted as open season for states to pursue measures that suppress voting rights.”

The Justice Department had used its preclearance power to block Texas’ law, known as SB14, ahead of the 2012 election. The law would require people to prove both U.S. and Texas residency to obtain a voter ID card, a hurdle critics say would be onerous to poor and minority citizens.

But the court nixed Section 4 of the VRA. That piece established a formula to determine which states and localities were automatically required to submit to Section 5, the preclearance provision. The court did not touch Section 5 itself.

This time around, the DOJ said it would argue that SB14 violates a separate piece of the VRA, Section 2, that prohibits voting regulations adopted with the specific purpose of “denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race, color, or membership in a language minority group.” The DOJ also said it would argue that the law violates the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, which guarantee all citizens the right to vote.

By arguing that the law’s intent was blatant racial discrimination, the DOJ is seeking a backdoor to a new preclearance authority over Texas.

The DOJ will now ask a judge to “bail-in” Texas under Section 3 of the VRA. Under that little-known, rarely used provision, if a judge determines that a jurisdiction has tried to discriminate on the basis of race, the court can force that jurisdiction to be subject to federal preclearance under Section 5.

That tactic has only been used 18 times in the past, according to the American Prospect, and then typically in much smaller cases involving school districts. As such, “it is not clear that the strategy will be a legal success,” Richard Hasen, a U.C. Irvine professor and election law expert, wrote in the National Law Journal.

“Texas bail-in may not look like a great tool compared to the old preclearance regime,” he wrote. “But it is not as if DOJ has a lot of other tools to protect minority voters in its toolbox. Holder is going for bail-in because it is better than nothing, and with congressional inaction, he’s got nothing left to lose.”

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Filed under AG Eric Holder

Rand Paul: There’s No ‘Objective Evidence’ Of Racial Discrimination In Elections

rand paul racial discrimination

Republicans have an easy job feeding their supporters’ ignorance…

The Huffington Post

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) says there’s no “objective evidence” of racial discrimination in elections.

“The interesting thing about voting patterns now is in this last election African-Americans voted at a higher percentage than whites in almost every one of the states that were under the special provisions of the federal government,” Paul said Wednesday according toWFPL’s Phillip Bailey. “So really, I don’t think there is objective evidence that we’re precluding African-Americans from voting any longer.”

Paul’s take comes as voter ID laws are sparking debates in several states, and as state lawmakers from around the nation are joining forces to combat such laws. The latest push for more strict voting laws came after the Supreme Court struck down the core of the Voting Rights Act – which required Southern states with a history of racial discrimination to have their laws cleared by the Department of Justice — in June.

Other lawmakers have taken drastically different stances on the issue of voting rights. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned states’ “assault on voting rights” in a Monday speech, and civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) has said the Supreme Court’s decision broke his heart and made him want to cry.

Click here for more from WFPL.

 

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