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Texas Sues The Federal Government For The Power To Suppress The Vote
There are myriad opinions on whether or not America is a democracy, a republic, or a representative democracy and it is reasonable to conclude that the nation is a bastardized form of representative democracy. The concept of the population electing representatives to govern the country has never taken hold in America since its founding because all of the people were not allowed to vote until the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that echoed the 15th Amendment to the Constitution in 1870 giving African Americans the right to vote. In their never-ending attempt to deny the right to vote to all Americans, Republicans have proposed voter ID laws meant to disenfranchise likely Democratic voters and in Texas, they are suing the federal government claiming the Voting Rights Act of 1965 is unconstitutional.
For the past year, at the direction of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), states with Republican-controlled legislatures have enacted a plethora of voter-suppression laws aimed at restricting students, the elderly, low-income, and minority citizens from participating in the democratic process. ALEC is a corporate-funded group that gathers business interests and conservative legislators to advance agendas that make it easier for corporations to influence elections and make it more difficult for voters to cast ballots. Republicans in several states followed ALEC’s directives and passed voter ID laws that, according to proponents, are meant to “erect barriers to voting by college students” because they are more likely than not to vote for Democrats.
The Texas lawsuit is in response to the Justice Department’s suspension of a strict voter ID law that will disenfranchise more that half-a-million Latino voters who lack government-issued photo ID cards. Other Republican-controlled states have enacted similar laws to dissuade alleged voter fraud and in-person voter impersonation by claiming they are protecting ballot integrity. The claims are a ruse to disenfranchise voters because several studies revealed that voter fraud is nearly non-existent and there are sufficient laws on the books to cite and prosecute cheaters. The Justice Department’s decision is well within its purview to suspend the Texas law based on Section Five of the Voting Rights Act.
According to Section Five, the federal government must approve changes in voting rules in states and counties with records of race-based discrimination, and the Texas law certainly qualifies as race-based discrimination because it primarily affects Hispanic voters. Recently, Texas lost a court battle with the DOJ over redistricting maps the courts found were violations of the Voting Rights Act. Texas claims that the Tenth Amendment gives them the right to restrict voting if they please, but several federal judges on separate benches independently “concluded the state’s Republican-controlled legislature drew new legislative districts that intentionally kept communities of color” from electing representatives to Congress and the Texas legislature. However, illegal redistricting aside, it is the various states’ voter ID laws that are a major threat to America’s fragile democracy according to a Wisconsin Circuit Judge.
The ruling last Monday by Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess was a compelling argument why Wisconsin’s voter ID law is unconstitutional. In his ruling, Niess wrote, “Without question, where it exists, voter fraud corrupts elections and undermines our form of government. The legislature and governor may certainly take aggressive action to prevent its occurrence. But voter fraud is no more poisonous to our democracy than voter suppression. Indeed, they are two heads on the same monster. A government that undermines the very foundation of its existence—the people’s inherent, pre-constitutional right to vote—imperils its legitimacy as a government by the people, for the people, and especially of the people. It sows the seeds for its own demise as a democratic institution.” Judge Niess’s order “permanently enjoined forthwith from any further implementation or enforcement” of the voter ID law.
The Republican voter ID laws are particularly construed to target students, the elderly, minorities, and poor Americans who lack government-issued photo identification cards. According to NYU’s Brennan Center, 11% of Americans of voting age lack government-issued photo identification and the GOP’s attacks are a “massive attack on voting rights.” College students who attend schools that are not near their permanent residences cannot acquire IDs because of their temporary residency status, and elderly Americans who are shut-in in retirement or nursing homes do not have the ability to get ID cards. Minorities and low-income Americans who are apt to move to find affordable housing cannot get photo IDs because of residency requirements. The Republicans’ voter ID laws are deliberately constructed to make it nearly, if not entirely, impossible for those groups to ever vote because they will never be able to get the “proper” photo ID. Some other Republicans schemes to suppress voting are reducing early voting periods and restricting late voter registration.
The concept of allowing all Americans to vote is one means of guaranteeing that every citizen is equal and represented in government. The president of the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin summed up the basic premise of equal protection in voting when she said, “Voting is one way in which all citizens are equal, and that is worth fighting for,” and it is why Republicans, at the direction of ALEC are so adamantly against allowing every American to vote. Apparently, Republicans are still furious they lost the White House in 2008 and are intent on making it as difficult as possible for prospective Democratic-leaning voters from participating in future elections. Instead of restricting all Americans from voting, there are some measures that could be enacted to give every American a better opportunity to participate in America’s disappearing democracy.
One simple approach is giving every working American a national paid holiday on the day of an election instead of restricting the time the polls are open. Closing polls at 7 p.m. is particularly restrictive for working Americans who may not have sufficient time to leave work and make it to their polling place in time to vote. Allowing more liberal late voter registration, provisional ballots, and extending early voting would give voters an opportunity to participate in elections, but that is counter-productive to Republicans’ intent of giving corporations control of elections. There are many Republicans who advocate for disallowing citizens to vote for Senators and instead, want a panel of Republicans to appoint representatives to the upper chamber.
Republicans know they cannot win fair elections because the American people are aware of their agendas of entitlements for the wealthy, corporations, the oil industry, and destroying protections for 99% of the American people. Republicans also cannot run against President Obama’s record because in spite of their obstruction, he has turned the economy around and passed legislation that protects the American people. Their only hope is suppressing Democratic voters to give corporations and theocrats control of the government.
It has been nearly 50 years since the Voting Rights Act passed that ended racial discrimination and Republicans who are most certainly associated with suppressing minority, low-income, student, and elderly voters are attacking democracy by claiming the Voting Rights Act is unconstitutional. While they are at it, they should just nullify the entire Constitution and appoint a panel of corporate and religious leaders as the Supreme Council to issue edicts to replace the rule of law. Fortunately, the courts and DOJ are defending voting rights for all Americans to stop the worst assault on voting rights since the 1960s that has as its real purpose destroying democracy, equality, and finally, America.