Republicans know that most of America rejects their increasingly extreme ideology and they can’t win a fair election. That is at the core of their war on the voting rights in the form of gerrymandering, voter ID laws, restricting voting days and hours. The available data shows that these methods not only establish a system in which some votes carry more weight than others establish, but also seeks to disenfranchise particular groups of people: minorities, women and the working poor.
The Voting Rights Act is the Republican Party’s worst enemy because it contains mechanisms to prevent policies that will disenfranchise voters based on race. Under Article 5 of the VRA, the worst offenders of racist voting policies must seek preclearance of proposed voting policies changes with the Department of Justice.
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court will listen to arguments in Shelby County Alabama vs. Holder. In its brief, Shelby County claims that racial segregation and discrimination no longer exist so we really don’t need Article 5.
William Consovoy, the lawyer representing Shelby County, is a former clerk for Justice Clarence Thomas and specializes in cases that make voting harder for minorities. As MSNBC reports:
William Consovoy also last year argued on behalf of Republican officials in Florida and Ohio, who in both cases were seeking to significantly reduce the days allotted for early voting, which blacks take advantage of more than whites.
Given that Thomas believes Article 5 is unconstitutional, it’s likely he will support his former law clerk in this case – regardless of the facts. The 2011 Federal Court Ruling in this case upheld the constitutionality of Article 5.
“The legislative record is by no means unambiguous. But Congress drew reasonable conclusions from the extensive evidence it gathered and acted pursuant to the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, which entrust Congress with ensuring that the right to vote—surely among the most important guarantees of political liberty in the Constitution—is not abridged on account of race.”
One need only look at the 2012 to see that policies seeking to deny racial minorities their right to vote persist and in earnest. The former chairman of Florida’s Republican Party admitted suppressing Democrats and especially the Black vote and Hispanic vote was the purpose behind their vote suppression program. Rachel Maddow pointed to the fact that Michigan’s Emergency Financial Manager law disenfranchised 50% of Michigan’s Black voters in local elections. Republicans in Ohio resented the notion of needing to accommodate urban read Black Voters and said so.
The NAACP offers more data, facts and court rulings to prove how extensive racism continues to play a role in states that are the worst offenders. When one looks at the compelling evidence in Alabama’s record, it seems that this case should be a slam dunk in favor of upholding Article 5. From page 15 of the NAACP’s brief.
Purposeful discrimination by Alabama lawmakers persists to the present day. In United States v. McGregor, 824 F. Supp. 2d 1339, 1347 (M.D. Ala. 2011), the court found “compelling evidence that political exclusion through racism remains a real and enduring problem in [Alabama],” “entrenched in the high echelons of state government.” The court rejected testimony by several white Alabama state legislators as lacking credibility, finding they were motivated by “pure racial bias” as they sought to “reduc[e] African-American voter turnout.” Id. at 1345.
Several white legislators and their interlocutors were caught on tape comparing Black voters to “illiterate[s]” and “Aborigines.” Id.
As for the plaintiff in this case, it’s funny what happens to their claim with a look at the recent history in Shelby County. Pages 19-20 of the NAACP brief reveal Shelby County, continues to, shall we say, have issues with oversight because it gets in the way of things like a city’s effort to eliminate representation by Black members on City Councils.
More recently, in 2008, Section 5 prevented Calera from circumventing Dillard. The City submitted a redistricting plan that eliminated the sole majority-Black district, and it also conceded that it had already adopted 177 annexations without seeking preclearance. PA147a. DOJ interposed an objection, but the City disregarded it and held an election based on the unprecleared changes. The election resulted in the defeat of the sole Black member of the City Council. PA148a. DOJ then brought a Section 5 enforcement action, which resulted in a consent decree that finally remedied Calera’s circumvention of the Dillard decree. Id. Defendant-Intervenors are five Black ministers from Shelby County and an elected official who represents the district eliminated and ultimately restored by virtue of Section 5. Another Shelby County jurisdiction, the City of Alabaster, also engaged in repeat violations, drawing an objection for its discriminatory annexations in 2000, after Section 5 blocked similar efforts in the 1970s. July 13, 2006 Hearing, at 386 n.98; see also October 25, 2005 (History) Hearing, at 435-37.
In five of the 8 wholly covered Article 5 states, objections under section 5 and litigation under Section two blocked over 100 racist voting laws in each state.
It doesn’t end there because there is evidence of similar types of laws being blocked in states that are partially covered under Article 5. According to the NAACP’s brief, Article 5 blocked 75 such laws in North Carolina between 1982 and 2006. If, as Shelby County claims, racial discrimination is in the past, why did Hispanics in Arizona face intimidation and mass challenges in 2006?
Consovoy says in his brief that it’s impossible to prove a negative. It’s especially impossible when the facts over so overwhelming and compelling.
Consovoy continues to justify vote suppression as a disinfectant of the statistically non-existent voter fraud boogeyman. Moreover, the vote suppression program won’t address the rare incidents of voter fraud, since the fraudsters in question tend to be Republicans.
Never mind the evidence of voter registration fraud attempted by the Republican Party’s chief registration fraudster in the 2012 election and previously.
Consovoy also complains that Article 5 is just too expensive. But, the NAACP proves in its brief that eliminating Article 5 would make defending against racist voting policies more expensive. In some ways, this goes to the heart of why the GOP wants Article 5 eliminated.
While litigation under article 2 is still possible it is both costly and time consuming. In other words eliminating Article 5 would serve as a financial deterrent to seeking legal remedy, even if it was possible to get such remedy before an election.
Republican desperate efforts to steal the vote come with the realization that America is getting browner and more Democratic. That is evident in efforts to suppress and rig the vote as we await the Supreme Court’s ruling in Shelby County Alabama v. Holder. Just this past weekend, Republicans in Michigan decided to go ahead with plans to rig the electoral college.
According to a poll by Gallup, released today, Democrats enjoy support by a ratio of 2 to 1 among Hispanic voters in all age groups. I’m not a political strategist, but somehow I doubt vigorously attacking the voting rights of racial minorities is the way to win them over.
Image: The Daily Banter
Ms. Woodbury has a graduate degree in political science, with a minor in law. She is a qualified expert on political theory with a specific interest in the nexus between political theories and models and human rights.
Based on her interest in human rights and the threats that authoritarian regimes are to them, Ms. Woodbury’s masters thesis examined the influence of politics on the enforcement of international criminal law was cited in several academic studies.
Published work includes case summaries for the War Crimes Research Office.
She has an extensive background doing legal research in international and domestic law.
Ms. Woodbury’s work for politicusUSA includes articles on voting rights, the right to asylum and other civil/human rights.