One Republican Sex Scandal Unmasks the Phony Justifications for Undermining Voting Rights

In 2013 the Supreme Court struck down key parts of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, saying it wasn’t necessary anymore. A Republican Governor’s current sex scandal just proved the Supreme Court wrong.

As a refresher, conservative Chief Justice John G Roberts explained for the majority at the time that as to the key question of if racial minorities continued to face voting barriers in states with a history of discrimination, our country had changed. No more discrimination based on race!

Roberts wrote, “Our country has changed. While any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks to current conditions.”

On the heels of the conservative declaration that there is no more racial discrimination in the states governed by the Voting Rights Act came Governor Robert Bentley of Alabama, a Republican governor, to prove his own party wrong.

It’s sex that caught the Republican in an act of clear discrimination with political motives and intent.

Bentley is currently facing prison if he’s found guilty of violating Alabama’s ethics and campaign finance laws, stemming from his relationship with long-time political adviser Rebekah Mason, which led to his wife of 50 years filing for divorce in 2015, charging him with having an affair with Mason.

Maybe this sounds familiar, given that our current Republican President was caught on tape bragging about sexual assault and Republicans wrote it off as locker room talk. In March of 2016, the Governor was heard on tape discussing kissing Mason and touching her breasts. Bentley filed this under the Trumpian Republican euphemism for sexual contact/assault, “inappropriate comments.”

Listen here if you have the stomach for this sort of thing:

Bentley, a medical doctor from Tuscaloosa, was elected Governor in 2010 and then reelected in 2014. His term ends in January of 2019. An investigation into his affair with his girlfriend, Rebekah Mason, revealed that in 2015, a year and some months after conservatives announced that we no longer needed voting protections for minorities in the South, Mason led a “politically motivated” effort to close 31 driver’s license offices in “mostly black counties,” John Sharp of reported, based on a report released Friday.

This plan to shut down drivers license offices in mostly black counties was intended to be “rolled out in a way that had limited impact on Government Bentley’s political allies.”

The report states that former head of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency Spencer Collier reported the plan to close the drivers license offices to the AG’s office due to concern over a possible Voting Rights Act violation.

“The closures sparked a federal investigation by the U.S. Department of Transportation, which determined that the stoppages disproportionately affected black residents. The DOT determined that ALEA’s plans were a violation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act,” reported Saturday morning.

What is the problem with closing driver’s license offices in predominantly African American communities? Oh, those peskey a voter identification laws that Republicans keep saying aren’t meant to keep African Americans from voting. If you can’t get to the driver’s license office to get your photo ID, you can’t vote. So it’s not just enough to require the photo ID to drive down African American turnout, but now driver’s license offices were targeted to be shut down (this order was later reversed).

At the time, Bentley was outraged that anyone would suggest this was about keeping African Americans from voting.. In response to a call by Rep. Terri Sewell for a federal investigation, Bentley called her impulsive and ill-informed. “Gov. Robert Bentley called her (Sewell’s) comments ‘impulsive, ill-informed and based on irresponsible media reports,’ and said voters will still be able to obtain IDs.”

This wasn’t about saving money, as Sharp notes, “The closures were estimated to save around $200,000, an extremely small savings in a General Fund that typically has annual shortfalls ranging from $100 million to $200 million.”

Are these plans to depress minority votes politically motivated?

Your answer, “Bentley, the report claims, approved the closure plan with one exception: He wanted the office in Sen. Gerald Dial’s district to be removed. Dial, a Republican of Lineville, could not be reached for immediate comment.”

So all of the African Americans who vote Democrat must be further targeted by making access to the agency difficult.

This sex scandal just revealed a truth that is very difficult to explain to people who haven’t experienced just how Republican voter ID laws work as a political effort to depress votes. Thanks to Governor Bentley’s stupidity (read the report, including his texts to his mistress and the texts he meant to send to his mistress), we now have proof right from the horse’s mouth, so to speak, that the Voting Rights Act is necessary in all of its parts, including the key part struck down by the Supreme Court, because the justification for striking it down has just been unmasked.

Things haven’t changed at all in this respect. They’ve gotten more sneaky, but they haven’t changed.

Sarah Jones

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