Showing posts with label Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Show all posts

Jun 25, 2013

GOP Justices Gut Voting Rights Act in Partisan Decision

Have civil rights workers fought and died for nothing?
In an explosive, partisan decision today, the five Republican justices on the U.S. Supreme Court have struck down the section [section four] of the Voting Rights Act setting formulae used to determine which state and local governments must comply with mandatory standards enforced by the U.S. Dept of Justice.

Four justices dissented in Shelby County v. Holder, et al [linked to full text of opinions], which challenges the 2006 Congressional reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Since 1965, the Dept of Justice has had to grant preclearance, prior approval, of state and local governments with a proven record of discrimination and voter obstruction.

This legislation protected the voting rights of millions of American citizens against discrimination and voter obstruction.  

No more.  

The decision in Shelby County v. Holder offers the opportunity of the U.S. Congress to enact new voting rights legislation.

This is of course a ludicrous status quo as the Republican Party-committed members of the Court know that the Republican Party has made voter obstruction a nationwide project with the objective to suppress the vote of minorities, the young, and other voters who refuse to vote Republican in elections.

No GOP Congress would ever allow civil rights legislation to be passed today.

The four justices in dissent paint an appalling picture of today's decision that elevates partisan politics over the sacred right of Congress to enforce the Constitutional Amendments which protect the liberties and rights of citizens against government oppression.

The five rightwing justices have demonstrated again that the U.S. Supreme Court is corrupt and dominated by a partisan five-to-four majority.

Writes Justice Ginsberg in dissent (p.32), with whom Justice Breyer, Justice Sotomayor and Justice Kagan join:


In the Court's view, the very success of [Section Five] of the Voting Rights Act demands its dormancy. Congress was of another mind. Recognizing that large progress has been made, Congress determined, based on a voluminous record, that the scourge of discrimination was not yet extirpated. The question this case presents is who decides whether, as currently operative, [Section Five] remains justifiable, this Court, or a Congress charged with the obligation to enforce the post-Civil War Amendments 'by appropriate legislation.'

Jun 17, 2013

Update, No Voting Rights Decision Today ... Soon: Court Decides the Future of Voting Rights Act

More than a dozen states, including critical battlegrounds like Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, adopted new laws to restrict access to the ballot—all of which disproportionately affected communities of color. “I was naïve to think voting rights were untouchable,” says [Julian] Bond, former chair of the NAACP. “I didn’t dream that Republicans would be as bold and as racist as they are.”- Air Berman, The Nation

The term "civil rights worker" carries with it no historical reverence or moral relevancy for the Republican Party.

The only relevance for today's Republican Party is the objective to dismantle the voting rights act and other the civil rights legislation passed after many civil rights activists were killed by racists in the 1950s and 1960s.

Today, the U.S. landmark decisions on major civil rights cases will be made by nine people.

Americans ought to check the site: SCOTUS blog.com beginning at 10:30 A.M. Eastern Time, Monday.

There, we can see what damage the Republicans on the Court might inflict upon minorities at disfavor with the Republican and Tea Parties.

See the Live blog of orders and opinions (sponsored by Bloomberg Law).

SCOTUSblog.com (sponsored by Bloomberg Law) notes expected U.S. Supreme Court rulings include the following civil rights cases on voting rights, marriage equity and affirmative action.

Apr 18, 2013

Justice Scalia Trolls at Public Forum

The Voting Rights Act was signed into law in 1965
 by President Lyndon B. Johnson,
a Democrat, who had earlier signed
the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia continued his public comments that appear intended to annoy, rather than enlighten civil rights activists and legal audiences.

The Wall Street Journal reports on Scalia's latest comments, redolent of segregationist-era, southern governors.

Echoing comments he made at oral arguments in Shelby County v. Holder (February 2013) challenging the 2006 reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act, Scalia called the Act's reauthorizations an "embedded" form of "racial preferment" that Congress and Presidency would vote to maintain unless Scalia and the Court step in.

Preferment is defined by Webster's Dictionary as: An "advancement or promotion in dignity, office, or station."

Scalia, as is his habit, ignores the mountain of evidence that contradicts his la la land.

"Based on 21 hearings, over 90 witnesses, and a fifteen-thousand-page record, in 2006 Congress determined that discrimination against voters of color remains concentrated in covered states, and overwhelmingly renewed Section 5," notes Spencer Overton.

Though many believe that Scalia will vote to overturn the crown jewel of civil rights laws, a rightwing ideologue, Scalia will nevertheless sometimes vote—after making the outlines of arguments not supporting his voiced conclusions—unpredictably.

Don't be surprised if Scalia votes to uphold the Act after having duly offended and shocked civil rights activists, many of whom were killed and beaten after the Movement's direct challenge to the segregation of the American south, where most of jurisdictions covered by the Act are located.

A decision is expected in June.

Feb 28, 2013

Scalia shows his true colors

Scalia - (Reuters/Brendan Mcdermid/Salon/Benjamin Wheelock)

Update: There is a new Scalia Doctrine: Now, jurists should consider the "legal realist" school of jurisprudence but with a new variation. No longer is the intent of the legislators and language of the statute paramount. Now, Scalia can divine what legislators really wanted to do no matter that the 2006 Voting Rights Act reauthorization was passed 98-0 in the U.S. Senate and 390-to-33 in the House. Call it Scalia's "Really wanted" doctrine, a method he employs because he knows how legislators really wanted to vote but could not because, in part, legislation has appealing sounding names like the "Voting Rights Act".

Said Scalia the incoherent in orals: "And this last enactment, not a single vote in the Senate against it. And the House is pretty much the same. Now, I don’t think that’s attributable to the fact that it is so much clearer now that we need this. I think it is attributable, very likely attributable, to a phenomenon that is called perpetuation of racial entitlement. It’s been written about. Whenever a society adopts racial entitlements, it is very difficult to get out of them through the normal political processes." ...

"I don’t think there is anything to be gained by any Senator to vote against continuation of this act. And I am fairly confident it will be reenacted in perpetuity unless — unless a court can say it does not comport with the Constitution. You have to show, when you are treating different States differently, that there’s a good reason for it.That’s the — that’s the concern that those of us who — who have some questions about this statute have. It’s — it’s a concern that this is not the kind of a question you can leave to Congress. There are certain districts in the House that are black districts by law just about now. And even the Virginia Senators, they have no interest in voting against this. The State government is not their government, and they are going to lose — they are going to lose votes if they do not reenact the Voting Rights Act. Even the name of it is wonderful: The Voting Rights Act. Who is going to vote against that in the future?"
---
Antonin Scalia is no brilliant jurist hard at work on deep questions of constitutional law.

Oral arguments in Shelby County v. Holder have shown him to be—if a reader needs convincing—a bigoted ass toying with the lives and civil rights of millions.

As Joan Walsh writes in her piece, The Supreme Court justice treats voting rights as a goody given away by pandering politicians:

Four slow-moving ambulances brought up the rear as student leader John Lewis led 600 peaceful protesters dressed for church on the voting rights march that would become known as Selma’s Bloody Sunday, on March 7, 1965. They stayed peaceful; law enforcement officials didn’t. Trampled by police horses, choked by tear gas, beaten with billy clubs – Lewis had his skull fractured – the marchers would need more medical help than the four cars could provide. The ugly melee made national news that night: ABC broke into its presentation of “Judgment at Nuremberg” with footage of the violence, and viewers couldn’t be entirely sure where Nazi atrocities ended and their own country’s began.

Now, not far from Selma, Shelby County, Ala., is trying to take the teeth out of the Voting Rights Act that Lyndon B. Johnson hustled through Congress after Bloody Sunday. Even though the act was reauthorized by a Republican-dominated Congress in 2006 on a 98-0 vote in the Senate (it was 390-33 in the House), and signed by President Bush, and even though its constitutionality has been upheld by the Supreme Court four times, there is evidence that the current right-wing court majority would like to overturn at least part of it. Court conservatives once represented a reaction against the court’s supposed overreach into realms best left to Congress, and its willingness to ignore earlier court decisions. Now they seem set to say Congress has no business here, and that their Supreme Court predecessors who upheld the act were either mistaken or the blinkered creatures of their idiosyncratic eras.

Unbelievably, Antonin Scalia derided the act as a “racial entitlement,” prompting gasps from the crowd gathered to hear the arguments Wednesday. (As Rachel Maddow noted, Scalia seems to live for those gasps.) And he blamed Congress for pandering for votes by keeping that “racial entitlement” alive. The cynical Scalia sounded like Mitt Romney blaming his loss on President Obama delivering “gifts” to his coalition.

Civil Rights Leader: Justice Kennedy Will Vote to Uphold Voting Rights Act

U.S. Government fighting for voting rights
Update: Rightwing justices could very well issue a radical ruling that would "sideline Congress from meaningful participation in a realm in which its power was once thought to be at its pinnacle."

In the wake of Justice Scalia's outrageous comment that the Voting Rights Act (VRA) reauthorization is a "perpetuation of racial entitlement," a civil rights leader predicted the U.S. Supreme Court will uphold the VRA, 5-4, with Justice Anthony Kennedy voting with a majority.

On the Lawrence O'Donnell show last might, civil rights leader Judith Browne-Dianis, a "a prominent civil rights litigator and experienced racial justice advocate" of The Advancement Project predicted Kennedy—reagarded as the right-leaning, swing vote on the Court—will join the four rule-of-law justices and uphold the Voting Rights Act, first enacted in 1965 and reauthorized four times since, including in 2006.

Ms. Browne-Dianis is virtually alone in her prediction.

Said Browne of Justice Kennedy:

My prediction is that he (Kennedy) will side with us on this (the VRA); that he will uphold it. Because at the end of the day, Justice Kennedy actually sometimes has broken, you know, ways with the conservative bloc. And he actually believes in fairness. ... I think that at the end of the day, fairness will rule; that there was enough information before Congress in 2006 to say that we still need the Voting Rights Act.
The information Ms. Browne-Dianis refers to is the 10,000s of pages of social scientific evidence Congress accumulated in hearings before it passed the 2006 Voting Rights Act (VRA) reauthorization.

Social scientific findings were first referenced in civil rights legal cases in the landmark Supreme Court case, Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, based upon the work of Kenneth Clark, that outlawed school segregation.

Kenneth B. Clark concluded that systematic racism "inevitably destroys and damages human beings," and the Supreme Court opinion called his work "key" to its decision.

Later, in racial, housing discrimination actions in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, social scientific findings were also prominently used in voluminous legal cases, largely based upon the work of Karl Taeuber, professor of Sociology, Emeritus (University of Wisconsin-Madison [Off campus]).

The significance of social scientific findings in the voting rights case now before the Court can be found, among other sources, in the brief filed by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund that references the widespread unconstitutional conduct in the jurisdictions covered by the Voting Rights Act, and other pernicious action directed against minorities in civic life.

As recently as 2012, the U.S. Dept of Justice blocked discriminatory measures in Florida, Texas, and South Carolina under the Voting Rights Act.

Republicans are virtually unanimous in the covered jurisdictions in saying racism no longer exists and no longer presents an obstruction to Americans' voting, a position echoed by most Republicans the nation-over.

"Congress renewed the special provisions of the Act in 2006 as part of the Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks, Coretta Scott King, Cesar E. Chavez, Barbara Jordan, William Velazquez and Dr. Hector Garcia Voting Rights Act Reauthorization and Amendments Act," notes the U.S. DoJ Voting Right Act webpage.

Ari Berman: Why the Voting Rights Act Is on the GOP Chopping Block

President Lyndon Johnson reaches to shake the hand of
the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. after signing the
Voting Rights Act on Aug. 6, 1965. (AP file photo)
Rights v. GOP Power—The vindication of Sen. Edward Kennedy

Will the GOP Supreme Court justices invite the social turmoil that would come by dismantling the legislative remedy to the GOP program to stop Americans from voting?

One vote, that of Justice Anthony Kennedy's, will likely decide this question.

Sen. Edward Kennedy warned the nation in 1987 that should radical statists like Robert Bork, Scalia, Alito, Thomas, Roberts and their ilk be confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court, "the doors of the federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of Americans."

Twenty-five years later, Anthony Kennedy—who replaced Bork as the nominee to the Supreme Court—will decide whether the courts may use the Voting Rights Act to secure their American right to vote, or as Sen. Kennedy feared: The courts will slam the door shut on the fingers of millions of Americans.

A decision is expected in June 2013.

The GOP has grown increasingly afraid over the last eight years that Americans of differing shades of color and other nonGOP-voting citizens will vote the Republican Party out of office.

The Party (the White Party) sees itself as entitled to rule, in opposition to the tenets of representative democracy and the U.S. Constitution.

As the 2012 campaign demonstrated anew, the GOP appeal to racism remains a central tenet of its electoral strategy, and its obstruction of voters is a self-consciously planned program.

Combine this despicable political attack—from which no elected Republican will publicly dissent—with a dismantling of the legislative regime codifying the right to vote and we see the outlines of the GOP program to remain in power in its gerrymandered state and federal legislative districts, and its more dubious effort to retake the office of the U.S. presidency.

The Voting Rights Act remains the most successful law to secure the rights of Americans to vote, in the face of GOP efforts to deny these rights on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.

The 15th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to vote even if an American is black.

Black.

Republicans today despise the 15th Amendment, with a particular animus towards the Voting Rights Act, written specifically to secure the rights of the 15th Amendment.

From The Nation:

Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires districts with a history of disenfranchising people of color to get federal approval before changing their voting procedures, is currently under review by the Supreme Court. As Nation writer Ari Berman argues, the petition against Section 5 is part of a growing movement to suppress the minority vote. “You’ve had a concerted effort to pour a lot of money into groups whose express goal and purpose is to challenge laws like the Voting Rights Act,” he says. Appearing on Washington Journal, Berman goes head-to-head with the Heritage Foundation’s Hans von Spakovsky [The man who has stoked fear and lied about impostors at the polls (Mayer)].

—James Cersonsky


Read Ari Berman's critical report on the Supreme Court's review of Section 5 for an insightful overview of the issue.

Feb 27, 2013

Voting Rights Acts Orals Suggest 5-4 Killing of Civil Rights Victory in 1965

Voting Rights Act - An act to enforce the
fifteenth amendment to the
Constitution of the United States,
and for other purposes.

Update: Justice Scalia said: Voting Rights Act (VRA) reauthorization is "perpetuation of racial entitlement," to audible gasps in the Supreme Court’s lawyers’ lounge.

"It is wrong--deadly wrong--to deny any of your fellow Americans the right to vote in this country."
- President Lyndon Baines Johnson, 1965 

Republicans on the U.S. Supreme Court appeared today poised to strike down the historic Section Five of the 1965 Voting Rights Act (VRA)—long regarded as a monumental achievement of the American civil rights movement.

The Act was passed after an extraordinary joint-session congressional address by President Lyndon Johnson, who called upon Congress to enact a voting rights law as a moral imperative to right a historic wrong.

The law was singed into law on August 6, 1965, some 14 months after the murder of civil rights activists, Schwerner, Chaney, and Goodman.

Not a word of protest from Republicans anywhere I can find today, save a late, attempted face-saving joining of an amicus brief by a shameful Rep. James Sensenbrenner this month, and a few GOP colleagues.

Election Law blog and SCOTUSblog can read the writing on the wall in these oral arguments held today.

Talking Point Memo offers instructive quotes from the five GOP justices.

Sure, there is always room for surprise in the decision expected in June.

But the GOP remains committed to stomping out minorities from voting as a malodorous column (June 2012) from James Sensenbrenner makes clear—arguing in the face of the most intense voter obstruction effort since Jim Crow that Democrats are Politicizing the Voting Rights Act.

President Lyndon Johnson reaches to shake the hand of
the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. after signing the
Voting Rights Act on Aug. 6, 1965. (AP file photo)
Though the 2006 Congressional reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act "reveals widespread unconstitutional conduct in the covered jurisdictions," (NAACP Legal Defense Fund brief) the GOP position is to pay no mind to such niceties as the VRA's congressionally mandated stopping of voter obstruction.

As Ralph McGill once wrote of another weak and miserable racist in America—they are but little men "standing alone in (their) own diminishing circle." That's today's Republican Party, white, racist or silent to racism.

Andrew Goodman, James Chaney, and Michael Schwerner live. The Civil Rights movement lives.

And the fight against racism continues and is not a settled foundation of our nation, thanks to the cowardice of men such as James Sensenbrenner and the Republican Party, too cowed to stand with justice.
---
President Lyndon B. Johnson - March 15, 1965 address to joint-session of the U.S. Congress

I speak tonight for the dignity of man and the destiny of Democracy. I urge every member of both parties, Americans of all religions and of all colors, from every section of this country, to join me in that cause.

At times, history and fate meet at a single time in a single place to shape a turning point in man's unending search for freedom. So it was at Lexington and Concord. So it was a century ago at Appomattox. So it was last week in Selma, Alabama. There, long suffering men and women peacefully protested the denial of their rights as Americans. Many of them were brutally assaulted. One good man--a man of God--was killed.

There is no cause for pride in what has happened in Selma. There is no cause for self-satisfaction in the long denial of equal rights of millions of Americans. But there is cause for hope and for faith in our Democracy in what is happening here tonight. For the cries of pain and the hymns and protests of oppressed people have summoned into convocation all the majesty of this great government--the government of the greatest nation on earth. Our mission is at once the oldest and the most basic of this country--to right wrong, to do justice, to serve man. In our time we have come to live with the moments of great crises. Our lives have been marked with debate about great issues, issues of war and peace, issues of prosperity and depression.

But rarely in any time does an issue lay bare the secret heart of America itself. Rarely are we met with a challenge, not to our growth or abundance, or our welfare or our security, but rather to the values and the purposes and the meaning of our beloved nation. The issue of equal rights for American Negroes is such an issue. And should we defeat every enemy, and should we double our wealth and conquer the stars, and still be unequal to this issue, then we will have failed as a people and as a nation. For, with a country as with a person, "what is a man profited if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?"

There is no Negro problem. There is no Southern problem. There is no Northern problem. There is only an American problem.

And we are met here tonight as Americans--not as Democrats or Republicans; we're met here as Americans to solve that problem. This was the first nation in the history of the world to be founded with a purpose.

The great phrases of that purpose still sound in every American heart, North and South: "All men are created equal." "Government by consent of the governed." "Give me liberty or give me death." And those are not just clever words, and those are not just empty theories. In their name Americans have fought and died for two centuries and tonight around the world they stand there as guardians of our liberty risking their lives. Those words are promised to every citizen that he shall share in the dignity of man. This dignity cannot be found in a man's possessions. It cannot be found in his power or in his position. It really rests on his right to be treated as a man equal in opportunity to all others. It says that he shall share in freedom. He shall choose his leaders, educate his children, provide for his family according to his ability and his merits as a human being.

To apply any other test, to deny a man his hopes because of his color or race or his religion or the place of his birth is not only to do injustice, it is to deny Americans and to dishonor the dead who gave their lives for American freedom. Our fathers believed that if this noble view of the rights of man was to flourish it must be rooted in democracy. This most basic right of all was the right to choose your own leaders. The history of this country in large measure is the history of expansion of the right to all of our people.

Many of the issues of civil rights are very complex and most difficult. But about this there can and should be no argument: every American citizen must have an equal right to vote. There is no reason which can excuse the denial of that right. There is no duty which weighs more heavily on us than the duty we have to insure that right. Yet the harsh fact is that in many places in this country men and women are kept from voting simply because they are Negroes.

Every device of which human ingenuity is capable, has been used to deny this right. The Negro citizen may go to register only to be told that the day is wrong, or the hour is late, or the official in charge is absent. And if he persists and, if he manages to present himself to the registrar, he may be disqualified because he did not spell out his middle name, or because he abbreviated a word on the application. And if he manages to fill out an application, he is given a test. The registrar is the sole judge of whether he passes this test. He may be asked to recite the entire Constitution, or explain the most complex provisions of state law.

And even a college degree cannot be used to prove that he can read and write. For the fact is that the only way to pass these barriers is to show a white skin. Experience has clearly shown that the existing process of law cannot overcome systematic and ingenious discrimination. No law that we now have on the books, and I have helped to put three of them there, can insure the right to vote when local officials are determined to deny it. In such a case, our duty must be clear to all of us. The Constitution says that no person shall be kept from voting because of his race or his color.

We have all sworn an oath before God to support and to defend that Constitution. We must now act in obedience to that oath. Wednesday, I will send to Congress a law designed to eliminate illegal barriers to the right to vote. The broad principles of that bill will be in the hands of the Democratic and Republican leaders tomorrow. After they have reviewed it, it will come here formally as a bill. I am grateful for this opportunity to come here tonight at the invitation of the leadership to reason with my friends, to give them my views and to visit with my former colleagues.

I have had prepared a more comprehensive analysis of the legislation which I had intended to transmit to the clerk tomorrow, but which I will submit to the clerks tonight. But I want to really discuss the main proposals of this legislation. This bill will strike down restrictions to voting in all elections, federal, state and local, which have been used to deny Negroes the right to vote.

This bill will establish a simple, uniform standard which cannot be used, however ingenious the effort, to flout our Constitution. It will provide for citizens to be registered by officials of the United States Government, if the state officials refuse to register them. It will eliminate tedious, unnecessary lawsuits which delay the right to vote. Finally, this legislation will insure that properly registered individuals are not prohibited from voting. I will welcome the suggestions from all the members of Congress--I have no doubt that I will get some--on ways and means to strengthen this law and to make it effective.

But experience has plainly shown that this is the only path to carry out the command of the Constitution. To those who seek to avoid action by their national government in their home communities, who want to and who seek to maintain purely local control over elections, the answer is simple: open your polling places to all your people. Allow men and women to register and vote whatever the color of their skin. Extend the rights of citizenship to every citizen of this land. There is no Constitutional issue here. The command of the Constitution is plain. There is no moral issue. It is wrong--deadly wrong--to deny any of your fellow Americans the right to vote in this country.

There is no issue of state's rights or national rights. There is only the struggle for human rights. I have not the slightest doubt what will be your answer. But the last time a President sent a civil rights bill to the Congress it contained a provision to protect voting rights in Federal elections. That civil rights bill was passed after eight long months of debate. And when that bill came to my desk from the Congress for signature, the heart of the voting provision had been eliminated.

This time, on this issue, there must be no delay, or no hesitation, or no compromise with our purpose. We cannot, we must not, refuse to protect the right of every American to vote in every election that he may desire to participate in.

And we ought not, and we cannot, and we must not wait another eight months before we get a bill. We have already waited 100 years and more and the time for waiting is gone. So I ask you to join me in working long hours and nights and weekends, if necessary, to pass this bill. And I don't make that request lightly, for, from the window where I sit, with the problems of our country, I recognize that from outside this chamber is the outraged conscience of a nation, the grave concern of many nations and the harsh judgment of history on our acts.

But even if we pass this bill the battle will not be over. What happened in Selma is part of a far larger movement which reaches into every section and state of America. It is the effort of American Negroes to secure for themselves the full blessings of American life. Their cause must be our cause too. Because it's not just Negroes, but really it's all of us, who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice.

And we shall overcome.

As a man whose roots go deeply into Southern soil, I know how agonizing racial feelings are. I know how difficult it is to reshape the attitudes and the structure of our society. But a century has passed--more than 100 years--since the Negro was freed. And he is not fully free tonight. It was more than 100 years ago that Abraham Lincoln--a great President of another party--signed the Emancipation Proclamation. But emancipation is a proclamation and not a fact.

A century has passed--more than 100 years--since equality was promised, and yet the Negro is not equal. A century has passed since the day of promise, and the promise is unkept. The time of justice has now come, and I tell you that I believe sincerely that no force can hold it back. It is right in the eyes of man and God that it should come, and when it does, I think that day will brighten the lives of every American. For Negroes are not the only victims. How many white children have gone uneducated? How many white families have lived in stark poverty? How many white lives have been scarred by fear, because we wasted energy and our substance to maintain the barriers of hatred and terror?

And so I say to all of you here and to all in the nation tonight that those who appeal to you to hold on to the past do so at the cost of denying you your future. This great rich, restless country can offer opportunity and education and hope to all--all, black and white, North and South, sharecropper and city dweller. These are the enemies: poverty, ignorance, disease. They are our enemies, not our fellow man, not our neighbor.

And these enemies too--poverty, disease and ignorance--we shall overcome.

Now let none of us in any section look with prideful righteousness on the troubles in another section or the problems of our neighbors. There is really no part of America where the promise of equality has been fully kept. In Buffalo as well as in Birmingham, in Philadelphia as well as Selma, Americans are struggling for the fruits of freedom.

This is one nation. What happens in Selma and Cincinnati is a matter of legitimate concern to every American. But let each of us look within our own hearts and our own communities and let each of us put our shoulder to the wheel to root out injustice wherever it exists. As we meet here in this peaceful historic chamber tonight, men from the South, some of whom were at Iwo Jima, men from the North who have carried Old Glory to the far corners of the world and who brought it back without a stain on it, men from the east and from the west are all fighting together without regard to religion or color or region in Vietnam.

Men from every region fought for us across the world 20 years ago. And now in these common dangers, in these common sacrifices, the South made its contribution of honor and gallantry no less than any other region in the great republic.

And in some instances, a great many of them, more. And I have not the slightest doubt that good men from everywhere in this country, from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico, from the Golden Gate to the harbors along the Atlantic, will rally now together in this cause to vindicate the freedom of all Americans. For all of us owe this duty and I believe that all of us will respond to it.

Your president makes that request of every American.

The real hero of this struggle is the American Negro. His actions and protests, his courage to risk safety, and even to risk his life, have awakened the conscience of this nation. His demonstrations have been designed to call attention to injustice, designed to provoke change; designed to stir reform. He has been called upon to make good the promise of America.

And who among us can say that we would have made the same progress were it not for his persistent bravery and his faith in American democracy? For at the real heart of the battle for equality is a deep-seated belief in the democratic process. Equality depends, not on the force of arms or tear gas, but depends upon the force of moral right--not on recourse to violence, but on respect for law and order.

There have been many pressures upon your President and there will be others as the days come and go. But I pledge to you tonight that we intend to fight this battle where it should be fought--in the courts, and in the Congress, and the hearts of men. We must preserve the right of free speech and the right of free assembly. But the right of free speech does not carry with it--as has been said--the right to holler fire in a crowded theatre.

We must preserve the right to free assembly. But free assembly does not carry with it the right to block public thoroughfares to traffic. We do have a right to protest. And a right to march under conditions that do not infringe the Constitutional rights of our neighbors. And I intend to protect all those rights as long as I am permitted to serve in this office.

We will guard against violence, knowing it strikes from our hands the very weapons which we seek--progress, obedience to law, and belief in American values. In Selma, as elsewhere, we seek and pray for peace. We seek order, we seek unity, but we will not accept the peace of stifled rights or the order imposed by fear, or the unity that stifles protest--for peace cannot be purchased at the cost of liberty.

In Selma tonight--and we had a good day there--as in every city we are working for a just and peaceful settlement. We must all remember after this speech I'm making tonight, after the police and the F.B.I. and the Marshals have all gone, and after you have promptly passed this bill, the people of Selma and the other cities of the nation must still live and work together.

And when the attention of the nation has gone elsewhere they must try to heal the wounds and to build a new community. This cannot be easily done on a battleground of violence as the history of the South itself shows. It is in recognition of this that men of both races have shown such an outstandingly impressive responsibility in recent days--last Tuesday and again today.

The bill I am presenting to you will be known as a civil rights bill. But in a larger sense, most of the program I am recommending is a civil rights program. Its object is to open the city of hope to all people of all races, because all Americans just must have the right to vote, and we are going to give them that right.

All Americans must have the privileges of citizenship, regardless of race, and they are going to have those privileges of citizenship regardless of race.

But I would like to caution you and remind you that to exercise these privileges takes much more than just legal rights. It requires a trained mind and a healthy body. It requires a decent home and the chance to find a job and the opportunity to escape from the clutches of poverty.

Of course people cannot contribute to the nation if they are never taught to read or write; if their bodies are stunted from hunger; if their sickness goes untended; if their life is spent in hopeless poverty, just drawing a welfare check.

So we want to open the gates to opportunity. But we're also going to give all our people, black and white, the help that they need to walk through those gates. My first job after college was as a teacher in Cotulla, Texas, in a small Mexican-American school. Few of them could speak English and I couldn't speak much Spanish. My students were poor and they often came to class without breakfast and hungry. And they knew even in their youth the pain of prejudice. They never seemed to know why people disliked them, but they knew it was so because I saw it in their eyes.

I often walked home late in the afternoon after the classes were finished wishing there was more that I could do. But all I knew was to teach them the little that I knew, hoping that I might help them against the hardships that lay ahead. And somehow you never forget what poverty and hatred can do when you see its scars on the hopeful face of a young child.

I never thought then, in 1928, that I would be standing here in 1965. It never even occurred to me in my fondest dreams that I might have the chance to help the sons and daughters of those students, and to help people like them all over this country. But now I do have that chance.

And I'll let you in on a secret--I mean to use it. And I hope that you will use it with me.

This is the richest, most powerful country which ever occupied this globe. The might of past empires is little compared to ours. But I do not want to be the president who built empires, or sought grandeur, or extended dominion.

I want to be the president who educated young children to the wonders of their world. I want to be the President who helped to feed the hungry and to prepare them to be taxpayers instead of tax eaters. I want to be the President who helped the poor to find their own way and who protected the right of every citizen to vote in every election. I want to be the President who helped to end hatred among his fellow men and who promoted love among the people of all races, all regions and all parties. I want to be the President who helped to end war among the brothers of this earth.

And so, at the request of your beloved Speaker and the Senator from Montana, the Majority Leader, the Senator from Illinois, the Minority Leader, Mr. McCullock and other members of both parties, I came here tonight, not as President Roosevelt came down one time in person to veto a bonus bill; not as President Truman came down one time to urge passage of a railroad bill, but I came down here to ask you to share this task with me. And to share it with the people that we both work for.

I want this to be the Congress--Republicans and Democrats alike--which did all these things for all these people. Beyond this great chamber--out yonder

Above the pyramid on the Great Seal of the United States it says in latin, "God has favored our undertaking." God will not favor everything that we do. It is rather our duty to divine His will. But I cannot help but believe that He truly understands and that He really favors the undertaking that we begin here tonight.

Feb 14, 2013

As GOP War on Voting Escalates, Sensenbrenner Finally Speaks

Andrew Goodman, James Chaney, and Michael Schwerner;
murdered in 1964 for fighting for voting rights 
Update: As of April 2013, Sensenbrenner refuses to challenge the GOP's attack on voting as more GOP states enact laws intended to obstruct the right to vote.
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Sensenbrenner attaches name on brief weeks before landmark case's orals before U.S. Supreme Court

Some two weeks from oral arguments scheduled before the U.S. Supreme Court, Rep. Sensenbrenner has finally spoken on the attempts of his party to strike down the Voting Rights Act (VRA).

Sensenbrenner joined a bi-partisan group of U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary members filing an amicus brief filed earlier this month in Shelby County v. Holder (docket 12-96).

Sensenbrenner has long portrayed himself as a champion of voting rights, posturing belied by his refusal to criticize current GOP voter obstruction efforts.

Critically, Sensenbrenner and his colleagues note this month the social scientific evidence compiled by Congress when it passed the reauthorization in 2006.

Rightwing commentators and jurists have pretended that such evidence of voter obstruction and past federal attempts to protect the right to vote does not exist.

Writes Sensenbrenner on his congressional website:

The Voting Rights Act (VRA) is the crown jewel of civil rights laws. It protects our most fundamental right—the right to vote. This law has empowered minorities to participate in the election process, but the threat of discrimination is not yet extinct.  In 2006, the House compiled 12,000 pages of extensive testimony. This record shows Section 5 not only worked to correct past injustices, but is unmistakably central to the continued protection of minorities’ right to vote in covered districts. I am proud of this law, and join my colleagues in ardently defending its constitutionality.
The "crown jewel" and "our most fundamental right.'

That's great stuff on voting. Attaching his name on a brief  two weeks before oral arguments is commendable.

Maybe Sensenbrenner will now come to believe that voting is the crown jewel of democracy; and then become a virtual lone GOP voice against GOP efforts in states they control where they are obstructing voters.

Asked in April 2012 why Sensenbrenner didn't speak out against the current efforts of states [like Wisconsin] enacting voter obstruction laws, Sensenbrenner's spokeperson's response is:

"I don’t have a comment for you on this, as it is a state law. But you are correct in pointing out that he was responsible for getting the VRA reauthorization passed through Congress in 2006 when he was Chair of the House Judiciary Committee."

That the whole point of the VRA: Challenging state laws (and other jurisdictions') that obstruct voters.

The feds have to protect voters against state civil rights violations.

So, for Sensenbrenner's office to say they cannot be involved or comment because a law is a state law is ludicrous. And VRA champion Sensenbrenner must know this.
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On a related note, Doug Kendall reports today that a bipartisan group of former U.S. Dept. of Justice officials including Dick Thornburgh—attorney general under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush—filed an extraordinary amicus brief in February eviscerating rightwingers (including the fetid Hans von Spakovsky who argues that the Supreme Court needs to strike down the Voting Rights Act.)

Notes Kendall:

"Summarizing its beef with von Spakovsky et al., the Thornburgh brief explains that:"

The Voting Rights Act is hailed across the political spectrum as the crown jewel of American liberties and a monumental legislative accomplishment. Congress recently reenacted it with overwhelming majorities. Like any statute, it is not vulnerable to challenge on the basis of baseless speculation about potential misinterpretation or wrongful enforcement. (Emphasis added)
"Ouch. To give one more specific example, Thornburgh’s brief takes dead aim at von Spakovsky’s distortions of the recent enforcement actions involving voter ID laws:"

[V]on Spakovsky . . . is wrong on both the facts and the law. First of all, among the photo ID laws passed by covered jurisdictions since 2006, more have been cleared (New Hampshire, Georgia and Michigan) than not (Texas and South Carolina, the latter blocked for the 2012 election only).

Second, as a legal matter, amici’s argument relies on a misinterpretation of this Court’s decision in Crawford v. Marion County . . . . Crawford does not grant an automatic constitutional pass to any and all photo ID requirement. Rather, in rejecting a facial challenge . . . the Court’s analysis focused on the burden imposed on Indiana voters, which it found to be minimal; the required photo IDs were free and widely available.

By contrast, where a photo ID law imposes a disproportionate burden on minority voters and does not provide any means to mitigate that burden, Section 5 will bar its enforcement.
Concludes Kendall: "It’s not that often in Supreme Court practice that you see one amicus brief respond directly to another. But such a thoroughgoing rebuke by a conservative Republican former Attorney General against conservatives trying to make the case against the constitutionality of a federal law? We’ve never seen anything like it. Which makes the Thornburgh brief a must read for anyone following the debate over Shelby County v. Holder."

Social Scientific Evidence

The significance of the lack of social scientific evidence presented in Crawford (many jurists believe the 2008 challenge to Indiana's law as unconstitutional on its face was poor legal strategy) is that Sensenbrenner actually cites the mountain of social scientific evidence ("12,000 pages of extensive testimony") upon which Congress relied in reauthorizing the VRA.

If you take a look at challenges to Wisconsin's voter obstruction law, a mountain of social scientific evidence has been gathered so that no court could find that voters were not being obstructed illegally, per the Wisconsin and U.S. constitutions.

So, for example we read of the efforts that found military veterans (and African Americans and college students) being unable to vote because the Wisconsin GOP crafted its unconstitutional voter ID law in a highly restrictive manner—ignoring all input from good government, civil rights groups and Democratic Party members expressing alarm that registered, constitutionally qualified citizens were prevented from voting because the GOP did not like the way these voters were likely to vote—an assault against the fundamental right of our democracy that the GOP and Sensenbrenner blatantly ignore to this day.

Jan 31, 2013

Rick Hasen and Reuters on What to Do If the Roberts Court Strikes Down Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act

As the Republican and Tea Party struggle to find new ways to keep unwanted voters from voting, the Roberts Court has agreed to hear arguments on the constitutionality of a pillar of the legislative achievements of the civil rights movement, long a despised group of Americans whom the Republican Party wish would just go away.

Rick Hasen offers If the Court Strikes Down Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act: An Online Reuters Symposium.

Damn blacks and browns.

We should just build a damn fence and put this bunch away from proper American society; not to worry about their passing themselves off surreptitiously as good Americans though.

I mean no need to mark their clothes with a 'B' for Brown or Black. Or, a 'UV' cloth patch designating Undesirable Voter.

Just look at 'em and you can tell. Maybe make them carry papers if they insist on travelling.

As the National Review editors write (in an outrageous editorial even for this guys) as they attempt desperately to keep them away:
And, if we are to take Hispanics at their word, conservative attitudes toward illegal immigration are a minor reason for their voting preferences. While many are in business for themselves, they express hostile attitudes toward free enterprise in polls. They are disproportionately low-income and disproportionately likely to receive some form of government support. More than half of Hispanic births are out of wedlock. Take away the Spanish surname and Latino voters look a great deal like many other Democratic constituencies. Low-income households headed by single mothers and dependent upon some form of welfare are not looking for an excuse to join forces with Paul Ryan and Pat Toomey.

Jan 4, 2013

Wisconsin's Jim Sensenbrenner Maintains Dishonesty on Voting Rights Act

Andrew Goodman, James Chaney, and Michael Schwerner;
murdered in 1964 for fighting for voting rights 
Update II: Rep. Sensenbrenner has finally spoken on the attempts of his party to strike down the Voting Rights Act. Critically, Sensenbrenner notes the social scientific evidence complied by Congress when it passed the reauthorization in 2006. Sensenbrenner joined a bi-partisan group of judiciary committee members filing an amicus brief in Shelby County v. Holder (docket 12-96).

Writes Sensenbrenner: “The Voting Rights Act is the crown jewel of civil rights laws. It protects our most fundamental right—the right to vote. This law has empowered minorities to participate in the election process, but the threat of discrimination is not yet extinct.  In 2006, the House compiled 12,000 pages of extensive testimony. This record shows Section 5 not only worked to correct past injustices, but is unmistakably central to the continued protection of minorities’ right to vote in covered districts. I am proud of this law, and join my colleagues in ardently defending its constitutionality.”

Update: Worth a read from July 2012, Voter ID forces attack voting rights.

As the GOP challenge to the Voting Rights Act (VRA) makes its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, don't look for Republicans, Wisconsin's Jim Sensenbrenner, or any Republican legislator who voted for VRA reauthorization in 2006 to file an amicus brief arguing the Court uphold this pillar of civil rights protection.

Republicans and its Tea Party can read the writing on the wall: Stop Americans from voting or lose elections, and the VRA is in the way.

Desperate state gerrymandering and voter obstructions laws will buy the Republicans some time, so the corrupt Five on the U.S. Supreme Court will make an effort to disappear the Voting Rights Act (VRA), Section Five and likely targeting Section Two, maybe the whole act.

The Supreme Court is expected to hear a challenge to a main provision, the "pre-clearance" or Section Five, of the Voting Rights Act in February.

Rick Hasen at the Election Law blog has a piece on the GOP challenge to the Voting Rights Act (VRA) noting Texas Republicans in their amicus brief omitted mention that Texas has been found by a federal court to have engaged in "purposeful discrimination" to stop non-desirable Americans from voting, and purposeful attempts to diminish the votes of such non-desirable Americans.

Maybe the state of Texas just forgot.

Speaking of forgetfulness, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner who likes to pretend that he is a champion of the Voting Rights Act—voting for the 2006 renewal of the Voting Rights Act—seems to have forgotten as well the purpose behind stopping states from obstructing voting.

The VRA and its reauthorizations were passed to stop state voter obstruction efforts, mainly in the southern U.S., and especially aimed at southern state white power structures that turned even more murderous in the 1950s and 60s. James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner and many more gave their lives to the civil rights effort.

But voter obstruction and fighting voting rights are a national Republican project now.

In Sensenbrenner's own words, he writes last July that the VRA is "the civil rights law [that] sought to end decades of racial discrimination that prevented minorities from fully exercising their constitutional right to vote.

Asked in April last year why Sensenbrenner didn't speak out against the current efforts of states [like Wisconsin] enacting voter obstruction laws, Sensenbrenner's office's response is:

"I don’t have a comment for you on this, as it is a state law. But you are correct in pointing out that he was responsible for getting the VRA reauthorization passed through Congress in 2006 when he was Chair of the House Judiciary Committee."

What are these people thinking? The VRA stops states and their voter obstruction laws. So, you cannot speak to state law because they are state laws? Sensenbrenner-GOP logic.

So, Sensenbrenner claims he loves the VRA, but now he toes the GOP line on state Republican voter obstruction efforts, calling them "common-sense efforts to ensure the identity and citizenship of voters," (July 2012) words written after his office said he cannot comment on state laws from which the VRA protects Americans' right to vote.

Sensenbrenner is what constitutional law experts refer to as a shameless, goddamn liar.

As the VRA makes its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, don't look for Sensenbrenner to file an amicus brief arguing the Court upholds this pillar of civil rights legalisation that Sensenbrenner says he champions.

That would be unRepublican.