Showing posts with label Voting Rights Act. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Voting Rights Act. Show all posts

Aug 6, 2014

Desperate Scott Walker Asks Appellate Court to Kill Fed Injunction Against Voter ID

Updates II: See The Wisconsin Supreme Court Is Not Conservative (Fischer).

Update: See also Firestone, New York Times: "An enduring Republican fantasy is that there are armies of fraudulent voters lurking in the baseboards of American life, waiting for the opportunity to crash the polls and undermine the electoral system. It’s never really been clear who these voters are or how their schemes work; perhaps they are illegal immigrants casting votes for amnesty, or poor people seeking handouts.  Most Republican politicians know these criminals don’t actually exist, but they have found it useful to take advantage of the party base’s pervasive fear of outsiders, just as when they shot down immigration reform. In this case, they persuaded the base of the need for voter ID laws to ensure 'ballot integrity,' knowing the real effect would be to reduce Democratic turnout."
Rick Hasen and Josh Gerstein have the story.

Scott Walker is running the numbers on his reelection and he is scared, so desperate that he wants to keep as many people away from the polls as possible.

Hence, Wisconsin's corrupt GOP Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen filed a new motion for Scott Walker asserting that the federal court's April 2014 "injunction purports to permanently enjoin a voting regulation that is designed to preserve the right to vote of all eligible Wisconsin voters," notes Gerstein.

Though Scott Walker and Van Hollen have produced zero instances of in-person voter fraud, Van Hollen asserts anyway that in-person voter fraud is "real."

And so is the Devil whom Justice Antonin Scalia fears.

Evidence is a bad thing in the minds of Walker and Van Hollen.

Van Hollen and Walker both publicly refuse to comment on the mountain of evidence presented at trial last year that showed 100,000s of people would be disenfranchised by Act 23, the GOP's voter obstruction law now enjoined.

U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman recognized this evidence on fabricated notions of voter fraud and real people whose right to vote would be destroyed, writing, "The evidence at trial established that virtually no voter impersonation occurs in Wisconsin. The defendants (Scott Walker et al) could not point to a single instance of known voter impersonation occurring in Wisconsin at any time in the recent past." [pp 11,12]

May 15, 2014

Civil Rights Org Calls for Voting Rights Bill

Civil rights activists held a press conference by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights this morning, calling for a Committee hearing, debate, markup and passing of the Voting Rights Act Amendment (VRAA), HR 3899.

The VRAA is meant to repair the damage wrought by the five Republicans on the U.S. Supreme Court in Shelby v. Holder.

No voting rights activist likes the bill. They pretend to like to the bill.

No speaker today dared mention the anti-voting rights provisions in the Voting Rights Act Amendment.

HR 3899, among other provisions, contains language that would protect states' photo voter ID laws, a clause inserted by its chief sponsor Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-White People) who refers to his home state's (Wisconsin) photo voter ID law as "common sense."

Wisconsin's voter ID law was struck down last month by a federal judge who found that up to 300,000 voters lacked voter ID; Latinos and African Americans would are unfairly burdened by the law and prevented from voting, that voter fraud does not exist in Wisconsin and that the law is in violation of the Voting Rights Act and the U.S. Constitution.

This is Sensenbrenner's conception of a "common sense" law.

Sensenbrenner was caught on camera in February saying, "I hope the president vetoes the bill. If the president vetoes—well, let me rephrase that – if the president vetoes this bill (VRAA), he will lose an awful lot of the African-American support that he has." (Roth, TRMS)

So we have the so-called fix to the VRA protecting state voter obstruction laws that the VRA was originally enacted in 1965 to stop, and the co-author of the bill, Sensenbrenner, who is a demonstrated phony voting rights advocate.

Progressive congressional supporters say they can amend the bill though they are afraid to publically express their opposition to the anti-voting provisions in the bill because this would offend Republicans who would then not allow the bill to be debated, amended or would vote against it, while Republicans continue their work against voting rights.

If this legislative strategy does not appear to make any sense, this is because the strategy is dumb, dumb, dumb.

Apr 10, 2014

New Voting Rights Amendment Act Is Worse Than Nothing

Updated-Rick Hasen wants progressives to get agitated for the Voting Rights Amendment Act (VRAA).
(W)here are the public demonstrations to pass this desperately needed fix? Outside the minority community, which is pushing hard for the VRAA, where is the agitation? The voting rights issue seems to have fallen off the radar screen, even though the Roberts court's reasoning in the Shelby County case is just as indefensible as its reasoning in Citizens United and McCutcheon in the campaign finance arena.
Here's why the lack of political action for the Voting Rights Amendment Act (VRAA).

The VRAA sucks.

The VRAA actually enshrines one of the major state voter obstruction laws that Republicans use to obstruct minority voters, among other voters: Voter ID statutes. Moreoever, passage of the VRAA would torpedo many of the legal federal challenges to the GOP voter ID laws.

Nice way to mark 50th anniversary celebration of the Civil Rights Act. Maybe we'll have better luck next year with the 50th anniversary celebration of the Voting Rights Act.

Anniversaries and sentiment are needed, but the Republican Party is forever busy with new schemes, a phenomenon that the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was intended to address.

"About one month after the Shelby decision, Republicans in North Carolina pushed through a package of extreme voting restrictions, including ending same-day registration, shortening early voting by a week, requiring photo ID, and ending a program that encourages high schoolers to sign up to vote when they turn 18," writes Dana Liebelson.

The Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014 reads: Section 3(c) of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (42 U.S.C. 1973a(c)) is amended by striking ‘‘violations of the fourteenth or fifteenth amendment’’ and inserting ‘‘violations of the 14th or 15th Amendment; violations of this Act (other than a violation of section 2(a) which is based on the imposition of a requirement that an individual provide a photo identification as a condition of receiving a ballot for voting in an election for Federal, State, or local office) ... ."

Hasen wants people to hit the streets for this crap?

 Derick T. Dingle writes, "Legal scholars found the voter ID provision as a gaping hole in the law (HR 3899), avoiding one of the major voter suppression issues of the day."

Hasen writes, "It's about time for Congress to pass some new laws protecting voting rights, and it's high time – right now – for us to dare the supreme court to strike even more of them down."

Maybe if we double-dare the U.S. Supreme Court it will back down from ever disenfranchising Americans again because the five GOP justices really care what the American people think, and they cherish civil rights.

Mar 23, 2014

Federal Intervention to Protect Voting in Wisconsin

Bending Toward Justice, The Voting Rights Act
and the Transformation of American
Democracy (Gary May. Basic Books; 2013)
Wisconsin Republicans facing demographic changes open new fronts in their war to determine who gets to vote

Updated—Alabama, Arizona and Kansas moved ahead with a new qualification for voters—"concrete proof of citizenship," representing an escalation of the Republican Party's efforts to obstruct American voters.

As other Republican state efforts to obstruct voters continue, the federal response is being contemplated as the formal structures of this democracy are under assault at the state level by one political party. Wisconsin is leading the way.

The Republican voter obstruction effort is a years-long project to stop as many non-GOP voters as possible from voting, and the battleground is the states where Republicans have control of both the legislature and governor's office.

In February 2012, attorney Ernest A. Canning argued for U.S. Dept. of Justice intervention in Wisconsin based on Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, referring to a legal challenge to Wisconsin's photo voter ID law.

The case is League of United Latin American Citizens of Wisconsin v. Deininger (Case 2:12-cv-00185), now under deliberation after a November 2013 trial that saw a mountain of social scientific evidence of discrimination presented against Wisconsin Act 23, a restrictive photo voter ID law. See also Frank v. Walker, (Case 11cv1128), a case held at trial with League.

An observer said the trial was a rout for pro-voting rights advocates, the consensus opinion.

Judge Richard Posner, who wrote the opinion for the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board later affirmed by the Supreme Court in 2008, said in October last year that the judiciary requires "data" and "empirical evidence," both in adjudication and on the consequences of its decisions and opinions.

"I plead guilty to having written the majority opinion (affirmed by the Supreme Court) upholding Indiana’s requirement that prospective voters prove their identity with a photo ID—a type of law now widely regarded as a means of voter suppression rather than of fraud prevention," said Posner.

This evidence is now available, especially from the Wisconsin trial, and it suggests a crisis of democracy demanding both a judicial and federal executive branch response.

"The credible evidence convincingly proved that Act 23 will impose harsh and widespread burdens on voters. Virtually all of the factual testimony - of Plaintiffs, other voters, non-parties who provide assistance to voters, as well as Defendants and state employees called adversely by  Plaintiffs - went essentially unchallenged by Defendants. All this evidence compels one conclusion:  Act 23 violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act ("VRA"), 42 U.S.C. 1973, and the Fourteenth and Twenty -Fourth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, and must be enjoined," reads a Frank v. Walker Post-trial brief challenging Wisconsin Voter ID Law. Act 23—passed with unanimous GOP support, unanimous Democratic opposition and unanimous opposition from civil rights and voting rights citizen groups.

The GOP's effort to hold down minority voting participation is the "largest legislative effort to roll back voting rights since the post-Reconstruction era," as characterized by Judith Browne Dianis, a civil rights litigator at The Advancement Project.

On March 19, 2014, a "federal court decided Kobach v. United States Election Assistance Commission. The upshot of this opinion, if it stands on appeal, is that states with Republican legislatures and/or Republican chief election officials are likely to require documentary proof of citizenship," reports Rick Hasen.

That case looks weak. But with Federalist Society jurists sprinkled throughout the judiciary, who can say?

On the state level Wisconsin and Ohio are another front of the war on voting.

Since 2011, "Scott Walker and his right-wing Wisconsin GOP legislative lieutenants - - for the second time since their ascendancy in 2011- - have passed legislation to cut the hours of in-person absentee voting," reports Jim Rowen. "The desired outcome - - abetted by the GOP-initiated Voter ID statute - - is to tilt elections and embed GOP power by obstructing ballot-box access in cities with large populations of minority, transit-dependent, Democratic-leaning voters. This coordinated, one-party manipulation of state power for partisan and constituencies' advantage should be slapped down hard and overturned without equivocation by state courts to ensure unobstructed voting in Wisconsin."

Rowen, civil rights activists and citizens are calling for federal Voting Rights oversight to protect Wisconsin voters against the Republican political power structure aiming to determine who is able to vote in Wisconsin through a raft of legislation that appears unlawful under both the federal and Wisconsin constitutions.

Voting Rights Act Fix

In Congress, legislation is being considered that appears to prohibit the Voting Rights Act from being used against state voter obstruction laws such as Wisconsin's photo voter ID and other anti-voting laws.

Ironically, this legislation is meant to repair the Voting Rights Act, gutted by the Supreme Court.

The Voting Rights Act (VRA) legislation, like the judicial and executive response, should single out and challenge state efforts using IDs as a tool to determine who gets to vote.

"The Voting Rights Act itself has been called the single most effective piece of civil rights legislation ever passed by Congress," reads the U.S. Dept. of Justice site.

This is precisely why five GOP justices targeted the VRA in Shelby v. Holder, despite as Judge Posner would note today, an extensive empirical record.

Writes Justice Ginsburg in dissent:
In the long course of the legislative process, Congress 'amassed a sizable record.' Northwest Austin Municipal Util. Dist. No. One v. Holder, 557 U. S. 193, 205 (2009) . See also 679 F. 3d 848, 865–873 (CADC 2012) (describing the “extensive record” supporting Congress’ determination that “serious and widespread intentional discrimination persisted in covered jurisdictions”). The House and Senate Judiciary Committees held 21 hearings, heard from scores of witnesses, received a number of investigative reports and other written documentation of continuing discrimination in covered jurisdictions. In all, the legislative record Congress compiled filled more than 15,000 pages. H. R. Rep. 109–478, at 5, 11–12; S. Rep. 109–295, at 2–4,15. The compilation presents countless “examples of flagrant racial discrimination” since the last reauthorization; Congress also brought to light systematic evidence that “intentional racial discrimination in voting remains so serious and widespread in covered jurisdictions that section 5 preclearance is still needed.” 679 F. 3d, at 866.
Scott Walker and the Republicans never campaigned on it, and Wisconsin is inflicted by an underground political movement that has seized Wisconsin government and is attempting to disenfranchise the people who comprise the state.

The U.S. Dept. of Justice must step in to protect the rights of the Wisconsin people as guaranteed in the Fourteenth, Fifteenth and Twenty-Fourth Amendments to the United States Constitution, and pursuant to Section Two of the Voting Rights Act: Enforce the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

Jan 18, 2014

Voter ID Laws Are GOP Weapons Protected in the Voting Rights Act Amendment

Stop voting and quit trying to pass your
selves off as real Americans, says GOP.
Get the message.
Update: North Carolina NAACP Blasts VRA Amendment - "A preliminary examination of the proposed provisions of this legislation convinces us that it falls woefully short of what is needed to protect all people from race-based efforts to curtail the voting potential of people of color."

From Talking Points Memo comes a link to a study on GOP Voter Obstruction that, to borrow from the late Stephen Jay Gould, establishes the fact of Repulbican Party voter obstruction "so overwhelmingly supported by the evidence that it would be perverse to withhold provisional assent."

Notes Tova Andrea Wang:
Important new empirical research published in December in the journal Perspectives on Politics by Keith G. Bentele and Erin E. Obrien at the University of Massachusetts-Boston, however, shines a bright light on just how crass this effort has been and how clear the motives of the Republican state lawmakers have been in proposing and passing laws that would deny eligible citizens the right to vote.

See Jim Crow 2.0? Why States Consider and Adopt Restrictive Voter Access Policies by
Keith G. Bentelea and Erin E. O'Briena.

This suggests that the new Voting Rights Act Amendment ought not protect states' restrictive voter ID laws, as the proposed Amendment does now, sneaked into the act by Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-White People).

Rational policy making from Washington is rare, fraudulent action by Sensenbrenner is common.

Abstract - from Bentelea and O'Briena:
Recent years have seen a dramatic increase in state legislation likely to reduce access for some voters, including photo identification and proof of citizenship requirements, registration restrictions, absentee ballot voting restrictions, and reductions in early voting. Political operatives often ascribe malicious motives when their opponents either endorse or oppose such legislation. In an effort to bring empirical clarity and epistemological standards to what has been a deeply-charged, partisan, and frequently anecdotal debate, we use multiple specialized regression approaches to examine factors associated with both the proposal and adoption of restrictive voter access legislation from 2006–2011. Our results indicate that proposal and passage are highly partisan, strategic, and racialized affairs. These findings are consistent with a scenario in which the targeted demobilization of minority voters and African Americans is a central driver of recent legislative developments. We discuss the implications of these results for current partisan and legal debates regarding voter restrictions and our understanding of the conditions incentivizing modern suppression efforts. Further, we situate these policies within developments in social welfare and criminal justice policy that collectively reduce electoral access among the socially marginalized.
After the GOP retook the Wisconsin legislature in 2010, one of the Party’s first bills introduced in 2011 is the photo ID bill that would "mean folks without driver’s licenses – disproportionately poor, minority, or elderly, would not be able to vote." (Neil Heinen, WISC TV)

Wisconsin is not alone, and voter obstruction laws have only increased since Wisconsin's voter obstruction operative, Reince Priebus, took over as the RNC National Chair in 2011.

Jan 17, 2014

Voting Rights Amendment Act Should Be Renamed the Voter ID Obstruction Protection Act

Update II:The exemption for voter ID laws was written to win the support of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and other Republicans. The legislation strengthens Section 3 of the VRA, which has been described as the Act’s “secret weapon.” Under Section 3, jurisdictions not covered by Section 4 could be 'bailed-in' to federal supervision, but plaintiffs had to show evidence of intentional voting discrimination, which is very difficult to do in court. Under the new Section 3 proposal, any violation of the VRA or federal voting rights law – whether intentional or not – can be grounds for a bail-in, which will make it far easier to cover new states. One major caveat, again, is that court objections to voter ID laws cannot be used as grounds for “bail-in”under Section 3.) - Sharon McClosky in The Progressive Pulse.

The legislation strengthens Section 3 of the VRA, which has been described as the Act’s “secret weapon.” Under Section 3, jurisdictions not covered by Section 4 could be “bailed-in” to federal supervision, but plaintiffs had to show evidence of intentional voting discrimination, which is very difficult to do in court. Under the new Section 3 proposal, any violation of the VRA or federal voting rights law – whether intentional or not – can be grounds for a bail-in, which will make it far easier to cover new states. (One major caveat, again, is that court objections to voter ID laws cannot be used as grounds for “bail-in” under Section 3.)
This exemption for voter ID laws was written to win the support of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and other Republicans. - See more at:
This exemption for voter ID laws was written to win the support of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and other Republicans. - See more at:

Update: That the idiot caucus in the GOP hates the bill is no cause for support for this codification of the GOP's voter ID obstruction project, a project that has yielded results.

The return of the Voting Rights Act? Try the championing of state Voter ID laws, the go-to voter obstructionist tool of the Republican party.
Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014: Section 3(c) of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (42 U.S.C. 1973a(c)) is amended by striking ‘‘violations of the fourteenth or fifteenth amendment’’ and inserting ‘‘violations of the 14th or 15th Amendment; violations of this Act (other than a violation of section 2(a) which is based on the imposition of a requirement that an individual provide a photo identification as a condition of receiving a ballot for voting in an election for Federal, State, or local office) ... ."

The Voting Rights Amendment Act (H.R.3899) should be renamed the Voter ID Obstruction Protection Act, which is why Rep. Sensenbrenner when he introduced the bill January 15, he made sure to note the legislation includes "provisions that continue to permit states to enact reasonable photo identification laws" in an act that would pit Sections of the Act against in each other.

From Sensenbrenner's website:
Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014
Section by Section Description of VRA Draft Legislation
Section 2.
Violations Triggering Authority Of Court To Retain Jurisdiction
Provides that a court can “bail-in” a State or political subdivision based on a discriminatory result by amending Section 3(c) of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) to include violations of Section 2 of the VRA and violations of any Federal voting rights law that prohibits voting discrimination against racial and language minorities.It carves out from the new standard Section 2(a) cases that are based on a photo identification on requirement
Well, at least Sensenbrenner did not say "common sense" measures to obstruct voters this time, a tiresome phrase used by Scott Walker too often for my taste.

H.R.3899 is a terrible bill.

This is because HR 3899 crafts language of the section 4 formula of the Voting Rights
Act (VRA) narrowly, specifying as Ari Berman points out that only states "with five violations of federal law to their voting changes over the past fifteen years will have to submit future election changes for federal approval."

Resurrecting Section 5 with an extraordinarily weak formula in Section Four is tantamount to getting raped five times before getting treatment, support and help from law enforcement, a terrible joke of the VRA, though the D.C. commetariat quietly applauds this bipartisan exercise in codifying state photo voter ID laws.

Should this bill be passed, one of Wisconsin's two federal consolidated challenges to the GOP-crafted Wisconsin Act 23, the photo voter id law is imperiled if the Voting Rights Amendment Act (H.R.3899) (2014) were to become law. The trial is now under submission to Judge William M. Conley, Western District of Wisconsin.

Maybe the Wisconsin case will make past the five GOP justices on the U.S. supreme court when it gets there.

Judge William M. Conley, who heard Frank v. Walker, (Case 11cv1128) and
League of United Latin American Citizens of Wisconsin v. Deininger (Case 2:12-cv-00185) in Wisconsin in a consolidated trial in November 2013 is taking the cases under submission (research, consideration and an intellectual enterprise to arrive at an order and opinion) that will involve a massive judicial undertaking.
In the Wisconsin League case, which is the first case to use Section 2 since Shelby County v. Holder, civil rights plaintiffs argues "The evidence conclusively demonstrates that the burdens of Act 23 fall disproportionately on voters of color. Two different expert studies introduced at trial, using two different sound methodologies, confirm Act 23’s substantial racially disproportionate impacts. As plaintiffs’ expert Leland Beatty concluded, 'Wisconsin minority voters are at a substantial disadvantage under Wisconsin’s voter ID law, and ... the effect of that law imprints an unavoidable disparate impact on minority election participation.'"

Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act in the League case may not find relief from the new Voting Rights Amendment Act (H.R.3899) which in the words of Sensenbrenner, "includes strong, nationwide anti-discrimination protections and continues to permit states to enact reasonable voter-ID laws."
Rep. John Conyers (D-Michican) and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vermount) demonstrate again why politicians fail to understand that when 100,000s of citizens are obstructed from voting, and their new legislation does nothing to prevent this, they may have been living the high life a bit too long.

"Our sole focus throughout this entire process was to ensure that no American would be denied his or her constitutional right to vote because of discrimination on the basis of race or color," Patirck Leahy said in a statement, cited by Steve Benen and many others across the nation, all of whom ignore the plain language of HR 3899 enshrining state Photo Voter ID laws: "other than a violation of section 2(a) which is based on the imposition of a requirement that an individual provide a photo identification as a condition of receiving a ballot for voting in an election for Federal, State, or local office."

As Derick T. Dingle writes, "Legal scholars found the voter ID provision as a gaping hole in the law (HR 3899), avoiding one of the major voter suppression issues of the day."

On the up side, the League challenge is an "as-applied" challenge as opposed to the "facial" challenge in the Crawford vs. Marion County Board of Elections, as noted by Earnest A. Canning in the Brad Blog.

The problem is Section 2 is not much help to the Wisconsin case if the Voting Rights Amendment Act (H.R.3899) permits state photo voter ID laws, the favorite voter obstruction tool of the Republicans, as the case winds its way through a hostile GOP-heavy, federal judiciary.

The other federal Wisconsin challenge to the GOP voter obstruction Act makes Constitutional Equal Protection, Twenty-Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment arguments, irrespective of the Voting Rights Act.

Under Scott Walker, "Wisconsin has long been recognized as the Selma of the North and this case illustrates just why the Midwestern state bears this harrowing distinction,” said James Eichner, Managing Director for Programs, Advancement Project. “Wisconsin’s discriminatory voter ID law is virtually indistinguishable from Jim Crow laws of earlier eras which required poll taxes, property requirements, literacy tests and other contrived, racist measures designed to prevent African Americans from voting."

Walker is getting some company from Democratic congressmen. 

Dec 9, 2013

Voting Rights Act Fix Stalled by GOP

I had a report of Rep. James Sensenbrenner meeting with a representative of the NAACP last month in an effort to fix the Voting Rights Act (VRA) that had been eviscerated by the Supreme Court's Shelby County v. Holder decision.

A new report by Emily Wilkins in the Dallas Morning News says an initiative by the Congressional Black Caucus is stalled by the GOP leadership.

So, why the silence from Sensenbrenner who styles himself (falsely) a champion of the VRA?

Because when it comes to a choice between GOP voter obstruction and voting rights, Sensenbrenner takes the voter obstruction every time.

Go ahead Sensenbrenner, prove me wrong and wage war with the House leadership over the VRA.

Aug 5, 2013

If Sensenbrenner's Serious, Let Him Challenge GOP

James Sensenbrenner - Protector of
Republican Voter Obstruction
Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-White Folks in Milwaukee Suburbs) says he ever so serious about protecting the right to vote, raising the question why in his latest column in USA Today does Sensenbrenner fail to mention the words "Republican," "racism" and "voter obstruction."

Sensenbrenner need look no further than his own state of Wisconsin and his own party (the Republican Party) to see the insidious voter obstruction efforts, Act 23, while he roars out his "commitment to never again permit racial prejudices in our electoral process."

The Republican-crafted photo voter ID law is designed to obstruct African Americans in Milwaukee County (where Sensenbrenner resides).

Hey Sensenbrenner, about that racial prejudice you like to BS about, what do you think of the Wisconsin GOP booth at the Wisconsin State Fair?

Bet you're going to cut your August vaca short; get on national TV and demand that your home state Party stops behaving like a bunch of Klansman.

Aug 2, 2013

Democratic Party Vows to Protect Right to Vote Against GOP Obstruction

Jimmy Lee Jackson was beaten, shot
and killed by racist police while shielding his
mother and father in 1965 during the
historic voting rights movement
Objective commentators note the Republican Party's grand appeal to racism in the 2012 election signaled a crossroads for the White Party.

Conventional political wisdom had it that ginning up white working class resentment against anybody black or brown ["dark ones"] could be attempted just one more time before changing American demographics of skin color forced a change in racist appeals and the Republican voter obstruction project launched jointly by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the GOP.

In 2013 Republicans made a few squeaks about being inclusive, and then proceeded to double-down on obstructing voters across the country.

This is the route the Republican Party has now chosen, and its course is set.

There are no more junctions, crossroads or turning back on this road of voter obstruction.

The lives of the struggle, the beaten, maimed and the murdered have been gist for mocking in GOP circles for decades now, with open GOP admiration for fascism and racism. It shouldn't be a surprise the GOP would engage in voter obstruction but it is anyway to many.

The contemptible history of mass murder and terrorism against civil rights workers echoes like a psychic anxiety spasm that the Scott Walkers and Rand Pauls will never understand because they and their Party are the perpetrators of voter obstruction and racist appeals today; besides bringing up civil rights murders just is not an effective PR message.

The golden age of NYT journalism covered the
terror campaign waged against the
civil rights movement of the 1960s
The new brand of the Republican Party are not history students anyway; they're after power and everyone in the GOP has their hands out to the Koch brothers and right-wing money, with no dissent tolerated even as the GOP takes the road to political nullification of the population way beyond blocking access to the ballot.

The Democratic Party is accelerating efforts to highlight the difference between the GOP that wants to obstruct and nullify voters and the Democratic Party working to empower and include.

Witness multi-generational voting rights markers laid by Steve and Cokie Roberts; Attorney General Eric Holder's repeated public statements affirming the right to vote; and President Obama's assurance to civil rights workers that the "federal government would vigorously enforce voting rights in the country despite a Supreme Court [five-to-four] ruling against a core section of a landmark 1965 [Voting Rights] law." (Calmes. NYT)

Republicans did not count on or perhaps did not care about the fact that black and brown folks would not appreciate losing the hard-won right to vote, especially in the wake of the GOP gutting of the Voting Rights Act after the reelection of the first black U.S. president.

Racist murders altered an American
president and the country forever
The Democratic Party is taking the high road of democracy as America simultaneously presents a historically diverse population against the greatest concentration of wealth this experiment in democracy has ever seen.

Amid this battle of democracy against vast wealth, the echoes of those murdered martyrs of the civil rights family live on, and so does the pain.

For Republicans, avoiding this history and denying contemporary voter obstruction, in the words of voting rights poseur Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisconsin), is just "common sense."

He's wrong. Rep. John Lewis (D-Georgia) is right.

Below is the statement of John Lewis on June 25, 2013, the day the U.S. Supreme Court did the unthinkable in striking down the Voting Rights Act:
"Today, the Supreme Court stuck a dagger into the heart of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, one of the most effective pieces of legislation Congress has passed in the last 50 years.

These men never stood in unmovable lines.  They were never denied the right to participate in the democratic process.  They were never beaten, jailed, run off their farms or fired from their jobs. No one they knew died simply trying to register to vote.  They are not the victims of gerrymandering or contemporary unjust schemes to maneuver them out of their constitutional rights.

I remember in the 1960s when people of color were the majority in the small town of Tuskegee, Alabama.  To insure that a black person would not be elected, the state gerrymandered Tuskegee Institute and the black sections of town so they fell outside the city limits.  This reminds me too much of a case  that occurred in Randolph County in my own state of Georgia, when the first black man was elected to the board of education in 2002.  The county legislature changed his district so he would not be re-elected.

I disagree with the court that the history of discrimination is somehow irrelevant today.  The record clearly demonstrates numerous attempts to impede voting rights still exist, and it does not matter that those attempts are not as “pervasive, widespread or rampant” as they were in 1965.  One instance of discrimination is too much in a democracy.

As Justice Ginsberg mentioned, it took a Bloody Sunday for Congress to finally decide to fix on-going, institutionalized discrimination that occurred for 100 years after the rights of freed slaves were nullified at the end of the Civil War.  I am deeply concerned that Congress will not have the will to fix what the Supreme Court has broken.   I call upon the members of this body to do what is right to insure free and fair access to the ballot box in this country."

Jul 25, 2013

AG Holder Vows to Use Section 3 of Voting Rights Act to Fight Racist Laws

Voting rights fight lives on as Eric Holder vows: "[W]e plan ... to fully
utilize the law’s remaining sections to ensure that the
voting rights of all American citizens are protected."
"Last month, the United States Supreme Court issued a deeply disappointing – and flawed – decision that struck down a key part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 – the cornerstone of modern civil rights law.
 - Attorney General Eric Holder, Thursday, July 25, 2013

Republicans really hate the Voting Rights Act.

The sight of black and browns standing in line to vote on election day is hateful to the GOP mind.

So, in June Republicans were happy when their GOP colleagues on the US Supreme Court declared Section 4(b) (the coverage formula) in Shelby County v. Holder unconstitutional.

Well, it turns out Section 3 of the Voting Rights Act still lives. And it is independent of Section 4.

And the Attorney General of United State made clear today that this administration "recognize(s) – as you do, and as Dr. King reminded us, on that summer day 50 years ago – that 'we can never be satisfied . . . until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.'"

As the US DoJ writes in its Voting News:

Shelby County does not affect Section 3(c) of the Voting Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. 1973a(c). Jurisdictions covered by a preclearance requirement pursuant to court orders under Section 3(c), remain subject to the terms of those court orders.

So, whatever the GOP is up to on reauthorization of section 4(b) in Congress, the US Dept of Justice is moving forward on enforcing the Voting Rights Act. (Perez, et al v. Texas, et al (No. 5:11-cv-360))
Here is a link to AG Holder's remarks today at the National Urban League Annual Conference on July 25. Text is below.

Attorney General Eric Holder Delivers Remarks at the National Urban League Annual Conference
~ Thursday, July 25, 2013
Thank you, Marc [Morial], for those kind words – and thank you all for such a warm welcome.  It’s a privilege to join every member of the National Urban League, both in this room and far beyond it, in renewing our shared commitment to the cause of equality. I’d particularly like to recognize my good friend Maudine Cooper, President and CEO of the Greater Washington Urban League, who is retiring this year after more than two decades of service to the Urban League movement.  Thank you for your contributions Maudine and your unwavering support.  It’s an honor to stand alongside you and your colleagues this week as we continue the fight for social and economic justice – and carry forward the legacy of progress and achievement that has defined this organization for more than a century.

Since your founders first came together – in 1910, in my hometown of New York City – to combat discrimination and segregation in every sector of society, the National Urban League has distinguished itself through principled advocacy.  In the era of Jim Crow and “separate but equal,” your members and leaders provided assistance and inspiration to citizens of every age, race, background, and walk of life. They helped to build the strength of the Civil Rights Movement, to rally generations to the cause of equality, and to realize the enduring promise of the American dream.

As we come together in Philadelphia today, the National Urban League continues to remind leaders, organizers, and advocates across America that – in the work of building a more perfect Union – each of us has an essential role to play.  And you’re showing that we all have important responsibilities to fulfill.
This is particularly evident this year, as we assemble for your Annual Conference in the city where our Republic was born; in a moment of both challenge and opportunity; during a summer defined by historic milestones. Next month, our nation will mark the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom – which this organization helped to facilitate – when the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stood before a quarter million civil rights supporters, shared his audacious dream with all the world, and called his fellow citizens to the pursuit of a truth first articulated in a colonial meeting hall not far from where we gather today – the notion that all are created equal and deserving of equal opportunity and treatment.
This is the ideal that has shaped this organization, and guided our country’s steps forward, through the turbulent events of the last century. And it’s the uniquely American principle that has led us to attain once-unimaginable progress over the years – in expanding economic opportunity, overturning legal discrimination, and attempting to  ensure access to the ballot box for every eligible citizen.

There’s no question that we have much to be proud of, and encouraged by, as we meet to celebrate the acts of courage and selflessness that have led the National Urban League to this moment. But there’s also no denying that your work – our work – is anything but complete.  Our journey is not yet over.  And today, despite all that you’ve helped to accomplish, our important struggle must go on.

Last month, the United States Supreme Court issued a deeply disappointing – and flawed – decision that struck down a key part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 – the cornerstone of modern civil rights law. This landmark protection – which was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson, and was reauthorized by overwhelming, bipartisan Congressional majorities as recently as 2006 – included a provision that allowed the Justice Department to take action against any covered jurisdiction that adopted voting rules or procedures with either a discriminatory purpose or effect.
For nearly five decades, this requirement – called “preclearance” – served as a potent tool for addressing inequities in our election systems.  Although preclearance originated during the Civil Rights Movement – and was informed by a history of discrimination – the conduct that it was intended to address continues to this day.  Preclearance has proven to be an effective mechanism that puts on hold any new voting changes until they have been subjected to a fair, and thorough, review. This process regularly resulted in approvals for impartial voting changes.  But it also allowed the Justice Department to work with covered jurisdictions to address problems wherever they occurred – protecting the ability of all eligible citizens to participate in the process of self-governance.

In fact, just last year, a federal court noted the “vital function” the Voting Rights Act played in protecting African American voters who would have been disproportionately impacted by a photo ID law in South Carolina.  It prompted the state to change the way its new voting statute will be implemented in future elections to eliminate what would have been a dramatic discriminatory effect.  Another court cited the Voting Rights Act in blocking a Texas congressional redistricting map that would have discriminated against Latino voters. And in that ruling, the court noted that the parties “provided more evidence of discriminatory intent than we have space, or need, to address here.”

As these and many other cases demonstrate; as too many voters have seen firsthand; and as every member of the Supreme Court acknowledged in the Shelby decision – in the words of the Chief Justice: “voting discrimination still exists: no one doubts that.” Although mandated by the Constitution, voting rights are not always guaranteed – in practice – without robust enforcement.  That’s why, despite the Court’s decision, I believe we must regard this setback not as a defeat, but as an historic opportunity:  for Congress to restore, and even to strengthen, modern voting protections.

After all, this has never been a partisan issue.  Every reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act was signed into law by a Republican president.  It’s a question of our values as a nation. It goes to the heart of who we are as a people.  And it’s incumbent upon Congressional leaders from both parties to guarantee that every eligible American will always have equal access to the polls; to ensure that we will never turn our back on the hard-won progress of the last hundred years; and to consider new solutions that are equal to the challenges of the 21st century.
As this debate unfolds, it’s important for all Americans to note that – despite the Supreme Court’s flawed ruling – our voting rights remain fully intact.

It is the responsibility of every member of this organization – and every citizen of this country – to keep defending their rights by exercising them, by registering to vote, by going to the polls on Election Day, and by casting a ballot for their preferred candidates of any political party.  Never forget that an involved and concerned electorate can overcome any amount of money the special interests might spend in trying to shape our nation to suit their narrow vision.

And it is the duty of today’s Justice Department to continue monitoring jurisdictions around the country for changes that may hamper these voting rights.  To keep taking appropriately aggressive action against any jurisdiction that attempts to hinder free and fair access to the franchise. And to keep refining and re-focusing current enforcement efforts – while we work with Congress to craft stronger tools for protecting voting rights.

With these goals in mind, I have already directed the Department’s Civil Rights Division to shift resources to the enforcement of a number of federal voting laws not affected by the Supreme Court’s decision – including the remaining provisions of the Voting Rights Act, prohibiting voting discrimination based on race, color, or language.

And today I am announcing that the Justice Department will ask a federal court in Texas to subject the State of Texas to a preclearance regime similar to the one required by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. This request to “bail in” the state – and require it to obtain “pre-approval” from either the Department or a federal court before implementing future voting changes – is available under the Voting Rights Act when intentional voting discrimination is found.  Based on the evidence of intentional racial discrimination that was presented last year in the redistricting case, Texas v. Holder – as well as the history of pervasive voting-related discrimination against racial minorities that the Supreme Court itself has recognized – we believe that the State of Texas should be required to go through a preclearance process whenever it changes its voting laws and practices.

This is the Department’s first action to protect voting rights following the Shelby County decision, but it will not be our last.  Even as Congress considers updates to the Voting Rights Act in light of the Court’s ruling, we plan, in the meantime, to fully utilize the law’s remaining sections to ensure that the voting rights of all American citizens are protected. My colleagues and I are determined to use every tool at our disposal to stand against discrimination wherever it is found.  But let me be very clear:  these remaining tools are no substitute for legislation that must fill the void left by the Supreme Court’s decision.  This issue transcends partisanship, and we must work together.  We cannot allow the slow unraveling of the progress that so many, throughout history, have sacrificed so much to achieve. And, in our broader efforts, we will continue to look far beyond America’s ballot boxes – to our schools, military bases, and border areas; our immigrant communities, our criminal justice system, and even our workplaces – in order to advance the fight for equality and against injustice.

As the National Urban League understands better than most, this fight also extends to every segment of our workforce and every sector of our economy – because our country is strongest when every American has a fair shot at economic opportunity.  This is why the Justice Department is moving aggressively to guard against financial fraud, to ensure robust competition, and to hold accountable all those who would undermine the integrity of our housing and lending markets. It’s also why the Administration as a whole will continue to advance the priorities that President Obama laid out in Illinois yesterday afternoon – not just to create jobs in the near term, but to invest in our future – and build on the 40 straight months of economic growth we’ve seen.

Moving forward, we know that our success will depend upon our ability to grow our country’s economy not from the top down – but from the middle out. It will be predicated on the strength of a resurgent middle class – as more Americans gain access to educational and job opportunities, purchase homes they can call their own, begin to save for retirement, and experience the benefits of affordable health care when they need it.  As the President made clear, leaders from Congress, the Administration, and the private sector must work together to look beyond the challenges of the moment, to expand economic empowerment, to lay the groundwork for a brighter future, and – ultimately – to restore the American dream. The needs of the American people are great; the time for partisan gamesmanship is over.

Just as it always has been, the American dream is founded – today – on the fundamental promise of equal protection, and equal justice under law, for everyone in this country. And each of us must seize this moment to rededicate ourselves to the legacy that inspired the National Urban League’s founding – and which has driven the progress of the last century:  the long, and ongoing, struggle for civil rights.

I’m deeply proud of all that the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division has done to advance this struggle over the last four and a half years.  Since 2009, the Division has filed more criminal civil rights cases than at any other time in our history, including record numbers of police misconduct and human trafficking cases. Under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crime Prevention Act, which President Obama signed into law in 2009, we’ve improved our ability to hold accountable those who commit bias-motivated acts of violence.  We’ve worked, in a variety of ways, to strengthen the Department’s capacity to combat discrimination, bullying, and harassment – and to protect the most vulnerable members of society, our children, from violence and abuse. We remain determined, despite unnecessary setbacks, to pass commonsense measures to prevent and reduce the gun violence that afflicts too many communities, and steals too many promising futures, each day.  Under President Obama, we will continue to lead the effort to make our criminal justice system more fair. And we are committed to fighting alongside groups like this one, and our colleagues throughout the Administration, to achieve additional changes by enacting new legislation – including meaningful, comprehensive immigration reform.

Today, I want to assure you that – so long as I have the privilege of serving as Attorney General – this vital work will go on.  The enforcement of essential civil rights protections will remain a top priority for the United States Department of Justice. And we will continue to rely on the leadership, the partnership, and the steadfast dedication of passionate citizens like all of you – and extraordinary organizations like the National Urban League.

Over the last century – and in your contemporary efforts – this group has repeatedly proven the power of individual voices to inspire positive collective action.  As we keep moving forward, I believe we can all be confident in where your efforts will lead us. But I also recognize – as you do, and as Dr. King reminded us, on that summer day 50 years ago – that “we can never be satisfied . . . until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

This morning – as we gather just a few blocks from the hall where our Republic was born – we must recommit ourselves to the cause of justice.  We must join Dr. King in declaring that we, too, are far from satisfied and are still impatient. And we must pledge to honor his example – and the contributions of so many throughout our history – by protecting the progress they worked so hard to establish.  By carrying on their unfinished work.  And by striving, every day, to continue the long march toward equality, opportunity, and justice – along the trail that was blazed by our forebears, and the path that still stretches – beyond the horizon – to the Promised Land.

Thank you.  May God bless our journey.  And may God bless the United States of America.

Jul 18, 2013

Sensenbrenner Has Not Earned Trust on Voting Rights

Many are applauding Rep. James Sensenbrenner's (R-Wisconsin) work to restore the Voting Rights Act (VRA) that was gutted by five Supreme Court justices last month.

Sensenbrenner is presented as the equivalent of a modern-day John Doar, a man from Wisconsin who joined the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division in 1960, as noted in Gary May's important new book, Bending toward Justice, on the Voting Rights Act.

Sensenbrenner's efforts to repair the damage wrought by his GOP colleagues in the judiciary should not be accepted as genuine until Sensenbrenner acknowledges and calls for a reversal of his Party's war on voting, a crime against democracy committed at the state level.

And for that matter, he should condemn the social engineering that the five Supreme Court justices committed in Shelby County v. Holder.

Sensenbrenner's new Wisconsin colleague in the House, Mark Pocan (D-Madison), specifically called out Republicans in Wisconsin and other states as recently as yesterday.

Sensenbrenner should join Pocan.

Pocan has introduced a Constitutional amendment that would guarantee citizens' right to vote, protecting Americans against the ever-changing voter obstruction efforts now plaguing our nation, and committed by one political party—the Republican Party.

Pocan's amendment would also change the balance of power -- by altering the legal calculus for showing voters' rights are violated -- in favor of voters. As Pocan said, "There is no explicit right to vote in the Constitution. If we had an explicit right to vote, any state that passes a law that makes it harder to vote would have to prove that they’re not harming someone’s ability to vote rather than the opposite. Right now a person has to prove that they’ve been harmed by a state law. And it really changes the burden of proof on those states that pass these laws that really make it harder for people to vote."

Sensenbrenner refuses to join Pocan, both in condemning voter obstruction at the state level, and in refusing to support Pocan's proposed Right-to-Vote constitutional amendment

Instead, Sensenbrenner 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).

Common sense.

What Sensenbrenner is pursuing is a cynical inside/out con game in which Sensenbrenner takes no political risks in seeking to repair the eviscerated Voting Rights Act, while supporting Republican voter obstruction efforts on the state level.

In the last 60 years people have given their very lives in pursuit of this dream of voting in a democracy, culminating finally in the 1965 Voting Rights Act. As Gary May writes:

The signing into law of the 1965 Voting Rights Act was the culmination of a struggle almost one hundred years in the making. Prior to Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, only five states—all in New England—allowed black men to vote, and when New York joined their ranks, it required that they own property.
It is not asking much of Sensenbrenner to demand of his own party that it stop its shameful voter obstruction efforts.

Sensenbrenner should read Bending toward Justice. He might be shamed into acting.

Jun 27, 2013

Don't Trust Sensenbrenner and GOP on Voting Rights

Selma to Montgomery - A fading memory as James
 Sensenbrenner and GOP smirk at those beaten and killed
The idea that the Court's demolition of the VRA has transformed the GOP into caring about voting rights is ludicrous.

Don't be fooled by James Sensenbrenner and the Republican Party.

Some Republicans are crying crocodile tears over the gutting of the Voting Rights Act by their allies on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Sensenbrenner (R-Wisconsin) and the Republicans could not care any less that minorities, college kids and homeless veterans are prevented from voting by GOP voter obstruction laws

Asked in April 2011 why Rep. James Sensenbrenner, a self-proclaimed voting rights supporter, didn't speak out against current GOP-passed laws in states [like Wisconsin and its restrictive Voter ID law] enshrining voter obstruction, Sensenbrenner's office's response was: "I don’t have a comment for you on this, as it [Wisconsin's Voter ID ] is a state law. But you are correct in pointing out that he was responsible for getting the VRA [Voting Rights Act] reauthorization passed through Congress in 2006 when he was Chair of the House Judiciary Committee."

The Voting Rights Act was constructed and passed precisely to stop local and state laws from obstructing voters, but Sensenbrenner's office claims the good Congressman cannot comment because Voter ID is a state law.

For the GOP, it's the Grand Ole Party first. And Americans' voting rights are in the way of the Party.

The take-away from this is that Sensenbrenner is a phony.

In the future, the GOP will likely engage in a shell game pretending to care about voting rights while they use some newly proposed version of the Voting Rights Act to tyr to enact voter obstruction legislation nationally and get as many Democrats as possible to absolve the Republicans of their crimes against democracy in the GOP's voter obstruction project.

Sensenbrenner and some other Republicans say they love the VRA, but like Sensenbrenner toe 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 Sensenbrenner's office said he cannot comment on state laws from which the VRA protects Americans' right to vote.

You really trust these people? Voter obstruction is common sense to the GOP.

When presented with evidence of massive voter disfranchisement through voter ID  (as occurred in the legislative committee hearings in Wisconsin), the GOP has no comment.

Ahhh, voter ID is common sense.

Yes, well what about people being denied their right to vote" Voter ID is common sense.

Fortunately, we still have Section Two of the Voting Rights Act on the books.

Section Two reads in part:

- Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 prohibits voting practices or procedures that discriminate on the basis of race, color, or membership in one of the language minority groups identified in Section 4(f)(2) of the Act. Most of the cases arising under Section 2 since its enactment involved challenges to at-large election schemes, but the section's prohibition against discrimination in voting applies nationwide to any voting standard, practice, or procedure that results in the denial or abridgement of the right of any citizen to vote on account of race, color, or membership in a language minority group. Section 2 is permanent and has no expiration date as do certain other provisions of the Voting Rights Act.
But suppose the DoJ begins employing Section Two widely; see how enthusiastic Sensenbrenner and the Republicans support the VRA at that point.

Jun 25, 2013

Obama Says He is Deeply Disappointed as GOP Justices Gut Voting Rights Act

Statement by the President on the Supreme Court Ruling on Shelby County v. Holder

I am deeply disappointed with the Supreme Court’s decision today. For nearly 50 years, the Voting Rights Act – enacted and repeatedly renewed by wide bipartisan majorities in Congress – has helped secure the right to vote for millions of Americans. Today’s decision invalidating one of its core provisions upsets decades of well-established practices that help make sure voting is fair, especially in places where voting discrimination has been historically prevalent.

As a nation, we’ve made a great deal of progress towards guaranteeing every American the right to vote. But, as the Supreme Court recognized, voting discrimination still exists. And while today’s decision is a setback, it doesn’t represent the end of our efforts to end voting discrimination. I am calling on Congress to pass legislation to ensure every American has equal access to the polls. My Administration will continue to do everything in its power to ensure a fair and equal voting process.

Jun 1, 2013

Beginning June 3, Supreme Court Will Decide Fate of Civil Rights, Affirmative Action, Voting rights, and Same-sex marriage

Will these five Justices on the left rule for equal protection,
with justice for all against the four of the right?
Update: No landmark decisions on major civil rights cases today; wait until next Monday, June 10. All decisions should be in by June 31.

Update: Waiting ... see

Americans with access to an Internet ought to check the site: SCOTUS at 8:00 A.M., Monday, June 3.

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

Check at 8:00 A.M., Monday at Live blog of orders and opinions (sponsored by Bloomberg Law).

Racism and bigotry v. Civil Rights

The next several weeks (possible beginning this Monday) will see whether civil rights for minorities are protected in four major political cases. (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.

The Court will likely issue landmark rulings (but perhaps go narrow) as the culmination of (and in some cases the civil rights community's legal response to) to the Republican Party's work to disenfranchise gays from getting married; halt efforts that help minorities get a college education; and stop minorities from voting—all long-term GOP policy objectives.

Sometimes justices vote and join an opinion with which she disagrees out a political motive.

The Court is expected to recess at the end of June or early July.

May 20, 2013

Nation Awaits Supreme Court Decision on Major Civil Rights Cases

Racism and bigotry v. Civil Rights

The next several weeks will see whether civil rights for minorities are protected in four major political cases. (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.

The Court will likely issue landmark rulings as the culmination (and in some cases the civil rights community's legal response) of the Republican Party's work to disenfranchise gays from getting married; halt efforts that help minorities get a college education; and stop minorities from voting—all long-term GOP policy objectives.

The Court is expected to recess at the end of June or early July.

Mar 6, 2013

Another GOP effort to stop voters

Too many blacks and other non-desirables
are voting, says GOP --- today!
Wisconsin is not alone in the Republican Party's project to halt voters from voting.

Across the nation the Republican Party has introduced some 180 bills just since 2011 intended to stop Americans from voting the last eight years in states where the GOP has gerrymandered control.

As the Brennan Center notes, "In 2011 and 2012, 19 states passed more than two-dozen measures that would have effectively made it harder to vote, the biggest rollback in voting rights since the Jim Crow era. These measures included voter ID laws, early-voting cutbacks, and curbs on community-based voter registration drives ... ."

The GOP and Tea Party implausibly claim non-existant voter fraud necessitates their obstuction schemes.

As has been increasingly noted now by legal observers, the Voting Rights Act also gives the federal courts the power to add to the jurisdictions now covered by Section Five mandating federal DoJ preclearance.

The motivation behind the GOP effort to invalidate the Voting Rights Act (VRA) is clear: On the state level, enact as many schemes as possible to stop voters; on the federal level in the Courts take the teeth out of the very federal law that stops the Republican Party from enacting such state voter-obstruction schemes.

"This upcoming legal battle unfolds against the backdrop of the recent struggle over voting rights — and in the wake of a clear demonstration of the vital need for strong laws to protect democracy," write Wendy R. Weiser and Diana Kasdan.

Democracy would sure be easier for the Republican Party without those pesky American voters.

In Wisconsin, Mike Tighe has a piece from westcentral Wisconsin on Scott Walker and the Wisconsin GOP's latest effort attempt to keep people from the polls.

And it's not just voting, the atavistic states rights movement is making a comeback in states controlled by the Republican Party, in part because of that autocratic effort of President Obama to expand Medicaid and provide healthcare to millions of more Americans.

Such tyranny.

As for the U.S. Supreme Court overturning the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder, Justice Scalia's asinine comments about racial entitltlements" aside, Myrna Pérez predicts a possible deference to Congress in the Shelby County case on the Voting Rights Act.

Notes Pérez:

Although it is true several of the Justices expressed skepticism [in oral arguments] that the coverage formula targeted all of the worst offenders of the VRA, similar concerns cropped up during the oral argument four years ago in NAMUDNO (Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District No. 1 v. Holder (NAMUDNO)) [2009]. Justice Anthony Kennedy, whose vote might be determinative, asked approximately the same number of questions to supporters of the Voting Rights Act in NAMUDNO as he did on Wednesday. And the tone of the questioning in NAMUDNO was similarly, if not more, hostile to the VRA. ...

Ultimately, the question comes down to one of deference to Congress. The 15th Amendment of the Constitution makes clear that it is Congress’ job to determine where racial discrimination deeply infects our electoral processes, not Shelby County’s or the Court’s. It is certainly the Court’s job to evaluate whether Congress did its job appropriately, but the Constitution does not require that Congress have been perfect in its determination, and importantly, Congress devised workable mechanisms through the VRA’s bail-out and bail-in provisions to account for instances in which Congress’ determination was off base, or no longer applicable. The compelling evidentiary record of modern-day need, made even more pronounced by the recent wave of restrictive voting laws that appeared heavily in covered states, and the broad authority given to Congress by the Constitution to prevent racial discrimination in voting, make upholding the coverage formula an easy case for the Court.

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.