Showing posts with label civil rights. Show all posts
Showing posts with label civil rights. Show all posts

Apr 10, 2014

Civil Rights v. Republicans, Time to Choose a Side

President Barack Obama delivers remarks as First Lady Michelle
Obama, Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., and LBJ Presidential Library
Director Mark Updegrove, listen at right at the LBJ Presidential
Library in Austin, Texas, April 10, 2014. They attended a Civil Rights
Summit to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the signing of the
Civil Rights Act.
(Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
Today, 50 years after President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law, President Obama spoke at the LBJ Presidential Library to honor the work and legacy of our nation’s 36th president.

“As we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, we honor the men and women who made it possible,” President Obama said. “We recall the countless unheralded Americans, black and white, students and scholars, preachers and housekeepers -- whose names are etched not on monuments, but in the hearts of their loved ones, and in the fabric of the country they helped to change.”

“But we also gather here,” President Obama said, “deep in the heart of the state that shaped him, to recall one giant man’s remarkable efforts to make real the promise of our founding:  “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”’

April 10, 2014

Remarks by the President at LBJ Presidential Library Civil Rights Summit

Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library
Austin, Texas

12:16 P.M. CDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)  Thank you so much.  Please, please, have a seat.  Thank you. 

What a singular honor it is for me to be here today.  I want to thank, first and foremost, the Johnson family for giving us this opportunity and the graciousness with which Michelle and I have been received. 

We came down a little bit late because we were upstairs looking at some of the exhibits and some of the private offices that were used by President Johnson and Mrs. Johnson.  And Michelle was in particular interested to -- of a recording in which Lady Bird is critiquing President Johnson’s performance.  (Laughter.)  And she said, come, come, you need to listen to this.  (Laughter.)  And she pressed the button and nodded her head.  Some things do not change -- (laughter) -- even 50 years later.

To all the members of Congress, the warriors for justice, the elected officials and community leaders who are here today  -- I want to thank you.

Four days into his sudden presidency -- and the night before he would address a joint session of the Congress in which he once served -- Lyndon Johnson sat around a table with his closest advisors, preparing his remarks to a shattered and grieving nation.

He wanted to call on senators and representatives to pass a civil rights bill -- the most sweeping since Reconstruction.  And most of his staff counseled him against it.  They said it was hopeless; that it would anger powerful Southern Democrats and committee chairmen; that it risked derailing the rest of his domestic agenda.  And one particularly bold aide said he did not believe a President should spend his time and power on lost causes, however worthy they might be.  To which, it is said, President Johnson replied, “Well, what the hell’s the presidency for?”  (Laughter and applause.)  What the hell’s the presidency for if not to fight for causes you believe in?

Today, as we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, we honor the men and women who made it possible.  Some of them are here today.  We celebrate giants like John Lewis and Andrew Young and Julian Bond.  We recall the countless unheralded Americans, black and white, students and scholars, preachers and housekeepers -- whose names are etched not on monuments, but in the hearts of their loved ones, and in the fabric of the country they helped to change. 

But we also gather here, deep in the heart of the state that shaped him, to recall one giant man’s remarkable efforts to make real the promise of our founding:  “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

Those of us who have had the singular privilege to hold the office of the Presidency know well that progress in this country can be hard and it can be slow, frustrating and sometimes you’re stymied.  The office humbles you.  You’re reminded daily that in this great democracy, you are but a relay swimmer in the currents of history, bound by decisions made by those who came before, reliant on the efforts of those who will follow to fully vindicate your vision.

But the presidency also affords a unique opportunity to bend those currents -- by shaping our laws and by shaping our debates; by working within the confines of the world as it is, but also by reimagining the world as it should be.

This was President Johnson’s genius.  As a master of politics and the legislative process, he grasped like few others the power of government to bring about change. 

LBJ was nothing if not a realist.  He was well aware that the law alone isn’t enough to change hearts and minds.  A full century after Lincoln’s time, he said, “Until justice is blind to color, until education is unaware of race, until opportunity is unconcerned with the color of men’s skins, emancipation will be a proclamation but not a fact.”

He understood laws couldn’t accomplish everything.  But he also knew that only the law could anchor change, and set hearts and minds on a different course.  And a lot of Americans needed the law’s most basic protections at that time.  As Dr. King said at the time, “It may be true that the law can’t make a man love me but it can keep him from lynching me, and I think that’s pretty important.”  (Applause.)

And passing laws was what LBJ knew how to do.  No one knew politics and no one loved legislating more than President Johnson.  He was charming when he needed to be, ruthless when required.  (Laughter.)  He could wear you down with logic and argument.  He could horse trade, and he could flatter.  “You come with me on this bill,” he would reportedly tell a key Republican leader from my home state during the fight for the Civil Rights Bill, “and 200 years from now, schoolchildren will know only two names:  Abraham Lincoln and Everett Dirksen!”  (Laughter.)  And he knew that senators would believe things like that.  (Laughter and applause.)

President Johnson liked power.  He liked the feel of it, the wielding of it.  But that hunger was harnessed and redeemed by a deeper understanding of the human condition; by a sympathy for the underdog, for the downtrodden, for the outcast.  And it was a sympathy rooted in his own experience.

As a young boy growing up in the Texas Hill Country, Johnson knew what being poor felt like.  “Poverty was so common,” he would later say, “we didn’t even know it had a name.”  (Laughter.)  The family home didn’t have electricity or indoor plumbing.  Everybody worked hard, including the children.  President Johnson had known the metallic taste of hunger; the feel of a mother’s calloused hands, rubbed raw from washing and cleaning and holding a household together.  His cousin Ava remembered sweltering days spent on her hands and knees in the cotton fields, with Lyndon whispering beside her, “Boy, there’s got to be a better way to make a living than this.  There’s got to be a better way.”

It wasn’t until years later when he was teaching at a so-called Mexican school in a tiny town in Texas that he came to understand how much worse the persistent pain of poverty could be for other races in a Jim Crow South.  Oftentimes his students would show up to class hungry.  And when he’d visit their homes, he’d meet fathers who were paid slave wages by the farmers they worked for.  Those children were taught, he would later say, “that the end of life is in a beet row, a spinach field, or a cotton patch.” 

Deprivation and discrimination -- these were not abstractions to Lyndon Baines Johnson.  He knew that poverty and injustice are as inseparable as opportunity and justice are joined.  So that was in him from an early age.

Now, like any of us, he was not a perfect man.  His experiences in rural Texas may have stretched his moral imagination, but he was ambitious, very ambitious, a young man in a hurry to plot his own escape from poverty and to chart his own political career.  And in the Jim Crow South, that meant not challenging convention.  During his first 20 years in Congress, he opposed every civil rights bill that came up for a vote, once calling the push for federal legislation “a farce and a sham.”  He was chosen as a vice presidential nominee in part because of his affinity with, and ability to deliver, that Southern white vote.  And at the beginning of the Kennedy administration, he shared with President Kennedy a caution towards racial controversy. 

But marchers kept marching.  Four little girls were killed in a church.  Bloody Sunday happened.  The winds of change blew.  And when the time came, when LBJ stood in the Oval Office -- I picture him standing there, taking up the entire doorframe, looking out over the South Lawn in a quiet moment -- and asked himself what the true purpose of his office was for, what was the endpoint of his ambitions, he would reach back in his own memory and he’d remember his own experience with want. 

And he knew that he had a unique capacity, as the most powerful white politician from the South, to not merely challenge the convention that had crushed the dreams of so many, but to ultimately dismantle for good the structures of legal segregation.  He’s the only guy who could do it -- and he knew there would be a cost, famously saying the Democratic Party may “have lost the South for a generation.” 

That’s what his presidency was for.  That’s where he meets his moment.  And possessed with an iron will, possessed with those skills that he had honed so many years in Congress, pushed and supported by a movement of those willing to sacrifice everything for their own liberation, President Johnson fought for and argued and horse traded and bullied and persuaded until ultimately he signed the Civil Rights Act into law. 

And he didn’t stop there -- even though his advisors again told him to wait, again told him let the dust settle, let the country absorb this momentous decision.  He shook them off.  “The meat in the coconut,” as President Johnson would put it, was the Voting Rights Act, so he fought for and passed that as well.  Immigration reform came shortly after.  And then, a Fair Housing Act.  And then, a health care law that opponents described as “socialized medicine” that would curtail America’s freedom, but ultimately freed millions of seniors from the fear that illness could rob them of dignity and security in their golden years, which we now know today as Medicare.  (Applause.)

What President Johnson understood was that equality required more than the absence of oppression.  It required the presence of economic opportunity.  He wouldn’t be as eloquent as Dr. King would be in describing that linkage, as Dr. King moved into mobilizing sanitation workers and a poor people’s movement, but he understood that connection because he had lived it.  A decent job, decent wages, health care -- those, too, were civil rights worth fighting for.  An economy where hard work is rewarded and success is shared, that was his goal.  And he knew, as someone who had seen the New Deal transform the landscape of his Texas childhood, who had seen the difference electricity had made because of the Tennessee Valley Authority, the transformation concretely day in and day out in the life of his own family, he understood that government had a role to play in broadening prosperity to all those who would strive for it.

“We want to open the gates to opportunity,” President Johnson said, “But we are also going to give all our people, black and white, the help they need to walk through those gates.” 

Now, if some of this sounds familiar, it’s because today we remain locked in this same great debate about equality and opportunity, and the role of government in ensuring each.  As was true 50 years ago, there are those who dismiss the Great Society as a failed experiment and an encroachment on liberty; who argue that government has become the true source of all that ails us, and that poverty is due to the moral failings of those who suffer from it.  There are also those who argue, John, that nothing has changed; that racism is so embedded in our DNA that there is no use trying politics -- the game is rigged. 

But such theories ignore history.  Yes, it’s true that, despite laws like the Civil Rights Act, and the Voting Rights Act and Medicare, our society is still racked with division and poverty.  Yes, race still colors our political debates, and there have been government programs that have fallen short.  In a time when cynicism is too often passed off as wisdom, it’s perhaps easy to conclude that there are limits to change; that we are trapped by our own history; and politics is a fool’s errand, and we’d be better off if we roll back big chunks of LBJ’s legacy, or at least if we don’t put too much of our hope, invest too much of our hope in our government.

I reject such thinking.  (Applause.)  Not just because Medicare and Medicaid have lifted millions from suffering; not just because the poverty rate in this nation would be far worse without food stamps and Head Start and all the Great Society programs that survive to this day.  I reject such cynicism because I have lived out the promise of LBJ’s efforts.  Because Michelle has lived out the legacy of those efforts.  Because my daughters have lived out the legacy of those efforts.  Because I and millions of my generation were in a position to take the baton that he handed to us.  (Applause.)

Because of the Civil Rights movement, because of the laws President Johnson signed, new doors of opportunity and education swung open for everybody -- not all at once, but they swung open.  Not just blacks and whites, but also women and Latinos; and Asians and Native Americans; and gay Americans and Americans with a disability.  They swung open for you, and they swung open for me.  And that’s why I’m standing here today -- because of those efforts, because of that legacy.  (Applause.)

And that means we’ve got a debt to pay.  That means we can’t afford to be cynical.  Half a century later, the laws LBJ passed are now as fundamental to our conception of ourselves and our democracy as the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.  They are foundational; an essential piece of the American character. 

But we are here today because we know we cannot be complacent.  For history travels not only forwards; history can travel backwards, history can travel sideways.  And securing the gains this country has made requires the vigilance of its citizens.  Our rights, our freedoms -- they are not given.  They must be won.  They must be nurtured through struggle and discipline, and persistence and faith. 

And one concern I have sometimes during these moments, the celebration of the signing of the Civil Rights Act, the March on Washington -- from a distance, sometimes these commemorations seem inevitable, they seem easy.  All the pain and difficulty and struggle and doubt -- all that is rubbed away.  And we look at ourselves and we say, oh, things are just too different now;  we couldn’t possibly do what was done then -- these giants, what they accomplished.  And yet, they were men and women, too.  It wasn’t easy then.  It wasn’t certain then. 

Still, the story of America is a story of progress.  However slow, however incomplete, however harshly challenged at each point on our journey, however flawed our leaders, however many times we have to take a quarter of a loaf or half a loaf -- the story of America is a story of progress.  And that’s true because of men like President Lyndon Baines Johnson.  (Applause.)

In so many ways, he embodied America, with all our gifts and all our flaws, in all our restlessness and all our big dreams.  This man -- born into poverty, weaned in a world full of racial hatred -- somehow found within himself the ability to connect his experience with the brown child in a small Texas town; the white child in Appalachia; the black child in Watts.  As powerful as he became in that Oval Office, he understood them.  He understood what it meant to be on the outside.  And he believed that their plight was his plight too; that his freedom ultimately was wrapped up in theirs; and that making their lives better was what the hell the presidency was for.  (Applause.)

And those children were on his mind when he strode to the podium that night in the House Chamber, when he called for the vote on the Civil Rights law.  “It never occurred to me,” he said, “in my fondest dreams that I might have the chance to help the sons and daughters of those students” that he had taught so many years ago, “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.”  (Applause.)

That was LBJ’s greatness.  That’s why we remember him.  And if there is one thing that he and this year’s anniversary should teach us, if there’s one lesson I hope that Malia and Sasha and young people everywhere learn from this day, it’s that with enough effort, and enough empathy, and enough perseverance, and enough courage, people who love their country can change it.

In his final year, President Johnson stood on this stage, racked with pain, battered by the controversies of Vietnam, looking far older than his 64 years, and he delivered what would be his final public speech. 

“We have proved that great progress is possible,” he said.  “We know how much still remains to be done.  And if our efforts continue, and if our will is strong, and if our hearts are right, and if courage remains our constant companion, then, my fellow Americans, I am confident, we shall overcome.”  (Applause.)

We shall overcome.  We, the citizens of the United States.  Like Dr. King, like Abraham Lincoln, like countless citizens who have driven this country inexorably forward, President Johnson knew that ours in the end is a story of optimism, a story of achievement and constant striving that is unique upon this Earth.  He knew because he had lived that story.  He believed that together we can build an America that is more fair, more equal, and more free than the one we inherited.  He believed we make our own destiny.  And in part because of him, we must believe it as well.

Thank you.  God bless you.  God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.) 

12:46 P.M. CDT

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 27, 2014

Scott Walker Signs Bill Slashing Early Voting

Update: See also Cursed With Nation’s Second-Highest Turnout Rate, Wisconsin Restricts Early Voting (Weigel. Slate); and Wisconsin’s Walker restricts early voting (Benen. TRMS), and GOP Steps Up Attack on Early Voting in Key Swing States (Berman. The Nation).

To no one's surprise, Scott Walker signed a bill slashing early voting, outlawing cities from weekend voting.

All Wisconsin Republicans went along with the latest scheme in the attack on voting, except Wisconsin State Senator Dale Schultz (R-Richland Center).

A constitutional challenge is likely.

No reaction from Mary Burke, prompting more speculation that another, more activist candidate will get in the Democratic primary.

One Wisconsin Now reacted along with every good government and voting rights groups the same way:

Despite widespread public opposition, Gov. Scott Walker quietly signed into law new restrictions on early voting today. Walker's acquiescence to the latest racist, anti-voter scheme by Republicans eliminates weekend early voting in Wisconsin and outlaws municipalities offering citizens the ability to vote in the two weeks prior to Election Day before 8am or after 7pm.

One Wisconsin Institute Executive Director Scot Ross commented, "Gov. Walker has made his choice. He's put his political ambitions first and turned his back on the constitutional right of Wisconsinites to vote. He is aiding and abetting the fraudulent manipulation of the rules on voting being perpetrated by the Republican controlled legislature."

Early voting has become an increasingly popular way for Wisconsinites to do their civic duty and have a say in the direction of their communities. In fact, 58 Republican legislators who have supported restrictions on early voting have themselves voted early.

The impacts of the law will be felt heavily in urban areas where long lines are a serious issue at the polls and creates significant new challenges for minorities, seniors, working families and persons with disabilities in accessing the franchise.

Walker signed the legislation despite a mere 12% of respondents in a recent statewide poll endorsing the new restrictions on early voting proposed in the bill presented to Walker for his signature.

"This fight is far from over. It may be Governor Walker's signature on the bill today, but this fight will end when a judge signs an order declaring this latest Republican attack on voting unconstitutional," concluded Ross.

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.

Mar 12, 2014

Republican Effort to Disenfranchise 100,000s of Wisconsin Voters Began in 2011

Scott Walker's convicted top aides and friends are likely
cheering on Walker and Republicans today.
In 2011, Scott Walker and the Republicans shortened the Wisconsin early voting period by some 18 days, passing Act 23 that limited early voting for all towns, villages and cities to only 12 days. 

Before Act 23, in-person, absentee (early voting) could start when the ballots were printed and clerks received them, providing as many as 30 days of early voting.

Republicans also eliminated early voting on the weekend directly preceding election day in Act 23, passed with sole Republican support.

Now, Republicans today, passed a "bill (that limits) 'early voting' to between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Friday leading up to an election. A municipality would also be limited to 45 hours per week of accepting the in-person absentee ballots," reports Quorum Call.

Republicans in 2011 also extended the residency requirement for voters from ten to 28 days, suppressing the votes of citizens who have recently moved.

Republicans in 2011 also cut the time period allowed for absentee ballots to be cast from 30 days before elections to 14 days.

Republicans' voter ID law, Act 23, has been found to be unconstitutional and is under judicial deliberation in state and federal court.

Now, a host of anti-voting bills is being considered because of the fear Republicans have of voters casting votes. Inaccurately described as preventing voter fraud, these bills are designed to suppress the democratic right of citizens to vote.

No doubt Scott Walker's former staff and close aides, Tim Russell (who embezzled from veterans) and Kelly Rindfleisch (who committed misconduct in the public office held by Scott Walker) are cheering Walker and the Republicans on.

By the way, Mary Burke, you can comment on these matters. If you don't, what does that say about your commitment to defending the constitution? Hello, Mary, Mary?

Wisconsin Republicans Target Veterans and Voters Today

Update III: GOP shafts veterans again. "Sen. Julie Lassa, D-Stevens Point, said the bill presumes that 'somehow the corporations are the victims here, and not the men and women who were willing to put the lives on the line for their country.'" (Quorum Call)

Update II: Republicans slash early voting, no weekend voting, no night voting.

Update: To keep abreast of developments on how Republicans aim to diminish Wisconsin democracy and injure our veterans suffering from Mesothelioma cancer, check out Quorum Call or Wisconsin Eye.

The Republican, gerrymandered legislature is targeting voters and veterans today.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald say he "hates" his colleagues' anti-veterans bill (Wisconsin Senate Bill 13) hurting veterans, therefore he is supporting this anti-veterans bill because "it's just something that has to be done."

This has to be done because the insurance industry, the Koch brothers and other special interests want this done.

Fitzgerald's powers of logic are on a par with our dumb governor Walker.

"Every vets group oppose this bill because it's unfair to vets," said Sen. Fred Risser (D-Madison), notes Quorum Call.

Fitzgerald and the Republicans should reject the money they get from special interests supporting this anti-veterans bill, and instead take a heap of asbestos and breathe in deeply, sharing the remainder with the whole Republican caucus except Sen. Dale Schultz (R-Richland Center).

Republicans know much of what they will pass is unconstitutional. So, they are also trying to corrupt the judicial process.

Republicans last month took up Senate Bill 154 [replaced by a vague SENATE SUBSTITUTE AMENDMENT 1, TO ASSEMBLY BILL 161 that is now passed by the legislature] reading in part:

"If a circuit court or a court of appeals enters an injunction, a restraining order, or any other final or interlocutory order suspending or restraining the enforcement of any statute of this state, the injunction, restraining order, or other final or interlocutory order is immediately appealable as a matter of right."

What if a Court orders a trial and temporary restraining order on a GOP-passed statute like Dane County Circuit Court Judge David Flanagan did in March 2012 on Scott Walker's unconstitutional photo voter ID law?

Injured Wisconsin citizens get no day in court while an unconstitutional law inflicts damage?

What exactly do Republicans fear from the rule of law, and voters?

Mar 11, 2014

In Nation's Most Segregated Urban Region, Scott Walker, GOP Fan Flames of Racial Violence

Racist T-shirts sold in Milwaukee at the "Republicans
for Wisconsin" booth at the 2013 Wisconsin State Fair
Update: Republicans pass voter "suppression effort" mandating poll workers "from those outside a community to dictate how elections are run," reports Quorum Call. Republicans inflict another hit on local control, and insult and inflame the African-American communities in Milwaukee and other urban centers.
Scott Walker and Wisconsin Republicans know their objectives in their anti-voter election bills in the state legislature.

It's not only about rigging elections.

Walker and the GOP want to use the nation's most segregated urban area and pass legislation that will plant white election inspectors and obnoxious white election observers from out of the African-American wards in a terribly irresponsible and reprehensible effort to promote violence, confusion and chaos at the polls on election day.

This is what Republicans spend their time doing, Senate Bill 20.

State Sen. Tim Carpenter (D-Milwaukee) said Sen. Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin) "hates blacks and Latinos" on the floor of the Wisconsin state senate. (Quorum Call. WisPolitics)

Yes. What Walker and the Republicans are doing is sociopathic and certainly hateful.

Carpenter was referring to Senate Bill 20, an opportunity to provoke Milwaukee African-Americans and, Republicans hope, infuse some chaos on election day, a situation that they hope to achieve by repealing early voting, ("push(ed) off (for) a final vote on the measure until (Wednesday)").

The Republicans' I hate you, blacks is intended to met in turn.

It's not enough that the GOP's Stand Your Ground and Castle Doctrine has already given license for racist whites to kill young black kids. Bo Morrision of Slinger, Wisconsin shot and killed by a white racist protected by the Castle Doctrine in 2012. You can bet Scott Walker cried no tears for young Mr. Morrison.

Walker surrounds himself with racists, all getting laughs from racists jokes told among this tight group.

There will be black observers in Milwaukee on election day, as well civil rights workers from the U.S. Dept. of Justice to help keep the peace in the face of white racists brought in by Walker.

There should not have to be.

This is 2014 Wisconsin, not 1966 Alabama:
Nor had violence disappeared as a form of political intimidation (after the Voting Rights Act of 1965). Poll watcher Andrew Jones, a quiet man who was passionate about voting, was struck in the back of the head while on duty in Fort Deposit, (Alabama) Klan bastion [in Lowndes County as, known "Bloody Lowndes" because of the lynchings, and other murders of blacks]. Stokeley Carmichael went ballistic and, with a California friend named Huey Newton, organized a group of armed blacks to search for Jones's attacker. But they never found him. [(Frye Gaillard, "Notes and Quotes: The Interview for Cradle of Freedom, 2000-2002," 45, Frye Gallillard Papers, Alabama State University; Southern Courier, November 12-13, 1966, 2. Cited in (Bending Toward Justice - The Voting Rights Act and the Transformation of American Democracy (Gary May. Basic Books; 2013; p.233) ]

Scott Walker and Racist GOP Fear Voters; Impede Voting Again

Update: Debating Republicans who want to install election officials to harass African-Americans and Latinos, Sen. Tim Carpenter (D-Milwaukee) said Sen. Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin) "hates blacks and Latinos" on the floor of the Wisconsin state senate. (Quorum Call. WisPolitics)That's a fact; Republicans today are racists and depend on racism as a major electoral tool. See, for example, Scott Walker and his staff joking about blacks, Jews and gays.

Against every community of interest except the Republican Party, the Wisconsin state senate is posed to pass along partisan lines a bunch of bills making it harder to vote.

The election of Scott Walker proved people don't matter, Republicans believe; but they want to make certain.

AP writer, Scott Bauer, reports that "Gov. Scott Walker signaled Tuesday that he was open to signing a bill that would limit early voting, including disallowing it on weekends in the two weeks leading up to an election."

Bauer writes:

When asked about the early voting bill following a Wisconsin Bankers Association event, Walker said that it wasn't on his radar yet but he would 'take a look at it' once it clears the Legislature.

'We've got a whole stack of things to look at when they pass through both houses,' Walker said.
Scott Walker is lying as usual. He knows perfectly well what's coming his way.

Walker has threatened to call a special session after Wisconsin's photo voter ID is declared unconstitutional in state and federal court, as is expected.

Walker does not want unfettered access to the polls for Wisconsin citizens disinclined to vote for him in November.

The anti-early voting bill, Senate Bill 324, may pass but don't fret, singling out cities to destroy the votes of those who live in cities is likely to be ruled unconstitutional.

Like restrictive, new qualifications for voting like the GOP's Voter ID, these anti-voting efforts have a way of blowing back on the Republicans.

You're Old and Want to Vote—the GOP Wants to Harass and Stop You

Updated - "For those with a taste for irony, Tuesday’s session of the Wisconsin state Senate will be a rich feast."

A chamber that has again and again tried to take steps to make it easier for rich people and out-of-state corporations to influence politics with their money will consider making it harder for working Wisconsinites to vote." (Nichols. The Capital Times)

Used to be the younger Wisconsin generations showed respect and helped retired folks, elderly folks and especially veterans.

Wisconsin citizens still do, but not the Republican Party that wants to throw barrier after barrier just to make it more difficult for retired folks to vote.

Take a look at Assembly Bill 396—introduced, sponsored and voted for only by Republicans—a GOP effort to make harder to vote; just as the GOP did in its effort to cut early voting, expected to be voted on in the Senate today.

Used to be village and town clerks could send election inspectors out to community-based residential facilities, retirement home, and adult family homes to help folks vote.

Now, the Republicans are targeting this reaching out to help people because the Republican Party doesn't fare well in institutions where people gather to help each other.

The text of AB 396 is so laden with redacted words and paragraphs it looks like rebar before the concrete is poured.

That's because the GOP's AB 396 mandates partisan observers and a host of other rules controlling how municipal election officials are able to facilitate the franchise for the very people who have given the most to our state.

This Republican stunt stinks, as does every other GOP effort to impede voting.

Republicans won't be happy until they are assured only people who vote Republican are able to cast votes.

Mar 10, 2014

GOP Going All-out to Block Wisconsin Voting‏

Sen. Frank Lasee is not working for you
Update: AB 396 passes on an 17-16 vote, with Sen. Dale Schultz (R-Richland Center) joining the pro-democracy Democrats.

Update: Look for a constitutional challenge to many of these anti-voting initiatives, for example AB 396: restricting absentee voting by residents of certain adult-care facilities, including nursing homes and assisted-living facilities by placing unnecessary and burdensome notice requirements prior to the absentee voting process. These anti-voting bills would target and destroy the right to vote of discrete segments of the population in, for example, Agrace HospiceCare of Fitchburg, Wisconsin. Dying of Agent Orange, huh, well you can't vote!

On March 11, the GOP-controlled Wisconsin state senate is set to consider a raft of bills aimed at impeding Wisconsin voters, consumers, and victims of poison and other toxic agents.

Who are the Republicans working for? Not us.

From the AFL-CIO:

Voting rights are under attack in Wisconsin.  The Wisconsin State Senate is getting ready to vote on multiple anti-democracy and voter suppression bills on Tuesday, March 11. These bills will promote ‘pay to play’ politics, deny citizens’ access to the ballot and make it more difficult for people to register to vote.

Also, up for a vote on Tuesday are changes to the Milwaukee Mental Health Complex (SB 565). This bill would remove local control over a local institution, a notion that runs afoul to fundamental democratic principles and should frighten communities across the state. 

Republicans in the state legislature are trying to ram these bills through as quickly as possible in the final days of session. Contact your legislator today in opposition of these bills

Anti-democracy bills that will expected to go to vote on Tuesday, March 11 as of March 10, 2014 include:

•    SB 324: Limits early voting hours allowed by municipalities and removes the option of weekend and evening voting leading up to Election Day.  This would end convenient opportunities for working people, the elderly and the disabled to vote prior to Election Day. 

•    SB 267:  Places additional burdens on people who wish to register early and on the municipal clerks who register them by demanding certain documents as proof of residence and that the clerks record 2 or 4 digits of the document account number on voter registration forms. It amounts to an unnecessary hurdle for both voters and clerks.

•     SB 655: Pay to Play Politics -- allows lobbyists to donate to politicians during election years even if session is ongoing.  This allows lobbyist more time to bribe elected officials and unduly influence state policy. 

•     AB 396: Restricts absentee voting by residents of certain adult-care facilities, including nursing homes and assisted-living facilities by placing unnecessary and burdensome notice requirements prior to the absentee voting process. In addition, all voting at certain adult-care facilities must occur in the presence of 2 election officials, one from each political party. Further, if some residents in an assisted living facility vote absentee at the facility, then all residents must vote by absentee at the facility and are disallowed from voting in the clerk's office or by absentee mail ballot.

*Sen. Grothman has introduced an outrageous bill to end same day voter registration in Wisconsin!   Allowing citizens to register to vote on Election Day makes our democracy strong and accessible.  People who work for a living, move frequently or are voting for the first time can find it burdensome to register to vote prior to Election Day.  In Wisconsin, we have a proud tradition of welcoming all citizens to participate in our democracy.  Sen. Grothman’s attempt to control the electorate and limit the voting population is transparent and disgusting. 

Update on Local Living Wage Preemption:  This bill stalled in the state Senate last week with Sen. Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) stating it is “unlikely that it will move through the Senate.” However, Rep. Chris Kapenga (R-Delafield) has said he and Sen. Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend) will continue to lobby fellow legislators for support adding that, “in the Legislature you never count on something being dead until session is actually complete.”

There is still time to make your voice heard.  Contact your legislator today in support of voting rights and democracy!

Mar 8, 2014

Sen. Frank Lasee Changes Vote—Wisconsin GOP Attacks Early Voting; Floor Vote on March 11

Sen. Frank Lasee switched his vote;
now backs GOP bill to block voters

Constitutional challenge likely on GOP effort to impede the right to vote for voters living in high-population municipalities. Targeted obstruction of voters remains illegal.

Updated: Sen. Frank Lasee's (R-De Pere) office can be reached at: (608) 266-3512. Lasee claims he is honored to serve his constituents as state senator for Wisconsin senate District One. Give Lasee a call and ask why he wants to make voting more difficult.

Wonder if this attempt to rig election for Republicans is on Scott Walker's "radar." Walker likes to pretend he has no idea what Wisconsin legislative Republicans are doing.

A reader here advises that Lasee's original objection to the bill in committee was based on Lasee's insistence that observers be allowed to be stationed at municipal clerks' offices during early voting hours. GOP observers frequently harass voters and voting officials, a practice that has not gone unnoted by poll workers.
Sen. Frank Lasee (R-De Pere) voted 'No' on a bill attacking early voting in the Wisconsin State Senate Committee on Elections and Urban Affairs earlier this year, defeating the anti-voting measure in committee.

The GOP bill that Lasee voted against would limit early voting in all municipal clerks' offices around the state to only weekdays between 7:30 a.m. and 6 p.m.

Now, Lasee changed his vote in committee late Friday on an amended bill, Senate Bill 324, with no explanation for his constituents for his vote for an amended bill that bans early voting on weeknights and weekends, and limits early voting to 45 hours a week.

The amended bill limits early voting in all municipal clerks' offices around the state to only weekdays between 8:00 a.m. and 7 p.m.

We know why Lasee changed his vote of course; to help Republicans keep people from voting in high turn-out, statewide elections that Republicans tend to lose.

Everyone, and I mean everyone expected Lasee to cave to the Republican Party over his constituents, Lasee is up for reelection in 2014 and the first-term senator is a noted GOP flunky.

A February Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel editorial blasting the GOP bill after the committee defeat reads, "This partisan, anti-democratic bill is far from dead, and we wouldn't be surprised if Republicans try to push it forward before the end of the session. ... municipalities have large numbers of voters, and it makes sense for them to make it as easy as possible for citizens to vote. That should be something everyone can support. Early voting reduces congestion at the polls on election day. We favor extending this important democratic franchise to as many people as possible. If longer hours during the election season help to promote voting, that's a good thing."

After Lasee's earlier 'No' vote, the GOP attack on early voting—most people think Lasee mistakenly voted No on the bill in committee at first because Lasee is not the brightest bulb—looked to go down to legislative defeat 17-16.

Wisconsin State Senator Dale Schultz (R-Richland Center) had announced his opposition to the bill in late February, then Lasee changed his committee vote on the bill, amended and now worse for voters than the original bill.

The amended bill now looks to pass 17-16 with Lasee's cave. The anti-voting companion bill, Assembly Bill 54, passed on a party-line vote last year. So, the state assembly would need to pass the senate's version.

Notes One Wisconsin Now, under the amended bill: "Municipalities would be barred from offering in-person voting after 7pm on weekdays and could not allow voters access to their state constitutional right to vote for more than 45 hours per week in the weeks leading up to election day. In addition, weekend in person voting would be outlawed killing non-partisan 'souls to the polls' drives oftentimes organized by faith-based organizations in minority communities."

Sen. Schultz (R-Richland Center), the lone GOP voice against the GOP attack on voting, blasted the bill, saying: small-town Wisconsin clerks say "prefer the flexibility they now have and are tired of Madison (the legislature and governor's office) trying to control and tell localities how to do their business."

One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross made the following statement about this latest Republican plot to restrict access to the franchise by outlawing most after hours, early in-person voting in Wisconsin:

"Senate Republicans have outdone themselves. Not only have they revived legislation voted down in committee just weeks ago, they managed to make it even worse.

"Republicans are sending a clear message to working families, minorities, seniors and students that their participation in our democracy is not wanted.

"Whatever the bill number this is yet another cynical and shameful attempt to take away rights and manipulate the rules on voting from Republicans seeking to gain unfair partisan advantage for themselves.

"This fight won't be over if Gov. Walker signs the bill, it will be over when a judge rules this obscene attempt to restrict access to the franchise for minority, elderly and working class voters unconstitutional."

Feb 27, 2014

Wisconsin Sen. Dale Schultz Will Oppose GOP Bill Attacking Early Voting

Wisconsin State Senator Dale Schultz
In a victory for voting rights, Wisconsin State Senator Dale Schultz (R-Richland Center) announced he will vote against a bill attacking early voting in Wisconsin.

Schultz announced his opposition to AB 54 and Senate Bill 324 through an aide in a phone conversation with Mal Contends this morning, effectively killing the anti-early voting legislation.

Schultz cited conversations with local election officials and small-town Wisconsin clerks who say they "prefer the flexibility they now have and are tired of Madison (the legislature and governor's office) trying to control and tell localities how to do their business."

Schultz also said through his legislative aide that "the party of Lincoln, T.R., Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan has worked to make it easier to vote, and not harder. It's in the traditional Republican vein to help voting."

The bill would limit in-person, absentee voting (early voting) for all municipalities across Wisconsin to the hours of 7:30 am to 5:00 pm, Monday-Friday. No observers see the bill as anything but a move against voters to help Republicans win office.

Schultz has criticized the new Republican Party in Wisconsin as captured by extreme special interests, explaining this it why he is leaving the Wisconsin legislature.

Schultz said he will join Sen. Frank Lasee (R-De Pere) in voting 'No' if SB 324 comes to a floor vote despite losing in the Wisconsin State Senate Committee on Elections and Urban Affairs, 3-2 after Lasee's 'No' vote.

As all 15 Wisconsin Democratic Senators are against the bill, Schultz' opposition makes a floor vote on the bill unlikely as it would lose 17-16.

Though many will see Schultz' opposition as a slap in the face of the bill's author, Sen. Glenn Grothman (West Bend), and Scott Walker, Schultz said his vote is based on his district's local officials' preference and the pro-voting history of the traditional Republican Party, as opposed to today's Republican Party that appears intent on controlling local communities.

Feb 26, 2014

Ohio GOP Ends Sunday Early Voting, Wisconsin GOP's Attack on Early Voting Stalled in Senate

Republicans in Ohio hate voting by African Americans who still don't know their place.

So naturally, the GOP Secretary of State has decreed: No voting on Sundays for the entire state of Ohio in an effort to obstruct church-going folks on Sunday from voting. The effort is sure to be litigated.

In Wisconsin, a bill (AB 54) attacking early voting that passed the GOP state assembly on a party-line vote is still in the state senate.

If passed out of the state senate, everyone knows Scott Walker will not pass up an opportunity to scale back voting, ordering all election clerks in Wisconsin cities, towns and villages to make voting available only when Scott Walker and the GOP say so.

But in February the attack on early voting lost in the Wisconsin State Senate Committee on Elections and Urban Affairs, 3-2. Senate Bill 324 lost in committee but few believe that will stop Republicans if they have the votes to pass the bill.

Sen. Frank Lasee (R-De Pere) stood up for democracy and voted No.

Why would someone want to attack voting? Because they are Republicans, a new anti-American breed that simply does not like democracy.

Sen. Lasee is an exception.

Outgoing Wisconsin State Senator Dale Schultz (R-Richland Center) may also be an exception, as Schultz has criticized the new Republican Party in Wisconsin as captured by extreme special interests, explaining this it why he is leaving the Wisconsin legislature.

Republicans hold a narrow 18-15 advantage in the senate, gerrymandered to elect Republicans. So Schultz' opposition to SB 324 would make the vote 17-16 against stopping early voting in Wisconsin.

Without attacking voting, Scott Walker knows he's in trouble.

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 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, this 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.