Showing posts with label voter registration. Show all posts
Showing posts with label voter registration. Show all posts

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.

Nov 3, 2012

RNC Scandal Includes Wisconsin

Nathan Sproul
Nixonian. One could say Reince Priebusian, Wisconsin's own voter obstruction operative now atop the RNC.

Criminal Investigation of GOP Voter Registration Worker Arrested for Destroying Forms in Virginia Expands to Broader Probe of RNC-Hired Firm

Brad Friedman has a must read this morning on Nathan Sproul's Strategic Allied Consulting firm that suppressed Democratic-leaning voters in a far-reaching program of illegal, political dirty tricks committed by a shady outfit hired by the national Republican National Committee and state Republican parties.

Friedman has broken numerous stories on Sproul and his Strategic Allied Consulting:

When the RNC invested $3 million to hire Strategic Allied Consulting, a company quietly created this August by Sproul, a paid political consultant to Mitt Romney, and then instructed state GOP affiliates in seven key battleground states (Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Nevada, Colorado, Wisconsin and Ohio) to do the same, they knew very well about his companies' long documented history of alleged electoral misconduct and voter registration fraud.
Nixonian. One could say Reince Priebusian, Wisconsin's own voter obstruction operative now atop the RNC.

Apr 29, 2009

Voting Rights Argued Today

Update: Jon Greenbaum, legal director, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights: "As Congress found just a few years ago when it underwent a searching inquiry into the continuing need for key provisions of the VRA, Section 5 continues to be a critical element in preventing discrimination in voting across the country. While Section 5 has done a tremendous job at empowering all eligible voters to participate in the democratic process, its work is not complete."
And from SCOTUSblog:

Early on in the discussion of the 'bailout' option, Justice Kennedy commented that the Court has 'some latitude' in interpreting the law, and hinted that the Court might use that discretion to find a way to make it more practical for a government unit subject to the law to conduct its elections. He also suggested, later, that if the 'bailout' provision were found to be 'an illusion,' the Court might make 'a construction of the Act' that would make it work.

A focus on Kennedy’s reaction was evident, after other Justices clearly seemed to be lining up — perhaps in equal but opposing blocs — on Congress’ power to keep Section 5 on the books for another generation.

If, in fact, it turns out that there are four votes to strike down the extension of Section 5, the question would remain whether Justice Kennedy would be willing to put himself in the position of providing a majority to invalidate a statute that even he conceded had been 'very effective.' He provided some reasons to doubt that he would — if there were an acceptable alternative . And, in the past, he had said that racial bias is a continuing problem in American society.

Suddenly, I feel less optimistic on this case than at the beginning of the day.

---The U.S. Supreme Court hears oral arguments in a potentially landmark case challenging Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and its 2006 congressional reauthorization.

Most Republicans hope for a Court decision that would declare certain voting districts free of the mandates of Section 5 helping to fight racial discrimination.

The plaintiffs challenge the Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks and Coretta Scott King Voting Rights Act Reauthorization and Amendments Act of 2006) (reauthorizing Section 5) in Northwest Austin (Texas) Municipal Utility District Number One v. Gonzales (08-322)).

Many argue more broadly that since we just elected a black president, we don't need voting rights protection.

Those taking this position [Not Rep. James Sensenbrenner. See Voting Rights Act has passionate, strong advocate in Sensenbrenner (Marrero, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel).] take it without any sense of history, like the last presidential election.

GOP voter suppression

The GOP used every voter suppression trick in the book to obstruct voters, like blacks, who looked likely to cast their lot against the GOP.

And the GOP tried to cover the suppression program with outlandish cries of "(perpetrat(ion) of) one of the greatest frauds in voter history in this country, maybe destroying the fabric of democracy," as John McCain ludicrously asserted. See Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Greg Palast's Drinking the Kool-Aid: How Cries of Voter Fraud Cover Up GOP Election Theft.

In Wisconsin, we had Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen's (John McCain 2008 co-chair) voter obstruction program.

Van Hollen's obstruction suit was tossed out of court, with the judge noting (p. 13) that federal election law still recognizes the force of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, much to the chagrin of Republicans. That judge also ruled that voting was not conditional on bureaucrats' lists matching perfectly, as the Republicans argued here.

Some 50 percent of blacks in Milwaukee County would fail that GOP-desired mandate, forcing them to cast provisional ballots.

From Andrew Hacker's piece in the New York Review of Books (September 25, 2008).

A Wisconsin survey published in 2005 was more precise (in the GOP effort to prevent Democratically-voting blacks from voting). No fewer than 53 percent of black adults in Milwaukee County were not licensed to drive, compared with 15 percent of white adults in the remainder of the state. According to its author, similar disparities will be found across the nation. [1] [[1] John Pawasarat, The Driver License Status of the Voting Age Population in Wisconsin (University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee Employment and Training Institute, June2005), p. 1.]
Voting Rights Act

When Congress reauthorized the Voting Rights Act in 2006, it found an array of obstacles to minority voting nationwide.

As a New York Times editorial notes today:

The election of the first African-American president last year was an undeniable sign of racial progress. But even that breakthrough cannot ensure that legislative districts will not be gerrymandered, voting rolls purged or election procedures modified at the state and local levels in ways that diminish the rights of minorities. For that, as Congress wisely recognized, we still need the Voting Rights Act.

The GOP knows it cannot win without obstructing the American people from voting. That its attempts are failing will not stop their shameful assault on Americans.

The case before the Court today may be decided on a more abstract question of congressional authority (and not on a Test of History v. Progress), or a Justice Roberts-imposed changed standard of judicial scrutiny that would weaken civil rights protection. but it looks likely that the latest foolish endeavor to weaken civil rights legislation will fail.

See SCOTUSBlog for updates.

Nov 13, 2008

Brennan Center: Help People Vote

For those Americans who do not want to see voting end up like navigating a DMV phone-answering tree, the Brennan Center this fall put forth the idea of universal voter registration.

Worth a read; here's a summary:

In a universal voter registration system, it would be the government's obligation to ensure that every eligible citizen was registered to vote.

Individual citizens could opt out if they wished, but the registration process itself would no longer serve as a barrier to the right to vote.

Here are some of the important ways that federal policy can and should encourage the states to improve on the current voter registration system:

- Mandate that the states put systems in place that would phase in universal voter registration, while preserving the states' ability to experiment with different systems.

- Require states to immediately implement permanent registration, so that voters wouldn't have to re-register if they moved within a state.

- Require states to implement Election Day registration, as a fail-safe mechanism for eligible voters missing from the voter rolls for any reason.

- Provide the funding that states would need to ensure that every eligible voter is registered.

Aug 5, 2008

GOP Droping in Voting Rolls

The national GOP playbook on voter suppression won't be enough for the Republicans this year.

Beyond the major structural problems with the election and the weakness of John McCain (polls aside), the GOP is seeing significant drops in voting rolls in many states.

Writes Jennifer Steinhauer:

But for a shift away from one party to sustain itself — the current registration trend is now in its fourth year — is remarkable, researchers who study voting patterns say. And though comparable data are not available for the 21 states where voters do not register by party, there is evidence that an increasing number of voters in those states are also moving away from the Republican Party based on the results of recent state and Congressional elections, the (political science and election) researchers said.