May 28, 2014

Social Scientific Evidence in Federal Civil Rights Cases

University of Washington political science
professor Matt Barreto's
social scientific
evidence is used across the nation in federal
civil rights litigation
Those following the civil rights challenges to Wisconsin's photo voter ID law saw clearly in the November 2013 federal trial the strategy of the plaintiffs—present a mountain of social scientific evidence at trial refuting the propaganda of the Republican Party.

The 2013 trial was a rout for voting rights activists, and the introduction of social scientific evidence vis a vis mere propaganda from the Republican Party on voter fraud is critical to Judge Lynn Adelman's decision and order issued in late April striking down Wisconsin Act 23 as unconstitutional under the 14th and 24th amendments and violative of the Voting Rights Acts.

Propaganda introduced as evidence in federal court.

This ought to be shocking—something we might expect from the state departments of justice of Alabama, Mississippi, North Carolina and Texas, but not from the state of Wisconsin.

The trial against Wisconsin Act 23 shows just how retrograde and racist the Republican Party has become.

In today's political culture where the equivalent of a shouted Tea Party slogan passes for legal evidence in Republican Party circles, academics inheriting the use of social scientific evidence in litigation from such pioneers as Alma Taeuber, Karl Taeuber (housing and school discrimination experts) and the late Kenneth Clark are in great demand today.

Introducing social scientific evidence may appear to be a no-brainer, but only since the NAACP launched its campaign against segregation leading to Brown v. Board of Education (1954) did the introduction of social scientific evidence become central to civil rights litigation in federal court.

This trend can be expected to accelerate as the white supremacist ideology has become conventional in the Republican Party, with almost no public dissent from Republican officeholders.

In the challenge to Wisconsin's photo voter ID law—Frank v. Walker and
League of United Latin American Citizens of Wisconsin v. Deininger—Judge Adelman concludes the "evidence at trial established that virtually no voter impersonation occurs in Wisconsin. The defendants could not point to a single instance of known voter impersonation occurring in Wisconsin at any time in the recent past," (pp. 11, 12), citing the work of Lorraine Minnite, a professor at Rutgers University, among other academic work demonstrating in open court that photo voter fraud is mere propaganda, conjuring crimes for which there is no evidence.

The trial also included the testimony of Leland Beatty, a statistical marketing consultant with extensive experience in business and politics, who demonstrated that minorities more often lack the GOP-crafted range of acceptable photo voter IDs as a precondition to vote.

Matthew Barreto's (University of Washington and an expert on voting behavior, survey methods and statistical analysis), in collaboration with Gabriel Sanchez' (University of New Mexico) work is featured in Adelman's decision.

Concludes Barreto and Sanchez: "The results showed that, of 661,958 eligible voters in Milwaukee County, 9.53% or 63,085 voters did not possess an acceptable form of photo ID, and 34.1% of these voters—21,512 people—also lacked the primary documents required to get a free state ID card as a first-
time applicant." (emphasis added)

Laws such as Act 23 demanding Republican-sanctioned documentation and IDs are aimed at stopping voters perceived likely to vote against the the GOP.

Matt Driscoll has a piece in the Seattle Weekly reporting on the growing demand for Barreto and Sanchez' work as Republicans work busily to stop undesirables from voting. And Thomas Mann has an essay excoriating academics who refuse to fight the new Republicans because of fear of retaliation.

Reports Driscoll:
According to critics of voter-ID laws—which have now been pursued, in one form or another, in nearly half the states in the union—research confirms that such laws create voter disenfranchisement along racial and socioeconomic lines. These laws have proliferated in the wake of the 2013 Supreme Court case Shelby County v. Holder, in which the court, by a controversial 5-4 vote, struck down a section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 requiring states to obtain federal preclearance before changing voting regulations or practices. With the federal preclearance hurdle removed, states that pass voter-ID laws can move quickly to implement them—and have, to the dismay of many, including the national legal arm of the American Civil Liberties Union.

ACLU Voting Rights Project staff attorney Sean Young says Barreto’s methodology and findings have been 'critical to our success' in challenging the laws. 'He’s very important to our work, and his reputation is unassailable,' Young says of Barreto. 'Certainly we expect to rely on him in the future.'
Fighting for voting rights continues anew with the same tools of the 1950s-60s-70s civil rights movement—the rule of law, evidence and justice v. hate and contrivance in the pursuit of a white power structure.

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