Jun 26, 2014

Advocates Keep up Pretension James Sensenbrenner Cares about Voting Rights

Writing in The Nation, Ari Berman assumes the visage of a puzzled man who cannot grasp why Republicans are blocking the Voting Rights Amendment Act (VRAA).

That Republicans for well over a decade have committed their Party to obstructing minority voters seems to escape Berman's ruminations.

Berman also, if a reader takes his piece seriously, notes that former House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisconsin) deserves praise for the reintroduction of the VRAA, implying this is a good thing.

Actually, the VRAA's new formula is to codify as constitutional and consonant with the Voting Rights Act state voter obstruction photo voter laws such as Wisconsin's, and create a new voter obstruction formula to replace the 2006 formula that was decimated by Shelby County v. Holder.

In its current form, the VRAA (HR 3899) "proposes a new coverage formula, through which states will be subject to preclearance if they have five or more voting rights violations in the previous fifteen years, at least one of which is a statewide violation; and through which subjurisdictions will be subject to preclearance if they have three or more violations, or one violation and a demonstration of extremely low minority turnout in the previous fifteen years. It also enhances preclearance by ensuring that courts have the tools necessary to order it as a remedy for additional jurisdictions. Where neither route is available, it enhances plaintiffs' abilities to obtain preliminary injunctive relief to stop certain types of voting changes preventing discrimination in real time. In addition, it offers new notice and transparency standards and reinforces and expands the role of federal observers," as noted by the People for the American Way.

Five statewide violations of voting rights and the DoJ could step in. Justice at last. Most of what People for the American Way writes above is spin, and they know it.

Berman and virtually the entire civil rights community are behind this atrocity of a civil rights bill, hoping against hope Republicans will change their mind about their voter obstruction project, amend HR 3899, and state publicly, 'You know obstructing voters is just wrong, we need to jump on this fix to the Voting Rights Act and amend this bill to make it right."

As for Sensenbrenner, Sensenbrenner calls the Wisconsin's photo voter ID law "common sense," and says of Texas’ Voter ID law enacted in 2013 (the most anti-voting rights legislation the GOP has passed on the state level so far), after being challenged by the DoJ:

Congressman Sensenbrenner: "I regret that the Department of Justice announced its intent to file a lawsuit against Texas’ Voter ID law citing Section 2 to the Voting Rights Act.  The Texas legislature passed Voter ID, and Governor Perry signed this legislation into law in 2011. Voter ID laws are an essential element in protecting the integrity of our electoral process and do not have a discriminatory intent or effect."

But Sensenbrenner's a Voting Rights champion, just ask him, and Ari Berman.

What is clear is that the Democratic Party, Sensenbrenner and other pretenders are concerned about appearing to fight for the Voting Rights Act fix, instead of actually fighting for the Voting Rights Act post-Holder.

"Excludes from the list of violations triggering jurisdiction retention authority any voting qualification or prerequisite which results in a denial or abridgement of the right to vote that 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 a federal, state, or local election," reads the text of HR 3899, the VRAA. (emphasis added)

It bears repeating who Sensenbrenner is and what his motives are regarding voting rights.

There are of course serious efforts to protect voting: The Pocan-Ellison Right to Vote Amendment.

Sensenbrenner supporting this mega voting rights guarantee, and going against his Party's voter obstruction project is as likely as Sarah Palin winning a Nobel Prize in physics.

We noted here last November that in 2005-06, Sensenbrenner was chair of the House Judiciary Committee so he likes to preen that he was the champion of the renewal of the various sections of the Voting Rights Act that passed 390-33 in the House and 98-0 in the Senate and, history should remember, was signed into law by President George W. Bush.

In fact, Bush did one hell of a job of conjuring LBJ in the White House, and as noted by Gary May and Joseph Morgan Kousser cajoled Congress into passing a 25-year reauthorization in the Republican-controlled Congress.

Writes May:
(D)uring his second term Bush found it necessary to court black voters. The president's slow response to the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina, which hurt blacks disproportionally and revealed again the presence of widespread poverty in the South, damaged Bush's standing. In an attempt to recoup his political fortunes as congressional elections approached in 2006, Bush turned to the black community. On a trip to Memphis visited the Loraine Motel and stood on the balcony where Martin Luther King was assassinated in 1968. He also agreed to address the NAACP's annual convention, which he had ignored for six years. There Bush was received coolly but won a standing ovation when he expressed his support for the Voting Rights Act, urging congress to enact it then, one year before it was due to expire. This was not simply rhetoric. Behind the scenes Bush's staff encouraged Republicans, who now controlled both houses of Congress, to extend the Act. And this time the Republican congressional leadership in both the House and Senate were receptive to such appeals because if you weren't a southerner, there was no political payoff for attacking the now-iconic Voting Right Act. (pp 273-274)
So, House Judiciary Committee Sensenbrenner was going to defy Bush and Rove on the Voting Rights Act reauthorization of 2006? Right.

And Sensenbrenner is now going to declare war on the GOP's war on voting? Right.

Berman and the civil rights community should realize what they are up against in the Republican Party, and start organizing and fighting again because nothing else is going to repair the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and its progeny, certainly not HR 3899.

No comments:

Post a Comment