The GOP Is Winning the War on Voting
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Sid Shniad
2014-10-20 21:48:35 UTC
Raw Message
<div dir="ltr"><b><font><a
</span>October 15, 2014</span>&nbsp;&nbsp;
<span>|</span> &nbsp;&nbsp;
This article appeared in the November 3, 2014 edition of The
Nation.</span></font></b></div><h2><font size="4">
The GOP Is Winning the War on Voting </font></h2><b>
</b><div><p><b><font>Voters in fourteen states—many with tight
races—will face new restrictions at the polling booth for the first
time in November.</font></b></p>

<b><font><span>Ari Berman</span></font></b></div><div>
</div></div></div><p><font>Since the 2010
election, the Republican Party has waged a long and
aggressive war on voting. In 2011 and 2012, at least 180 new voting
restrictions were introduced in forty-one states, with twenty-seven
election changes passing in nineteen states. The attack on voting rights
intensified after the Supreme Court’s June 2013 <i>Shelby County v. Holder</i>
decision striking down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). It
freed states with a history of the worst voter suppression from getting
approval from the federal government for voting changes.</font></p>
<p><font>Following the Court’s ruling, laws previously blocked as
discriminatory, like Texas’ voter-ID law, immediately went into effect.
North Carolina passed the country’s most sweeping set of restrictions
just a month after the ruling, and the swing states of Ohio and
Wisconsin adopted new cuts to early voting.</font></p>
<p><font>Initially, there was hope that Congress would pass a legislative fix
for the VRA in 2014. But with Congress in paralysis and few Republicans
willing to sign on, the fight to protect voting rights has shifted from
the legislative branch to the judiciary.</font></p>
<p><font>There has been one victory. On October 9, the Supreme Court blocked
Wisconsin’s voter-ID law for the midterms, which had been reinstated by
three Republican-appointed judges less than two months before the
election, leading to chaos in the Badger State. More than 300,000
registered voters did not have a valid voter ID.</font></p>
<p><font>One day earlier, the Government Accountability Office released a
comprehensive study showing that strict voter-ID laws in Kansas and
Tennessee decreased turnout by two to three points from 2008 to 2012,
compared with similar states with no voter-ID laws, which <i>The
Washington Post </i>estimates led to 122,000 fewer votes. Turnout
dropped most sharply among young, newly registered and
African-American voters.</font></p>
<p><font>But the courts have mostly dealt blows to voting rights of late. In
the span of ten days, the Supreme Court overturned lower-court decisions
reinstating a week of early voting and same-day registration in Ohio,
and reinstated a ban on same-day registration and out-of-precinct
balloting in North Carolina that the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals had
struck down days earlier. A cruel irony: if not for the <i>Shelby</i>
decision, as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg noted in her dissent, “these
measures likely would not have survived federal preclearance.”</font></p>
<p><font>Six days after the North Carolina decision, the Fifth Circuit Court
of Appeals reversed a federal court ruling by Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos
striking down Texas’ voter-ID law as “an unconstitutional poll tax.”
Gonzales Ramos had found that 600,000 registered voters in the state did
not have a voter ID and that proponents in the Legislature were
“motivated…<i>because of</i> and not merely <i>in spite of </i>the
voter-ID law’s detrimental effects on the African-American and
Hispanic electorate.”</font></p>
<p><font>Voters in fifteen states will face new restrictions for the first
time in a major election when they go to the polls in November,
according to the Brennan Center for Justice. Many are in states with
highly contested Senate and gubernatorial races, like Kansas and
<p><font>The biggest impact could be felt in North Carolina, where there’s a
razor-thin Senate race between Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan and
Republican speaker of the state house Thom Tillis, who spearheaded the
new voting restrictions. Hundreds of voters, including an Afghan War
vet, were disenfranchised in the primary after North Carolina
Republicans eliminated same-day registration and out-of-precinct voting,
which tens of thousands of voters used last midterm. Turnout will be
much higher come November, with a corresponding increase in problems at
the polls.</font></p>
<p><font>To help voters, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is
leading an “election protection” coalition of 150 organizations,
recruiting up to 4,000 volunteers to staff the 1-866-OUR-VOTE hotline
and putting legal observers in nineteen states.</font></p>

<p><font>The new restrictions could spark a backlash. “There’s a lot of
passion,” says Bob Hall, executive director of Democracy North Carolina,
which is leading voter protection efforts in the Tar Heel State. “The
pushback against this is fueling a stronger get-out-the-vote effort.
We’re pushing harder than we were in 2010.”</font></p>
<p><font>The drop-off in young and minority voters that typically occurs in
midterm elections may be reversed in battleground states like North
Carolina this year. “All justice-minded North Carolinians should be
outraged,” the Rev. William Barber II, leader of the state’s Moral
Monday movement, said after the Supreme Court’s ruling on North
Carolina. “And they should show this by voting like never
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