When the media carries water for the Arizona GOP – Voting Rights Act edition

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

I have already been over how we have a GOPropaganda echo chamber in the Arizona media in the previous post. So let's get to the other election news this week, from the Arizona Republic(an), Ariz. seeks Supreme Court relief on Voting Rights Act:

Three days after the Nov. 6 election, when many Americans happily made voting a memory, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a case that some legal experts say could lead to the biggest shake-up in voting law in nearly a half-century.

The court will weigh a key portion of the Voting Rights Act, a law that has changed little over 40 years and for decades has placed Arizona and eight other states under federal scrutiny for suspected discrimination.

Supporters of the lawsuit, which involves an Alabama county, say their efforts could once again put every state and locality on equal legal footing and evaluate anew whether minorities are treated unfairly anywhere.

* * *

The case has special relevance to Arizona, which is one of nine states that must get federal approval for any changes that could affect voting rights of minorities, such as Hispanics and Native Americans.

Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne has filed legal papers supporting the Alabama challenge of the requirement. Because of the provision, every conceivable change affecting voting in Arizona must run through Horne's office, which he said is a constant drain.

"I don't have any numbers at my fingertips, but I would describe the burden as huge," Horne said.

Such is the frustration with a law that many agree had unusually broad powers.

"No law prior to the passage of the Voting Rights Act, and no law since the Voting Rights Act, has ever required local jurisdictions and the states to seek permission from the federal government before a law can go into effect," said Edward Blum, director of the [right-wing] Project for Fair Representation, a Virginia-based organization that filed the lawsuit as part of its opposition to racial and ethnic legal preferences.

The "burden" to these right-wingers from Tom Horne to the misnamed Project for Fair Representation is that the federal government is watching everything they do, and if they cross the line into voter discrimination and disenfranchisement, the federal government has the lawful power to stop them, as it did in 2012 in several states. It upsets these Tenther's "states' rights" Neoconfederate fantasies.

Justin Levitt, an election-law expert at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, said states have always had a way to get out from federal oversight, but they haven't done enough to escape the portion of the law being challenged, known as Section 5.

"It's tailored to a problem that we still have," Levitt said. "The only jurisdictions that are still covered are those that have either been found to make life worse off for race or language minorities in the last 10 years, or haven't wanted to get out. In my mind, that shows some extra special attention should be paid there. There was a disturbing legacy, and there are still in some ways some continuing problems. It's still useful to have the outside eye in essence stopping problems before they start."

[Getting out from under federal preclearance, a process known as bailout, requires a decade of trouble-free elections in the eyes of the Justice Department and includes a decade of probation after that.

At least 136 local jurisdictions around the country have bailed out over the years, but no states have.]

In its response to the Alabama case, the federal government argues that Section 5 grew out of decades of state-led obstacles to voting by minorities. In 2006, Congress largely maintained its basis for identifying troublesome places for discrimination, but made some adjustments after considering 15,000 pages of records, the government claims.

When the government prevailed in a lower court, the opinion noted that the particular methods outlined in Section 5 "were never selected because of something special that occurred in those years; instead, they were chosen as mere proxies for identifying those jurisdictions with established histories of discriminating against racial and language minority voters," records show. That's because the areas with troubled pasts piled up hundreds more violations between the reauthorization of Section 5 in 1982 and 2006, the [evidence at trial clearly established].

* * *

Daniel Tokaji, a law professor at Ohio State University, said striking or changing Section 5 could invite abuse.

Section 5 "is the cornerstone of the Voting Rights Act, which is widely viewed as one of the most successful civil-rights statutes in our history," Tokaji said. "It has been critical in preventing backsliding in voting rights. We're obviously living in a time when these issues are back front and center. We've still got a lot of concerns about voter suppression."

Arizona became a preclearance state in 1975 because in 1972 it didn't print ballots in Spanish, though it has since 1974.

[This is the most frequently cited reason by opponents. But it was also because Arizona had a long history of voter intimidaton and voter suppression, from Native Americans to African-Americans to Latinos. Of particular historical note was the man whom President Nixon had elevated to associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court in 1971, William Rehnquist. See for example Suppressing minority voters since 1958!]

"You might ask why in 1975 would they backdate to 1972?" Horne asked rhetorically. "The answer is, it was reverse-engineered to catch Arizona. We shouldn't be paying a price almost 40 years later for the fact that we instituted bilingual voting in 1974 rather than 1972."

[Yes, let's just ignore the facts Tommy Boy: Federal officials objected to Arizona redistricting plans proposed in 1992 and 2002, and has 22 total objections since 1973, according to the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a group that advocates equal rights for minorities and tracks such issues. There is also Prop. 200 (2004) requiring voter ID and proof of citizenship to vote, whichhas been litigated ever since.]

His legal team has noted that Arizona has federal oversight, yet not Nevada — though the states for years have had similar records on minority participation in elections.

If the objection is that the law only applies to certain jurisdictions, then states like Ohio and Pennsylvania in 2012 have made the case that Section 5 should be expanded to apply uniformly to all jurisdictions, not struck down.

If the court upends Section 5, experts say, states like Arizona could potentially be free to implement their own voting laws and have a freer hand on redistricting in the future. [And there it is! The real reason why Tommy Boy wants in on this lawsuit.]

All of the objections to Section 5 by opponents noted in this report were in fact debated in Congress in 2006, despite the reporter's selective use of Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., to argue that "the bill was crafted and virtually passed before any senator properly understood any of the major changes." Bullshit. Check the Congressional Record. Southern Republicans whined mightily.

The renewal of the Voting Rights Act was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on July 13, 2006 by a vote of 390-33, with support from Republican House leadership, led by Judiciary Committee Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr. The U.S. Senate passed the bill 98–0 on July 20, 2006 [Not even Tom Coburn was moved to vote "no."] President George W. Bush signed the bill in a ceremony on July 27, 2006.

Despite this near universal support in Congress, The Arizona Republic(an) editorialized today Ballot oversight is a relic:

[Arizona's] preclearance status requires Justice approval of big changes in Arizona election-related law, such as redistricting. And small changes, such as the purchase of new election machines. And it requires the OK of Justice lawyers for changes wholly unrelated to anyone's voting rights, much less those of minorities, such as the 2010 initiative to approve a temporary 1-cent-per-dollar sales tax.

Arizona can make a fair argument that it should never have been on "preclearance" status. The 1975 change to the 1965 Voting Rights Act ensnared Arizona for failing to have offered voters a Spanish-language ballot, even though the state started printing Spanish ballots a year earlier. The 1975 changes were consciously designed to punish Arizona for behavior it already had corrected.

[Once again, let's just ignore the facts: Federal officials objected to Arizona redistricting plans proposed in 1992 and 2002, and has 22 total objections since 1973, according to the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a group that advocates equal rights for minorities and tracks such issues. There is also Prop. 200 (2004) requiring voter ID and proof of citizenship to vote, whichhas been litigated ever since.]

The preclearance measure is unequal in its treatment of the states, and punitive for all the wrong reasons.

* * *

Supporters of Section 5 are unwilling to acknowledge those Jim Crow days are dead and gone.

[Holy crap! Only someone who has been living in a cave for the past 12 years could assert such mind-numbing ignorance. There has been a resurgence of voter suppression "Jim Crow" laws during this time, in 33 states just since the 2010 election. It extends well beyond the covered jurisdictions under the Act.]

Perhaps the worst effect of Section 5 is the damage it does to the blind and equal application of the rule of law.

Once again, if the objection is that the law only applies to certain jurisdictions, then states like Ohio and Pennsylvania have made the case that Section 5 should be expanded to apply uniformly to all jurisdictions, not struck down.

And here comes the pearl clutching of right-wing conspiracy theories and Tenther "states' rights" Neoconfederate fantasies:

The U.S. Supreme Court has opted to reconsider the punitive elements of Section 5, and we can only agree that it is well past time to do so.

As applied, the law's oversight tenets have evolved into little more than a convenience for federal lawyers.

Even without its preclearance list, the Justice Department retains the right — indeed, the duty — to take legal action against any jurisdiction violating the landmark law protecting voting rights. It's just easier for the feds to keep states on an eternal watch list, so they do.

The preclearance list adds to voter cynicism regarding the bedrock right to vote.

* * *

Over 35 years on the fed's preclearance list is long enough. If Arizona ever deserved to be on the oppressive list — and that's debatable — it doesn't now.

This editorial opinion would be contemptible if it came from a credible objective news organization. It does not. It is GOPropaganda from the Arizona Republican Party's long-standing mouthpiece, The Arizona Republic(an).

0 responses to “When the media carries water for the Arizona GOP – Voting Rights Act edition

  1. The ironies of Republicanism:
    No one likes their policy ideas, so they lose elections. But then they want the courts to select their ideas and legislate from the bench. Republicans HATE legislating from the bench, unless of course, the judgement helps their side or the opinion was written by Antonin Scalia.
    This is a helluva place to live. Unfortunately, I think AZ state government will stay red long after AZ turns blue.