The Neocon Washington Post, never to be confused with a “librul” newspaper — see Fred Hiatt’s Hiring Hall For Unemployable Conservatives on the op-ed page — nevertheless delivers a stinging rebuke to the GOP war on voting in an editorial opinion. Suppressing the vote:
Responsible politicians should be doing all they can to encourage people to exercise their most precious of rights. Instead, Republican leaders in states around the country are continuing their war even on what should be uncontroversial, small-scale reforms, in a transparent attempt to depress turnout among poor and minority — that is, Democratic — voters.
The Supreme Court has ruled that GOP efforts to roll back voter-access measures in Ohio will take effect before next month’s vote. Last week the court said the same thing about crimped voting rules in North Carolina, a state whose Republican majority rushed to add barriers to the ballot box right after the court weakened the Voting Rights Act last year. Not every GOP restriction will be implemented next month; the justices halted a strict voter ID requirement in Wisconsin, where some absentee voters would have had to show up with identification after mailing in their ballots. On the same day, a district court judge in Texas repudiated that state’s voter ID law, though Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott (R) — who is on the November ballot for governor — is promising to appeal.
In North Carolina and Ohio, much has been made of Republicans’ determination to reduce the number of early voting days in each state. Ohio’s legislature voted to reduce the early voting period from 35 to 28 days. North Carolina will end up with only 1½ weeks of early voting. But more concerning than the number of early voting days — studies have been mixed on whether adding days encourages turnout — is which days Republicans are getting rid of, and what voters can and can’t do when they show up. Ohio’s leaders eliminated “Golden Week,” in which voters can register and vote in the same week, and they have taken away a full early-voting weekend, during which African Americans tend to head to the polls.
Even worse, North Carolina got rid of same-day registration, no matter which day you show up, and a provision allowing polling places to stay open an extra hour to accommodate long lines. The state also eliminated its long-running voter registration drive and a pre-registration program for teenagers on the verge of getting the franchise. On the other hand, North Carolina Republicans made it easier to vote by absentee ballot, as white voters disproportionately do. Like Texas and Wisconsin, North Carolina is also attempting to impose a voter ID requirement.
The United States does not have a voter impersonation crisis demanding the imposition of voter ID requirements, which, as the Government Accountability Office found last week, tend to depress turnout. And it’s hardly outrageous to spend money to open polling places well before Election Day and keep them open for long hours. Instead of juicing the rules to minimize opponents’ turnout, the country’s leaders should adopt an automatic, universal voter registration system and remove absurd restrictions on which polling places individuals must attend. [I have been advocating for this for years.] The current, cumbersome, two-step voting process promotes confusion and deters participation. Republicans’ blatant efforts to depress turnout even more is a disgrace.
The New York Times adds its voice today, The Big Lie Behind Voter ID Laws:
Election Day is three weeks off, and Republican officials and legislators around the country are battling down to the wire to preserve strict and discriminatory new voting laws that could disenfranchise hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Americans.
On Thursday, the Supreme Court — no friend to expansive voting rights — stepped in and blocked one of the worst laws, a Wisconsin statute requiring voters to show a photo ID to cast a ballot. A federal judge had struck it down in April, saying it would disproportionately prevent voting by poorer and minority citizens. Last month, however, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit allowed it to go into effect, even though thousands of absentee ballots had been sent out under the old rules.
There was sure to be chaos if the justices had not stayed that appeals court ruling, and their decision appears to be based on the risk of changing voting rules so close to an election. But they could still vote to uphold the law should they decide to review its constitutionality.
Similar laws have been aggressively pushed in many states by Republican lawmakers who say they are preventing voter fraud, promoting electoral “integrity” and increasing voter turnout. None of that is true. There is virtually no in-person voter fraud; the purpose of these laws is to suppress voting.
In Texas, where last week a federal judge struck down what she called the most restrictive voter ID law in the country, there were two convictions for in-person voter impersonation in one 10-year period. During that time, 20 million votes were cast. Nor is there any evidence that these laws encourage more voters to come to the polls. Instead, in at least two states — Kentucky and Tennessee — they appear to have reduced turnout by 2 percent to 3 percent, according to a report released last week by the Government Accountability Office.
Voter ID laws, as their supporters know, do only one thing very well: They keep otherwise eligible voters away from the polls. In most cases, this means voters who are poor, often minorities, and who don’t have the necessary documents or the money or time to get photo IDs.
In her remarkable 143-page opinion in the Texas case, Federal District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos found that the law violated both the Equal Protection Clause and the Voting Rights Act, and that by forcing registered voters to track down and pay for qualifying documents, it functioned as an “unconstitutional poll tax.”
Most striking of all, Judge Ramos found that the rapid growth of Texas’s Latino and black population, and the state’s “uncontroverted and shameful history” of discriminatory voting practices — including whites-only primaries, literacy restrictions and actual poll taxes — led to a clear conclusion: Republican lawmakers knew the law would drive down turnout among minority voters, who lean Democratic, and they passed it at least in part for that reason. Judge Ramos’s finding of intentional discrimination is important because it could force Texas back under federal voting supervision, meaning changes to state voting practices would have to be preapproved by the federal government. (Texas appealed the ruling; a federal appeals court is now considering whether to put it on hold until after the election.)
Eventually the issue will be back before the Supreme Court, which last reviewed a voter ID law in 2008, when it upheld an Indiana law because there was no clear evidence showing how it would harm voters. Thanks to the work of voting-rights advocates and the extraordinarily thorough rulings of Judge Ramos and Judge Lynn Adelman, who struck down Wisconsin’s law, the evidence is in.
The next time voter ID laws reach the justices, they should see them for the antidemocratic sham they are.
Both editorial boards appear to be unaware that Judge Richard Posner, the author of that Indiana opinion at the appellate court level, now says he would have decided the case differently, finding that voter ID laws are voter suppression. Conservative icon Judge Richard Posner blasts voter ID laws he once approved.
I agree with the NY Times: “The voter ID cases headed to the U.S. Supreme Court from Wisconsin, North Carolina and Texas should occasion the court to reconsider its wrongly decided opinion in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board, and to reverse that opinion as Judge Richard Posner would do.”
Voter suppression is un-American. The best revenge is to vote against those who seek to suppress the vote.