This morning I came across an article written by E.J. Dionne, a long time op-ed contributor for The Washington Post and a NPR, PBS and MSNBC commentator, about fighting back on voting rights. I knew it was going to be skewed to the left, I just didn’t realize how much so.
By E.J. Dionne Jr., Guest Columnist
Attorney General Eric Holder has opened what will be an epic battle over whether our country will remain committed to equal rights at the ballot box. In a display of egregious judicial activism in late June, the conservative majority on the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act. Holder made clear last week he intends to fight back.
The struggle will begin in Texas, but it won’t end there. “We cannot allow the slow unraveling of the progress that so many, throughout history, have sacrificed so much to achieve,” Holder told the National Urban League’s annual conference.
He wasn’t exaggerating the stakes. From the moment the Supreme Court threw out Section 4 of the act, which subjected the voting laws in states and jurisdictions with a history of discrimination to Justice Department scrutiny, conservative legislators in those places gleefully signaled their intention to pass laws to make it harder to vote. In addition, Texas re-imposed a redistricting map that a federal court had already ruled was discriminatory.
These hasty moves were unseemly but entirely predictable, proving that Chief Justice John Robert’s opinion in the case will become a Magna Carta for voter suppression. Without having to worry about “preclearance” from the Justice Department, legislators can go about their business of making it more difficult for voters who would throw them out of office to reach the polls — and of drawing racially gerrymandered districts that prolong their tenure. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg understood a logic here that escaped Roberts. “A governing political coalition,” she wrote in her dissent, “has an incentive to prevent changes in the existing balance of voting power.”
This in turn means that when a political party fares badly with minority voters, it will try to turn them away from the polling booths. That’s what segregationist Southern Democrats did in the past. Many Republican-controlled legislatures are doing it now.
Holder announced he was using Section 3, a different part of the Voting Rights Act that was left standing, to ask a federal court to re-subject Texas to preclearance. It is a less efficient way to achieve what the pre-gutted act allowed automatically, but it is the best that can be done for now. It would be better still if Congress reinstated a revised version of Section 4. In the meantime, the hope is to limit the damage of the high court’s folly — and perhaps also give other states pause before they rush into new discriminatory schemes.
“This is the department’s first action to protect voting rights following the [Supreme Court] decision, but it will not be our last,” Holder declared. His department is likely to move this week against the Texas voter-identification law, and to go to court eventually against other states that pass comparable statutes.
To get a sense of how bad these laws are, consider the bill Republicans rushed through both houses of North Carolina’s Legislature that should be called the Omnibus Voter Suppression Act of 2013. It reads like a parody written for Stephen Colbert’s show with its cornucopia of provisions that would make it as hard as possible for African-Americans, Latinos and young people to vote.
As the Charlotte Observer reported, it shortens the early-voting period, eliminates the opportunity to register and vote on the same day during that time, and ends pre-registration for teenagers 16 to 17. The bill also prevents counties from extending voting hours when lines are long — which they will be with the cutback on early voting days. It not only requires photo identification, but also narrows the list of what’s acceptable, eliminating college IDs, for example.
Oh, yes, and remember the old civic tradition of using all avenues to encourage people to register to vote, a favorite cause of that famously revolutionary group, the League of Women Voters? This bill would ban paid voter registration drives.
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E.J. Dionne’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
Expecting more from a man who penned the book, “They Only Look Dead: Why Progressives Will Dominate the Next Political Era” , was kind of naive, but thinking that being a print journalist he would have been more scrupulous – even just a bit impartial. Lesson learned.
Of course I have an opinion on his op-ed piece, but I wanted to make sure he was aware of it. I emailed him this morning –
I noticed in your article, Fighting Back On Voting Rights, a few omissions. I’m sure this was unintended.
For example, you wrote, “This in turn means that when a political party fares badly with minority voters, it will try to turn them away from the polling booths.” You mean like the New Black Panther Party voter intimidation in Philly that was later dismissed by Holder? I’m sure you mean just like that.
Then there was that little rant on banning paid voter drives. You must have been distracted during the last election. Unless you were living under a rock, you would know that paid voter drives breed voter registration fraud. If you need examples, I’d be more than happy to supply them. Perhaps it was just an oversight on your part. It’s inconceivable that some people think voter fraud is a myth, they must be part of the low information voters. Ask me how I could have voted twice when I was handed the ballot of another voter because of the same last name and similar address. I suppose if someone had asked to see my ID the situation could have been avoided. Not everyone is as honest as I am.
That got me thinking about photo identification – either a driver’s license or a state ID for non-drivers. I noticed some pertinent data was missing from your article. There are so many instances besides voting where showing/having an ID is necessary.
For instance, one would need an ID to apply for/receive Medicare and Medicaid, purchase cigarettes and alcohol, buy Sudafed, rent a car, get a hotel room, check out a library book, any bank transactions, register yourself or a child in school, board an airplane, get certain medications at the pharmacy, apply for store credit, set up a utilities account (water, lights, etc), buy a car, register a car, vote in a union, donate blood, use a credit card, Social Security services, buy train tickets, volunteer at non-profit organizations, buy a house, rent an apartment, and even at print shops.
I don’t think you were seriously suggesting that asking for an ID to vote is somehow racist or “right wing”, that would be ludicrous. I’m sure the groups you mentioned: blacks, latinos and young people, (I’ll even throw one in of my own – senior citizens) have used at least one or more of these services. To think otherwise would be absurd…. or intellectually dishonest. Wouldn’t you say?
I do hope Mr. Dionne gets sarcasm –
What are your thoughts…opinions on voter’s rights and voter ID?