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The good news first

Since The Nation's Ari Berman has been covering voter suppression so well, let him deliver that news:

By pushing voter suppression laws, Republicans wanted the 2012 electorate to be older, whiter and more conservative than the young and diverse 2008 electorate.

But the GOP’s suppression strategy failed. Ten major restrictive voting laws were blocked in court and turnout among young, black and Hispanic voters increased as a share of the electorate relative to 2008.

Take a look at Ohio, where Ohio Republicans limited early voting hours as a way to decrease the African-American vote, which made up a majority of early voters in cities like Cleveland and Dayton. Early voting did fall relative to 2008 as a result of Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted’s cutbacks in early voting days and hours, but the overall share of the black electorate increased from 11 percent in 2008 to 15 percent in 2012. More than anything else, that explains why Barack Obama once again carried the state.

I spent the weekend before the election in black churches in Cleveland, and there’s no doubt in my mind that the GOP’s push to curtail the rights of black voters made them even more motivated to cast a ballot. “When they went after big mama’s voting rights, they made all of us mad,” said Reverend Tony Minor, Ohio coordinator of the African American Ministers Leadership Council.

The GOP tried to suppress the vote. They pissed people off. And people whose vote they were trying to suppress voted heavily. And Obama won. Exit polls in the 31 states that had them this year found that 28 percent of voters were racial minorities versus 26 percent in 2012. Although overall turnout was down this year, by how much is unclear given that we have several million votes still not tallied. Given those still-being-counter votes, it is certain the absolute number of racial minorities who voted this year was higher than four years ago. No doubt some voters wound up staying home because of voter suppression efforts. But as the long lines would indicate, overall the voter suppression efforts may well have cost the Republicans some seats they would otherwise have won and even a state or two for Mitt Romney.

Now the bad news

As Marcy Wheeler put it, the Supreme Court prepares to decide the 2016 election. The Court announced Friday that it will review Shelby County v. Holder, an Alabama case involving a key bulwark in the long fight against voter suppression, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The act was passed as an antidote to decades of Jim Crow laws designed to keep blacks from casting ballots. It provides relief for racial and language minorities at the polls. Lyle Denniston at Scotusblog explains:

Specially at issue is the constitutionality of the law’s Section 5, the most important provision, under which nine states and parts of seven others with a past history of racial bias in voting must get official clearance in Washington before they may put into effect any change in election laws or procedures, no matter how small. The Court came close to striking down that section three years ago, but instead sent Congress clear signals that it should update the law so that it reflects more recent conditions, especially in the South. Congress did nothing in reaction. [...]

In agreeing to rule on the Voting Rights Act, the Court limited its review to a question which it composed itself: ”Whether Congress’ decision in 2006 to reauthorize Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act under the pre-existing coverage fomulal of Section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act exceeded its authority under the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments and thus violated the Tenth Amendment and Article IV of the United States Constitution.”   The Tenth Amendment protects the powers of states by limiting Congress’s powers.

A decision to overturn Section 5 could make voter suppression considerably easier (and more likely to occur) in at least some of those states. Foes of the Voting Rights Act have, of course, always painted that opposition in terms of states' rights.

Garrett Epps at The Atlantic has an excellent essay on the issue, which includes:

The Voting Rights Act is one of the greatest success stories in the history of American civil rights law. Within a few years, barriers to the ballot tumbled in states across the South and West. The old elite of the Jim Crow South fought on; but the "pre-clearance" procedure stymied its attempts to neutralize political gains with new district lines, registration rules, or practices at the polling place. The freer political atmosphere in the South meant the growth of a two-party system and bi-racial House delegations. Four times, Congress has reauthorized the VRA, most recently in 2006, by a vote of 390 to 33 in the House, and 98 to 0 in the Senate.

But southern state governments chafe under the special restrictions it places on them. Just to give one example of how pre-clearance works, consider that the Republican-led Florida legislature in 2011 sharply cut back on early voting in that state. Voting-rights groups sued to block the change, but failed. However, some parts of Florida are "covered jurisdictions." In those counties, the cutback in early voting was blocked by the Justice Department; after a court proceeding, the state had to agree to extend early voting beyond its original plan.

More from Richard Pildes here.

(Please continue reading below the fold.)

In other voter suppression news

Virginia County supervisor calls long waits voter suppression: An elected Prince William County supervisor, Frank Principi, said

The combination of antiquated technology and too few machines, and the management operations of the elections themselves, made for a really bad experience on the part of tens of thousands of eastern Prince William voters [...] “This is the worst form of voter suppression. People came. They stood in line and then they left.”
Virginia election official is leading vote suppressor: The vote did not go smoothly in Fairfax County, Virginia, Tuesday night. Long lines that caused up to three-and-a-half-hour waits in some precincts led many people complain. One problem: not enough poll workers. The vice chair of the three-member county election board is the Hans von Spakovsky of the Heritage Foundation, a leading proponent of disenfranchising low-income and minority citizens. That, of course, couldn't possibly have anything to do with the mess in Fairfax on Tuesday.

Andrew Cohen suggests Eric Holder resign: But it's not what you might think. Since Holder himself has indicated he might not stay on for another four years with the administration, Cohen says there is a perfect challenge for him to take on:

Eric Holder should resign his post at Justice to lead the new Commission on Election Reform that President Obama must empanel to investigate voter suppression, voter fraud, and all other threats to voting rights. The Commission should be charged with recommending to Congress what legal changes are necessary to ensure that American citizens do not have to be put through the indignities they suffered this year when they tried to register and vote. If the president is serious about the topic-- "we have to fix that," he said early Wednesday morning in his victory speech, referring to outrageously long voting lines this year—this would surely be a good way to show it.
Minnesotans got wise to voter-ID proposal and axed it:
It was truly amazing to watch Minnesotans reject the proposed state constitutional amendment that would have required eligible voters to obtain a state-issued photo identification card to cast their ballots.  Especially amazing after polls a year ago showed 80 percent of the public favored the idea, including 60 percent of the Democrats, who apparently did not realize they would be committing political suicide if they voted for it.
Election big win for lawyers: Among the many voting cases they may be called upon to resolve:
In Ohio, ongoing litigation about the way provisional ballots are counted will continue so that election law is settled, even if the media spotlight moves on, Hasen said. And in New Jersey, voters have been complaining about problems with the email voting system, something that would not likely affect the presidential race but could cause challenges and post-election litigation for all of the down-ticket races that are close, he said.
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