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This week in the war on voting is a joint project of Joan McCarter and Meteor Blades

In the wake of the 2013 Supreme Court ruling in Shelby County v. Holder, which gutted a key provision of the Voting Rights Act, the Department of Justice is changing its focus. Instead of going after states and smaller jurisdictions with a documentary history of racial discrimination at the polls, the DoJ will seek violations of voting rights throughout the nation:

"The voting section's work will shift to greater affirmative efforts to detect and investigate voting practices that violate federal law, to more affirmative litigation to enjoin such practices, and to additional monitoring of elections throughout the country each year," according to the agency's fiscal 2015 budget documents sent to Congress last week.

Instead of cutting back on the number of attorneys handling voting rights cases, the department is expanding its reach under other sections of the Voting Rights Act that allow it to sue jurisdictions for unfair voting practices or return the worst offenders to a more strict level of oversight. [...]

An increased emphasis on filing lawsuits to enforce the Voting Rights Act is already apparent. The Justice Department has opened a number of new investigations as part of its plan "to identify election systems that may dilute minority voting strength ... as well as investigation of voting practices that may deny or abridge the right to vote," the budget document states.

• As noted above, the Supreme Court's decision in Shelby has forced a change in how the Department of Justice goes after racial discrimination voting practices. But now two conservative legal scholars are going after Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. If courts were to buy their argument, it would make the DoJ's new efforts far more difficult.

Roger Clegg of the Center for Equal Opportunity and Hans A. von Spakovsky of the Heritage Foundation argue:

Courts should be wary, however, of construing Section 2 to allow liability when only a “disparate impact” on the basis of race—with no evidence of underlying disparate treatment on the basis of race—has been shown. Furthermore, the courts should consider the state’s legitimate, nondiscriminatory interest in preventing voter fraud and maintaining the confidence of the public in the fairness and integrity of the electoral process.
Zachary Roth at MSNBC points out that since the Voting Rights Act was amended in 1982, Section 2 has not only prohibited voting laws meant to discriminate against racial minorities, but also those that have discriminatory effect. It's easy to understand why. These days, the powers-that-be don't hang around publicly with the Klan and "explicitly declare an intention to racially discriminate." If the law only permitted DoJ action when intent could be shown, it would only rarely have an impact.

And that, apparently, is what Clegg and Spakovsky want.

Below the fold you can read more about voting issues.

Judge rules Ohio Libertarians were legitimately kept off the ballot:

Libertarian candidates for Ohio governor and attorney general were rightly disqualified from the ballot, a federal judge said Wednesday, upholding a ruling this month by Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted.

Husted had removed gubernatorial candidate Charlie Earl and attorney general candidate Steven Linnabary from the ballot because people who gathered the 500 signatures they each needed to qualify did not identify their employers, as required by Ohio law.

That law is constitutional, Judge Michael Watson said Wednesday.

NYT editorializes against court's proof of citizenship ruling. I reported here Thursday on the ruling by federal district Judge Eric Melgren in Kobach v. United States Election Assistance Commission. The Times' editorial board concluded:
In reality, as Judge Richard Posner of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit wrote last year about voter ID efforts, these laws are “now widely regarded as a means of voter suppression rather than of fraud prevention.”

Nevertheless, Judge Melgren accepted at face value the claim by Kansas and Arizona that only “concrete proof of citizenship” can allow them to determine whether a voter is eligible. He ignored the fact that neither state had actually demonstrated that such proof was “necessary” to prevent fraud. Kansas officials identified at most 21 noncitizens who had registered to vote, out of more than 1.76 million registered voters in the state. The percentage of noncitizens alleged by Arizona to have registered improperly was similarly minuscule.

Doug Chapin at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs has an analysis of Kobach here and Rick Hasen at the Election Law Blog has one here.

Wisconsin Republican slams own party on voter suppression:

As his own party pushed through the Wisconsin Senate the latest in a series of measures to make it harder to vote in the state, Sen. Dale Schultz (R) blasted the efforts as “trying to suppress the vote” last week.

Schultz, who is not seeking re-election and was the lone Republican to oppose a bill last week to limit the hours of early voting in every jurisdiction in the state, was a guest on The Devil’s Advocates radio program on Madison’s 92.1 FM last Wednesday. Asked why his party pushed the bill, Schultz responded, “I am not willing to defend them anymore. I’m just not and I’m embarrassed by this.”

Schultz argued that this and dozens of similar bills before the Senate this were based on “mythology” that voter fraud is a serious concern: “I began this session thinking that there was some lack of faith in our voting process and we maybe needed to address it. But I have come to the conclusion that this is far less noble.”

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner writes op-ed favoring voter ID laws AND Voting Rights Act:
... people only argue that voter fraud isn't a problem when they don't look for it. Several cases of voter fraud were reported in my home state of Wisconsin in the 2012 elections. One case involved a man who recently pleaded guilty to voting in West Milwaukee six times between 2010 and 2012, though he hasn't lived there since 2008, and deliberately voted twice in the 2012 presidential election.
Voting rights group cheers court decision in case on public assistance for low-income voters. The United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts ruled in Delgado v. Galvin to disallow defendants' attempts to get parts of the case dismissed. It also broadened an investigation into the failure of Massachusetts' public assistance offices to provide voter registration services to low-income citizens. Such assistance is required by federal law.
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Comment Preferences

  •  I'm always reassured when there's these attacks (16+ / 0-)

    on voting, because it means that somebody somewhere is still scared of people voting.

    Sure once I was young and impulsive, I wore every conceivable pin. Even went to socialist meetings, learned all the old union hymns. Ah, but I've grown older and wiser. And that's why I'm turning you in. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u52Oz-54VYw

    by SouthernLiberalinMD on Sat Mar 22, 2014 at 09:04:47 AM PDT

    •  Senselessbrenner. (7+ / 0-)

      The Wisconsin Republican thinks that if he can point to maybe 100 cases of voter fraud, that justifies throwing out the votes of tens of thousands of people.

      Thousands of Floridians were disenfranchised in 2000 when then-Gov. Jeb Bush falsely accused them of being convicted felons, and his brother won the race by 538 Florida votes.

      The Republicans whine about the ACORN registration fraud in 2008. What happened was, some disgruntled staffers filled out hundreds of bogus registrations. The supervisors turned in the bogus forms AS REQUIRED BY LAW, and flagged the bogus ones so the boards of elections wouldn't have to waste too much time sorting them out. Not one of the Mickey Mice were shown to have voted, and Obama won the race by a nationwide margin of 10 million.

      So which election do the Republicans say was fraudulent?

      Freedom's just another word for not enough to eat. --Paul Krugman's characterization of conservative attitudes.

      by Judge Moonbox on Sat Mar 22, 2014 at 10:05:51 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Actual voter fraud in Wisconsin (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Eric Nelson, LinSea

        was less than 6 votes in the last 10 years, but Rethugs love to spread the lie that it's massive in order to justify their Voter ID laws and other voter suppression measures.  

        Sensenbrenner is wrong when he throws out that liar number.  

        There already is class warfare in America. Unfortunately, the rich are winning.

        by Puddytat on Sat Mar 22, 2014 at 02:23:01 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Not me, I no longer find reassurance in these.. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Puddytat, LinSea

      ..moves by the RWNJs as being purely out of desperation.
      They have proven that they do not value the civil rights of "others".
       So while it's good to see that some on the right, like Sen. Dale Schultz (R) feels something or some measure of compunction for these violations, they are on the whole so far off the rails that delusion not desperation is looking more the way thing are

  •  Thanks for the info (6+ / 0-)

    nosotros no somos estúpidos

    by a2nite on Sat Mar 22, 2014 at 09:12:42 AM PDT

  •  passport to the ballot box/tyranny! (4+ / 0-)

    decent wages don't eliminate jobs. Republicans eliminate jobs; and workers, and prospects, and then excuse it all and call for more austerity. there is no end to their ignorant, arrogant avarice. only political dinosaurs support their treachery.

    by renzo capetti on Sat Mar 22, 2014 at 09:13:56 AM PDT

  •  The entire "voter fraud" issue is a GOP issue. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    brae70, a2nite, Puddytat, LinSea

    There has been basically zero voter fraud in this country, something that I think we should be deeply proud of.

    However, the GOP knows that when voters vote, lots of voters vote, they lose. It's transparent. They want to keep Democrats away from the polls. Perhaps Democratic candidates should start talking about this.

    Pope Francis: the Thumb of Christ in the eyes of the Pharisees.

    by commonmass on Sat Mar 22, 2014 at 09:20:30 AM PDT

  •  Maybe I'm the only one who feels this way, but (6+ / 0-)

    I feel that if a person has lived here for X amount of years and considers it their home, that they should also have a right to be able to vote within their community.  Maybe just locally or with requirements such as having lived here for 10 years or something along those lines.  I just feel that everyone within our borders who has a vested interest in the outcome because they are a contributing part of the society, should have a voice.

    •  Actually, you're not the only one. (4+ / 0-)

      I am for a citizenship amnesty. Sadly, our President disagrees.

      Pope Francis: the Thumb of Christ in the eyes of the Pharisees.

      by commonmass on Sat Mar 22, 2014 at 09:26:49 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  The are many people whose interest lies in us (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Eric Nelson, Puddytat

      Not voting. That's why all these stupid evil laws are written. They are expanding Jim Crow to include more people. Less democracy = more tyrant of the greedy rotten rich.

      The evil cons are one reason we can't have nice things.

      nosotros no somos estúpidos

      by a2nite on Sat Mar 22, 2014 at 09:41:46 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  People who want citizenship rights (4+ / 0-)

      and qualify to be citizens should do the thing. This is a large part of the Battleground Texas project. And  they need to organize in their communities among those who have the vote, so that their votes count for something.

      People who came into the US without going through immigration, and are contributing economically, should have a path to citizenship. Democrats are fine with that, and we have a Senate bill somewhat to that effect, even though watered down by Republican and Blue Dog intransigence.

      That means that Democrats need to take Republican gerrymanders of House seats seriously. Democrats need to get motivated by Republicans denying them the vote through suppression techniques, and making Democratic votes count for less with gerrymanders.

      Somebody explain to me again why so many young people don't care that their votes are made not to count, and why Democrats of every stripe and age are not out in the streets about this.

      OK, I know why corporatist Democrats don't want young people and Latinos energized, but what happened to everybody else?

      Back off, man. I'm a logician.—GOPBusters™

      by Mokurai on Sat Mar 22, 2014 at 12:57:56 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  You do not have to prove citizenship (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    joe from Lowell, sow hat, Puddytat

    To serve on a jury ,  why is that

  •  It looks like (6+ / 0-)

    the GOP only wants old white men to vote, and they are willing to do what it takes to make that happen. As with most of the shit republicans come up with, I see few democrats pushing these issues. Good thing I'm an old white guy, will still be able to vote in a republican world, just won't be voting the way they want!

    If you are not the lead dog, the view never changes.

    by RepresentUsPlease on Sat Mar 22, 2014 at 09:49:40 AM PDT

  •  That's quite a team there (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sow hat, Eric Nelson, Puddytat

    working on this joint project.

    Words can sometimes, in moments of grace, attain the quality of deeds. --Elie Wiesel

    by a gilas girl on Sat Mar 22, 2014 at 10:19:36 AM PDT

  •  irony (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eric Nelson, Puddytat, Meteor Blades

    While Shelby County's case was winding through the courts, a town in that county gerrymandered the only black city councilman out of office.  My husband's family lives there and the racism is blatant and palpable and in your face.  I have avoided visiting for over 6 years because it makes me nauseous.  We finally got dad to quit using the n-word, so now he comes up with synonyms.  I despair that this county with its withering bigotry is the case that overturned the VRA.  And in my state, my lack of photo ID may prevent elderly me from voting.  The irony is people in my age group are almost overwhelmingly Rs.  Who wins and who loses?

  •  Yes Sensenbrenner has been a staunch advocate.. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Puddytat, LinSea, Meteor Blades, a2nite

    ..of the VRA and "bristles" at:

    I bristle when people on the right or left suggest there is a conflict between my support for the Voting Rights Act and voter ID laws. The former is possibly the most important civil rights legislation ever passed, and the latter is a useful tool to prevent fraud.
    Which is why I wrote this Diary: Yes Fix the VRA but why gut Section 2 first?

    It seemed that until the VRA formula (section 4) was figured out to restore section 5, section two was/ (is still) vital as tool, especially with Texas and the mess coming up in North Carolina at that time and now Ohio again , Wisconsin and other states too

    It almost seemed as if there was an effort to stop the use of section two, the excuse being; "that it would hamper resolving section five"  (paraphrasing Sensenbrenner).

    We need the DOJ to keep and use section 2 until section 5 is restored - imo

    So I stillbelievethat with the latest RWNJ efforts full on efforts to suppress votes Judge Richard Posner has named the crime:

    these laws are “now widely regarded as a means of voter suppression rather than of fraud prevention.”

    And the RWNJ legislators corpo sills and the RWNJ judges owned by the same have voter suppression as a big part of trying to force their agenda on an unwilling populace

    Thank you MB this is really important to shine a light on

    P.S. I've been talking about this voter suppression and not that many people are even aware of what it is and that it is happening. I'm kind of stunned by that - but then again with the MSM lately, maybe I shouldn't be

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