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

Sen. Jeff Sessions added his name this week to the list of members of Congress who oppose updating an amendment to the Voting Rights Act.

The Alabama Republican said Wednesday that he opposes the Voting Rights Amendment Act (H.R. 3899) introduced nearly six months ago by Republican Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin. The bill has 153 co-sponsors, 10 of whom are Republicans.

It arose because of the Supreme Court's 2013 evisceration of Section 4 (and thus Section 5) of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, as renewed most recently in 2006. Those sections provided the formula under which certain states and parts of states were required to obtain "preclearance" for any changes made in voting laws because they had in the past discriminated against minority voters based on race or language.

The amendment rewrites those sections, with specifics about which states are covered and could in the future be covered by preclearance based on whether state or smaller jurisdiction has committed five violations of citizens' rights by passing laws that discriminate based on race or minority language during the most recent 15 years. Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas would be the only states covered right away if the bill becomes law. But if other states added discriminatory voting laws going forward, they would come under pre-clearance rules, too. It wouldn't matter whether the discrimination was directed at people of color or whites.

Sessions told reporter Mary Troyan that he cannot continue to support legislation that singles out some states for special oversight based on their histories of discrimination:

“The Supreme Court only struck down a small part and there remains very powerful provisions ... to stop any form of discriminatory voting actions,” Sessions said in an interview after a hearing at the Senate Judiciary Committee. “To pass a law in the U.S. Congress that provides penalties only to some states and not to others can only be justified for the most extraordinary circumstances. And the justification no longer exists.”
But Sessions' objection is off the wall. Only states with a recent record of multiple discriminatory violations would be given extra scrutiny. And any state in the nation could find its proposed voting law changes covered by pre-clearance if it accumulated enough violations.

There is more about the war on voting below the orange gerrymander.

Voting Rights Amendment Act likely stalled until next year at least: While Sen. Sessions voiced his opposition to the bill, the Republican chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, said there is no rush and there are many ideas in addition to Jim Sensenbrenner's approach in the proposed amendment. “We’re going to continue to examine the problem but that’s as far as we’ve got,” Goodlatte said.

The representative's stance puts up another barricade blocking those in Congress who were hoping the amendment would get a hearing this year. But they haven't given up.

“We need to be militants today, non-violent militants. Peaceful militants, but impatient militants. Demanding militants,” said Minority Whip Steny Hoyer. “That America is what it is because Americans have the right, inherent right—‘we hold these truths to be self evident, that all men and women are created equal’—and have the right in our democracy to vote, to express their opinion, to speak out, and to be heard.”
• The Senate Judiciary Committee held a two-and-a-half-hour hearing Wednesday on S. 1945 (the Senate version of H.R. 3389, the Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014) introduced by Democrat Patrick Leahy of Vermont.

Brother of murdered civil rights activist lobbies for Voting Rights Amendment Act. His name is David Goodman. Fifty years ago this week, Klan terrorists murdered his brother Andrew and two other young men. They were part of the "Freedom Summer" project to register voters in the Jim Crow South. Their deaths were among the catalysts that led to the Voting Rights Act being signed by President Johnson almost exactly a year after their bodies were found in a berm where the Klan had left them:

But last year, Goodman notes, a divided Supreme Court led by Chief Justice John Roberts threw out a key part of that law.

"He actually cited my brother's name as an example that back in the day Andy Goodman, James Cheney, Michael Schwerner were murdered and that doesn't happen anymore and oh by the way we have a black president, which I always find a little offensive to lump those together as if to say there's no more problems," Goodman tells NPR.

In Ohio, a state representative leads a "people’s movement" for voting rights. Zachary Roth at MSNBC reports:
After taking office in 2010, Democratic Ohio State Rep. Alicia Reece was determined to push back against Republican-sponsored voting restrictions. So Reece did what a lawmaker is supposed to do: She introduced bills, drew up amendments, pushed for hearings and testified before commissions. But with the GOP in complete control of state government beginning January 2011, she didn’t get far.

Reece, 42, grew up immersed in the civil rights movement. She volunteered for Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow PUSH Coalition before she was old enough to vote, and at college in Louisiana she organized her dorm to fight David Duke, a onetime state lawmaker and former Ku Klux Klan leader who was running for governor. So with Democrats shut out in Columbus, and no end in sight to GOP efforts to restrict access to the ballot, Reece decided to go back to her roots.

“I tried to work on the inside,” Reece, 42, explained on a recent Saturday over lunch at Pleasant Ridge Chili—the self-proclaimed inventor of gravy cheese fries. “Now, I had to go outside, and get organizing a people’s movement.”

That’s how Reece later found herself at a Cincinnati strip mall barbershop, urging customers, staff—even the guy who stopped by selling iced tea—to sign a petition to get the Voters Bill of Rights (VBOR) on the ballot this fall. The initiative would permanently enshrine voting rights into Ohio’s constitution.

Federal judge orders Texas to pay $1 million in legal fees in voting rights case: Texas Solicitor General Jonathan Mitchell was not happy about the ruling of District Judge Rosemary Collyer. In a serrated opinion about the state's brief saying it shouldn't have to pay any legal fees in the case, Collyer had said it was "a case study in how not to respond to a motion for attorney fees and costs."

In 2012, a three-judge panel ruled against Texas because it had failed to meet the non-discriminatory requirement of the Voting Rights Act in drawing up a redistricting plan. State officials appealed, but before the case was heard, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the section of the act that required several states, including Texas, to get any changes in voting or election laws approved in advance by the Department of Justice. The million dollars that Collyer awarded will go to the organizations that had challenged the redistricting plans and succeeded in court before the relevant section of the Voting Rights Act was tossed out.  

 Opinion

Michael Keegan of People for the American Way: Cleaning Up the Supreme Court's Democracy Mess.

Ari Berman at The Nation: “Where are the GOP Supporters of Voting Rights?”

Janai S. Nelson: Think we don’t need to update the Voting Rights Act? Check out Tuesday’s primaries.

Mike Brickner of the Ohio ACLU: 1 step forward, 2 back on early voting.

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Comment Preferences

  •  The House is much too busy to consider Voting (19+ / 0-)

    Rights Act improvements, immigration reform, climate change legislation, etc.

    They're working hard on Bengazi, suing the President, Bengazi, IRS, Bengazi, Bergdahl, Bengazi, impeachment as a general principle, Benghazi...

  •  Jefferson Beauregard Sessions (8+ / 0-)

    is an unapologetic racist of the old school; Ernie Keebler gone to the dark side.

  •  After McDaniel's loss and 'proof' of voter fraud (7+ / 0-)

    At least in the fevered minds of the Republican's most valued constituents (insane, hate-filled bigots), there is no chance Republican Congresspeople are even going to agree there's any reason to fix the VRA. If anything, they'll have to push bills to allow even MORE 'anti-fraud' (read anti-voting) measures to be taken, in order to appease the nutjob base.

    How dare you use my own words against me?? - Chris McDaniel, (Teahadist), MS

    by Fordmandalay on Sat Jun 28, 2014 at 09:20:34 AM PDT

  •  There's about as much of a chance (7+ / 0-)

    of this Republican House helping Obama as there is of Cheney being human.

  •  I actually have to agree - as we've seen these (6+ / 0-)

    last few years voting rights are restricted whenever a block of politicians seeks to maintain power by hook or by crook instead of by honestly carrying out their sworn oaths to serve the public.  Voting rights are most often curtailed in Republican states because Republicans are much more about seeking and holding power above all other causes and to do so, they must have power over someone else.  When they exert their power over someone else, if they allow that other to vote them out, they'll lose their power so they need to curtail their right to vote.  I will accept, however, that any politician may succumb to the desire to get and keep power so we must ensure that the rules are followed nationally by each and every jurisdiction.

    We shouldn't rely upon a piece of legislation passed by Congress to specify particular states where voting is going to be under heightened scrutiny.  That would yield resentment (as it has, though the resentment has been mostly of the nature of "how dare they tell me I can't discriminate and prevent those people from voting".

    I much prefer national voting standards and, since Congress can only specify such standards for national elections, then Congress should make these standards as fair and non-partisan and difficult to evade as possible for each and every district of the country.  

    - Make registration for voting as universally available as possible - website and by-mail registration, in-person registration at every US Post Office with multiple forms of identification all usable,

    - Money to pay for whatever form of verification is needed, including at the polls and for absentee ballots, and not allow a restriction to be in place without the funding to pay for it.  Don't allow federal elections to mandate photo ID's, for example, if 100% of the registered voters don't have photo ID's or make it so they can register and vote at the poll and receive a voter photo ID on the spot.  For a future election, their voter photo ID must be available in a computer so if they've forgotten to bring it, they can still be verified and vote.

    - Computerized registration records to improve upon problems (like the Republican from Wisconsin) who voted for multiple addresses in multiple states, as well as to ensure that people who move can easily and quickly have their voting registrations amended,

    - National standards for who is eligible to vote in elections so students can vote where they go to school or they can vote in their home state, as they choose, but one location only,

    - National standards for how districts are drawn so that gerrymandering is minimized (I prefer rules minimizing boundary lengths but on this I recognize I'm not the expert many here at DKos are - I just want to avoid the districts drawn to ensure districts are permanently one party or the other).

    - National standards for when redistricting is done (I prefer the districts be redrawn by the elections for years ending in the number 2 (2012, 2022, 2032, etc) so the census numbers can be used, but then not allow them to be redrawn when a party decides it wants to flip a seat like Texas did.

    - National standards for casting and counting of ballots.  I much prefer paper trails for electronic voting machines so that people can be sure their vote on paper agrees with what the machine says it recorded, plus rules for how long the ballots must be retained, who can be present in the polling stations,

  •  Scotus' (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eric Nelson, ladywithafan

    Striking down [a portion] of the VRA is a clear demonstration of how the republican party has been successful in it's attempts to blur the lines between the judicial and legislative branches.
    Republican senator's unwillingness to revisit the issue in a substantive way is an indication of their intent to try and blur the lines further...
    The Robert's Court is a more than willing participant in this unconstitutional endeavor.
    Liberals and progressives must keep their eye on the prize...
    Namely the 2016 general elections.
    In the up-coming midterms, it is very possible that republicans will retain a majority in the House, albeit diminished.
    Their chances of taking the Senate are slim, though there is the possibility that democrats will lose a seat or two.
    With that scenario, and two more years of President Obama in The White House, we will be able at the least to mitigate the damage republicans would wreak.
    But that's all the time we have.
    It is practically a given that a democrat will take the White House in 2016, but we must give him/HER a Congress that is willing to work for our good.
    We can begin that process by chipping away at the Tea Party infested Republican Party this November.
    It is imperative that we do so.
    That we are even having a discussion about voting rights in 2014 should be ll the incentive needed to become a [militant] activist.

  •  Serrated? (0+ / 0-)
    In a serrated opinion about the state's brief saying it shouldn't have to pay any legal fees in the case, Collyer had said it was "a case study in how not to respond to a motion for attorney fees and costs."
    Is this a meaning I don't know about?
  •  What's stunning to me (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eric Nelson, ladywithafan

    is how a new Voting Rights Act, one which includes all of the provisions of the previous one, plus more protections against current Republican efforts to disenfranchise certain voters (i.e. poorer ones), is not toward the top of the Democratic Party's election campaign themes this year.

    If there is one thing that might help Democrats to do better as far s helping to turn out our supporters this fall, it seems to me that a full-throated effort to advocate for an even stronger Voting Rights Act to counter the Supreme Court's watering down of the current one should be it.

    Emphasizing voting rights can also have a special resonance in those states where Republicans have blatantly attempted disenfranchisement efforts, as well, such as North Carolina, Ohio, Wisconsin, Georgia and elsewhere.

    Democrats should make a new, stronger Voting Rights Act a top priority not only this year, but for the foreseeable future until we get Congressional majorities to pass it.

  •  Ari Berman's excellent article from the day before (4+ / 0-)

    ..with maps, numbers and states/areas once required to obtain pre-clearance prior to the gutting of the VRA:
    Fifty Years After Freedom Summer, the Voting Rights Act Is Needed More Than Ever

    These disturbing facts suggest that the strong protections of the VRA are still needed. Nearly two-thirds of the states previously covered under Section 5 of the VRA, nine of fifteen, passed new voting restrictions since 2010.
    And this:
    The [Shelby county] decision has had three major impacts:
     •Section 5 no longer blocks or deters discriminatory voting changes, as it did for decades and right up until the Court’s decision.

      •Challenging discriminatory laws and practices is now more difficult, expensive, and time-consuming.

      •The public now lacks critical information about new voting laws that Section 5 once mandated be disclosed prior to implementation.

    Thx MB

    So major Kudos to Democratic Ohio State Rep. Alicia Reece

    ..and where are our Dems @ the US congress? Is it because the MSM isn't covering the need for a new section 4 formula ?, because it sure seems like there hasn't been near enough noise from our Dem old guard on this - imo

  •  Democrats working to repair voting rights need ... (0+ / 0-)

    Democrats working to repair voting rights need to be a little more sly to sneak provisions by. I suggest attaching it as an amendment to something Repubs really want. An "if you want dessert you have to eat your veggies. " then stick to it.

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