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Friday, July 19, 2013

GOP vs. the Voting Rights Act

Historic photo of African-American votersYou remember Rep. Trent Franks, right? He was the Arizona congress critter who decided America was ready to hear another completely insane Republican rape theory. You might also remember that he was wrong on that point. Turns out that Trent Franks is not the guy you turn to when you want to get the pulse of the American people.

Yesterday, the House held its first meeting on what to do about the Supreme Court's gutting of the Voting RIghts Act and it was up to Franks to explain House Republicans' position:

If House Republicans are interested in patching the Voting Rights Act, they aren’t showing it.

“Historically I fully understand why they addressed the situations they did,” Republican Rep. Trent Franks of Arizona, who chairs the House judiciary subcommittee that would handle new voting rights legislation, said to reporters after the hearing. “I am just of the opinion today that we should do as the court said and that is to not focus on punishing the past but on building a better future.”

The House GOP held their first hearing Thursday on how to handle the Voting Rights Act in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s ruling striking down Section 4 of the law. Section 4 determines which parts of the country must submit in advance their election law changes to the Justice Department, a process called “preclearance.” Republicans have criticized the Section 4 formula for being based on outdated information, even though when the Republican-held Congress in 2006 reauthorized the Voting Rights Act it looked at data showing that the jurisdictions affected by the formula were more likely to engage in discriminatory election practices. Since the Supreme Court’s ruling, states formerly covered by the Section 4 formula have rushed to implement new voting restrictions.
Yes, let's not look at past behavior to determine which states are using racist voter supression techniques, let's use... Wait, what did he say we should use?

The answer would appear to be nothing.


The court struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires pre-clearance from the Justice Department for certain areas with a history of racist voter supression efforts to change their election laws. This section was updated every time the VRA was renewed, but despite the opportunity to change and evolve the pre-clearance list on a regular basis, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that it was all based on "obsolete statistics." Unable to actually point out what part of the Constitution the VRA violated, Roberts declared it unconstitutional anyway. This is what you call your "judicial activism." Like so many things, judicial activism is bitterly opposed by Republicans, right up until its not.

Lo and behold, the states previously covered by the VRA rushed to pass partisan voter ID laws, designed in part to suppress the minority vote. I guess the statistics weren't so obsolete after all.

And Republicans at the hearing got right to work proving that they were gleeful to see the VRA whither and die, despite the solemn faces they put on while talking about how very, very historically important it is. Here's Steve Benen on their main witness called to testify on the issue:

The Heritage Foundation's Hans von Spakovsky, for example, was called by Republicans to offer his "expert" testimony on voting rights, despite the fact that von Spakovsky is best known for the loathsome voter-suppression tactics he championed during his tenure in the Bush/Cheney Justice Department. If this is the guy GOP lawmakers are turning to for guidance, the future of the Voting Rights Act is bleak.

Indeed, von Spakovsky assured the Judiciary Committee panel that the "the systematic, widespread discrimination against blacks has long since disappeared."

Sure, Hans, whatever you say.
The guy who's careeer has revolved around racist voter suppression says that racism is over with and we don't have to worry about voter suppression. Isn't that grand? Next up, John Dillinger testifies that bank robbery is a thing of the past, so banks should just leave everything unlocked.

It's at this point that I realize why so many conservatives are arguing that immigration reform will only create Democratic voters. Republicans lost African-Americans more than a generation ago and have shown absolutely no interest at all in winning them back. They've written the community off so completely that they no longer care about alienating them with racist  laws. And if you take a quick trip through the rightwing blogosphere, you'll see that the Zimmerman verdict has brought out calls for increased racial profiling -- as if George Zimmerman's suspicions about Trayvon Martin were correct, instead of so tragically wrong. Minority outreach is something Republicans like to talk about, but don't actually do. They do the opposite.

Republicans have written off Latino voters for the same reason they've written off African-American voters -- in their truest heart of hearts, the GOP is a deeply racist party that refuses to even acknowledge that different populations face different challenges. Laws that protect populations from discrimination get twisted up as discriminatory in themselves; i.e., "reverse discrimination." Meanwhile, Republicans are more than happy to discriminate with voter suppression efforts.

The GOP is so racist that it would rather eliminate minority voters than compete for their votes. And that's because they've burned so many bridges over the years that they can no longer be competitive. From the defense of the racist book The Bell Curve back in the '90s to the smearing of Trayvon Martin today, too many Republicans have completely given up on minority voters.

Republicans won't do anything to restore the Voting Rights Act to anything resembling enforceability, because -- as the racist party -- they're more than happy to see it die. Their bigotry has alienated so many demographic groups that they can no longer win national elections, but instead have to try to steal them.


[photo via Wikimedia Commons]

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