|—||Jeffrey Toobin, writing in The New Yorker (Jan. 14, 2013) about the Voting Rights Act|
|—||Jeffrey Toobin, writing about voting rights and the 2012 election in The New Yorker, Jan. 14, 2013|
Testifying before Congress Wednesday, Former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist criticized the state’s current Gov. Rick Scott for signing an election law that put “ridiculous restrictions” on voting rights. “In 2011 the state legislature voted for and Governor Scott signed a massive election law designed, I believe, to make it harder for some Floridians to legally vote and designed to encourage a certain partisan outcome,” Crist said at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing investigating nationwide charges of voter suppression.
Tammy Joyner reports:
Fayette County’s fight to preserve its election system has turned into a costly legal battle that voting rights attorneys say Fayette won’t likely win. Records obtained by The Atanta Journal-Constitution show that in the last 16 months Fayette County has spent more than $225,000 fighting an NAACP lawsuit that seeks to change the way members of the county commission and school board are elected. The objective is to give minority candidates, who have never won a county government seat in Fayette’s 191-year history, a better shot at winning.
Some estimate the legal fight could eventually cost Fayette $1 million. It’s a stunning figure for some taxpayers who think the changes are inevitable and the money could be better spent elsewhere.
“By (the commission’s) own published statements, they have said we’ll have to go to district voting sometime,” said Fayetteville resident Judith Moore. “… So if they know they’ve got to do it sometime, why are they spending all this money now to block it?”
|—||Thom Hartmann in On the News With Thom Hartmann: Florida Republicans Admit to Planned Voter Suppression, and More|
Sometime early next year, the Supreme Court is expected to invalidate Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, the most powerful and effective tool that the United States government has to combat discriminatory election practices. The expected decision, in a case called Shelby County v. Holder is not being met with shock or outrage by legal academics, but rather a dismayed shrug.
Section 5 is one of the most unique civil-rights laws because it does not apply to most of the country. Instead, with a handful of exceptions like Alaska, Arizona and part of New York City, it applies only to states in the South—to be specific: all of South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, most of Virginia, part of North Carolina and a handful of counties of Florida. In these covered areas, every decision relating to elections is subject to approval, or preclearance, by the Justice Department in Washington, D.C.
Sue Stirgis of the North Carolina-based Institute for Southern Studies gives a by-the-numbers report on the Voting Rights Act debate.
The New York Times writes in an editorial:
The Supreme Court decided on Friday to review Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which has been crucial in combating efforts to disenfranchise minority voters. The justices should uphold the validity of the section, which requires nine states and parts of several others with deep histories of racial discrimination to get permission from the Justice Department or a federal court before making any changes to their voting rules.
The case, Shelby County v. Holder, was brought by an Alabama county, which contends that Section 5 intrudes unconstitutionally on the sovereign authority of states and that federal review of proposed voting changes, once needed to end legal segregation, is no longer required. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Just this year, Republican efforts to block the votes of minorities and the poor — which were rejected again and again by federal judges relying on the Voting Rights Act, including Section 5 — have made that utterly clear.
I totally agree with the Times on this issue and hope the Supreme Court will agree as well.
If no one else is rejoicing about the systemic inconveniences imposed on Florida voters on Election Day, where waits as long as eight hours to cast a ballot were endured and witnessed by thousands of voters, the state’s former senators Mike Bennett and Ellyn Bogdanoff should be elated.
“I want people in Florida to want to vote as bad as that person in Africa who walks 200 miles across the desert,” Bennett said in 2011 when sponsoring legislation to impose stricter voting requirements. His colleague concurred with his view that voting should be made more difficult.
“Democracy should not be a convenience,” Bogdanoff said.
With the cut back of early voting in Florida, the result of lengthy lines was predictable. Lee Rowland, counsel with the Brennan Center for Justice, noted that each state that succeeded in limiting early voting, particularly Florida and Ohio, led in the number of waiting hours for the public to vote, according to preliminary reports.
A federal court on Wednesday blocked South Carolina from enforcing its new voter photo ID law in next month’s election, saying that there was not enough time to educate voters and officials about it. The ruling was the latest in a string of judicial interventions blunting a wave of Republican-led efforts to impose new restrictions on voting for the Nov. 6 election. But the court also ruled that South Carolina might put the law into effect in 2013. That permission, however, was contingent on a promise by state election officials to use an “extremely broad interpretation” of a provision that will make exceptions for voters who lack photo ID cards, allowing them to cast ballots as long as they give a reason for not having obtained one.