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Suz Korbel reports on voter suppression in Texas:

The voter suppression laws are popping up everywhere, and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott (R), the aspiring Governor, wasted no time jumping on the bandwagon once the Supremes gutted the Voting Rights Act. There are many good groups aware of the problems and trying to stop the Voter ID laws, but the bandwagon has become a bullet train and I’m not sure even throwing our bodies on the tracks will be enough to stop it.

So, the new Voter ID laws not only signal to those without photo ID that they should just not bother to vote, but once there, everybody gets to spend more up-close personal time with election judges, with your identity being scruitinized. I estimate that even if everybody comes to the polls this coming March for the primaries with photo ID, whatever time they waited in the past will be at least doubled.

Fellow Texans, be sure to thank Governor Perry and his elephant friends for the extra time you’ll get to spend with your neighbors next election day. For the rest of you, don’t bother waiting up for the results from the Lone Star state.

… [T]he South is no longer all that different from the rest of the country. But that’s not so much because the South is now better — the open racism of the years before 1965 is gone – as because the rest of the country is now worse. It would be a sad irony if the Supreme Court struck down the Voting Rights Act because it regulates too much in too many places, when the truth is that it regulates too little in too few.
Jeffrey Toobin, writing in The New Yorker (Jan. 14, 2013) about the Voting Rights Act
… [A] recent study by Theodore Allen, an associate professor at Ohio State University, found that, in central Florida alone, long lines, exacerbated by a law that reduced the number of days for early voting, discouraged about fifty thousand people, most of them Democrats, from casting ballots.
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?”

Republicans in Florida are fessing up to it: the whole plan on Election Day was to suppress voters. The Palm Beach Post is reporting that a number of former and current Republican officials in the state have admitted that laws that cut down on early voting had one main purpose – to cut down on voting. As Former Florida Republican Party Chairman, Jim Greer, said, “The Republican Party, the strategists, the consultants, they firmly believe that early voting is bad for Republican Party candidates…It’s done for one reason and one reason only. … ‘We’ve got to cut down on early voting because early voting is not good for us.’” Former Republican Governor Charlie Crist said that while he was in office between 2007 and 2011 – he was approached by Republican officials to cut down on early voting, too. Expect these efforts to continue heading into the next election.

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.

tartantambourine:

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.