Thanks to Voting Rights Act requirements that mandate Justice Department ‘preclearance’ of all changes to voting procedure in a handful of Southern states with a history of voter discrimination, Attorney General Eric Holder has rejected a new Texas voter ID law that’s nearly identical to laws already in place in Georgia and Indiana because it allegedly discriminates against hispanics.
Late last year, the Justice Department rejected a similar law in South Carolina. Virginia’s legislature has also passed a less strict voter ID bill, which the Washington Post’s editorial board is warning Governor Bob McDonnell not to sign. Objections to the new laws generally fall into two camps, either ‘they’re racist because they disproportionately impact minorities,’ and/or ‘they’re not necessary because voter fraud isn’t real.’ Voter ID proponents are quick to point out that if voter fraud is real then the laws can’t be racist, though the number of allegations much less convictions of voter fraud are minuscule compared to the Brennan Center’s estimate of 11 percent of citizens without IDs. Still, the vast majority of those citizens aren’t voting, and 31 states have voter ID laws of various types.
Former Democratic Congressman from Alabama Artur Davis, among others, makes a compelling case that voter fraud is real in some places though it doesn’t appear that Virginia, at least, is one of them. “Was there a pattern of fraud that would raise systemic doubts about the integrity of Virginia elections? The senator said no. None of his fellow Republicans contradicted him,” writes the Washington Post’s ed board.
Still, while it might be true that Voter ID laws bestow an electoral benefit on the GOP, the claim of systemic Republican coordination aimed at disenfranchisement along racial lines is belied by the fact that the legislatures of Rhode Island and Mississippi, entirely and partially, were controlled by Democrats when they passed their own voter ID bills. Also, it deserves to be noted that the Justice Department has been nothing if not selective in its efforts to ensure the integrity of elections.
Why would the Obama administration not play the case out until its inevitable end? Joe Arapaio makes a lousy scapegoat, “It Gets Better” week is already over yet bullying persists, and the Justice Department is in need of a bit of good PR since that story about allowing guns to be sold to drug cartels doesn’t seem to be going away (The Daily Caller‘s Matthew Boyle keeps a running tally of House members calling for Holder’s resignation, it’s at 121 as of today). And staunch opposition to any state-level legislation aimed at election integrity is about the only clear message the DoJ has been sending, considering their galling about-face on the Ogden memo that has led to a crackdown on lawful medical marijuana dispensaries in California and elsewhere, or Eric Holder’s creative definition of due process. Local police forces, too, are perhaps understandably confused that they face prosecutions for overzealous enforcement yet they continue to receive tanks.
The WSJ on Holder’s obstructionism:
So in January Texas compared the registered voter database with a new dataset of driver’s licenses and voter IDs, but Hispanics have only been able to self-identify as Hispanic since 2009. The data are incomplete and there are other problems, such as the inability of the state to weed out Italian names that sound Hispanic. In any event, Texas offers election ID cards for free.
In 2008 in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board, the Supreme Court ruled that a similar Indiana law requiring photo ID did not impose an undue burden on voters. The Justice Department approved a Georgia voter ID law in 2005. But now President Obama, Messrs. Holder and Perez, the NAACP and the American Civil Liberties Union claim that minority voters are being consciously suppressed and that Republicans are trying to gain a partisan advantage with voter ID laws.
In a December speech on voter ID, Mr. Holder warned that “we will examine the facts, and we will apply the law.” It’s no surprise that his civil rights division has now massaged the data in such a complicated fashion that it can charge bias. The courts won’t be able to clean up the mess until after the election. (link)
In other Voter ID news AP reports that a Wisconsin Circuit Court Judge issued a permanent injunction against the state’s ID law, just weeks before the state’s April 3 primary:
“A government that undermines the very foundation of its existence — the people’s inherent, pre-constitutional right to vote — imperils its legitimacy as a government by the people, for the people, and especially of the people,” [Judge] Niess wrote. He said the disenfranchised would have included “struggling souls” who are constitutionally entitled to vote but lack the resources to comply with the law.
Four lawsuits at various legal stages are challenging Wisconsin’s law. It’s part of the ongoing national debate over whether eligible voters should show ID at the polls. Fifteen states have voter ID laws, and legislation in 31 states includes proposals to introduce voter ID laws or strengthen existing ones. On Monday, the Texas Justice Department objected to its voter ID requirement because it said many Hispanic voters lack state-issued identification.