It has been barley one month since the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act. Less than 48 hours after the decision, several of the states that had required prior approval before changing their voting conditions began implementing — or planned to implement — several voter suppression laws.
Florida and North Carolina are now joining the party.
After limiting early voting days and hours prior to the last election, Florida has been given the all clear to restart one of its favorite voter suppression tactics – purging of the voter rolls. In May of last year, Governor Rick Scott ordered the purging of voters who were suspected of not being U.S. citizens. It turns out the majority of those on the list were U.S. citizens. Thirteen admitted they were not.
Groups sued to stop the purge, stating that it unfairly targeted Latino people, which violated Section 4 of the VRA (Voting Rights Act). On Wednesday, a judge lifted the stay, stating that since Section 4 was unconstitutional, the lawsuit was moot.
Gov. Rick Scott has vowed to resume the purge.
This is reminiscent of 2000, when they purged the list of supposed felons. It was just coincidental that it happened to purge a lot of people who were black – and not felons.
They promise the list will be more accurate this time.
North Carolina is the new leader in the voter suppression game. A bill passed by both houses last week is breathtaking in scope and targets every possible demographic that has helped keep North Carolina a very progressive state.
Only 40 of the 100 counties in North Carolina were covered under section 4 of the VRA. This has made the state a rare progressive bright spot among its southern neighbors. However, for the first time since reconstruction, Republicans hold all branches of the government. Since then, they have been on a slash and burn policy agenda to destroy decades of progress.
And now the foundation of democracy is on the chopping block.
There are more than 20 provisions that alter various aspects of North Carolina election law. It limits access to polls, hampers voter registration efforts, opens the floodgates to allow big money into elections and increases barriers for the disenfranchised, making it harder for them to vote.
The attacks on voters are nothing less than horrific.
Early voting has been cut by seven days, and same day voter registration has been eliminated. It also prohibits flexibility in the hours for the remaining early voting period, and makes it more difficult to accommodate elderly and disabled voters with satellite polling stations.
Voter harassment has been institutionalized, by allowing any registered voter to challenge voters at the polls, something previously only allowed by precinct workers. The law also makes it harder for those challenged to fight back.
Paid voter registration drives are banned and the new provisions eliminates a program that allowed pre-registration of 16 and 17 year olds so there was no delay for them to vote once they turned 18.
And, yes, there is a voter ID provision.
Essentially, it eliminates every kind of ID except a state issued driver’s license or ID and it must have the voter’s current address. Previously accepted IDs such as student IDs, county or municipal public employee IDs, or public assistance IDs – all of which have photos – are no longer accepted.
Of course they say all of these provisions are done in the name of maintaining integrity of the elections process. This argument is profoundly ridiculous considering there were only two cases of voter impersonation out of millions of votes cast in the ten year period of 2000-2010.
The truth is, minority voters made up almost one-third of the early voters in the last election and 34 percent of blacks did same day voter registration. The banning of the various forms of previously accepted voter IDs specifically targets the young, the elderly and the poor.
Had the VRA remained intact, the voter ID provisions and changes in polling site conditions would have required approval from the Department of Justice since they affect the pre-clearance counties.
Now, they have nothing to stop them.
It should be noted that Republicans got into office with a new election map which created districts that favored their candidates, creating majorities in both houses of the legislature. The map was challenged in court. Earlier this month, a three judge panel declared the map legal (they avoided changes to the pre-clearance counties) and it will remain in use until at least 2020.
The new law also eliminates all voter education outreach, including no funding to provide information about the new voter ID requirements — even in voter guides.
In her strongly worded dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg predicted that all of the progress that had been made under the VRA would now be reversed. In an interview last week with the AP, Justice Ginsburg lamented the rampant changes that have occurred since the 5-4 decision.
“One really could have predicted what was going to happen. I didn’t want to be right, but sadly I am.”
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