Tag Archives: voter suppression

The Supreme Court Upholds Voter Suppression in Texas

20 Oct
Sad Legacy!

Sad Legacy!

Sadly, not many of us were surprised by the exceedingly conservative high court’s decision to uphold voter suppression laws in Texas.  The Roberts’ court continues to leave a legacy that works against civil rights, just in time to negatively impact the 2014 mid-term election. I would like to talk about how these voter ID laws negatively impact targeted/marginalized populations. Not that most of the high court is interested in how we continue to oppress targeted populations, but I hope we will at least start to have more conversations around what we all need to do to expand civil rights rather than curb them. Texas’ voter ID laws intentionally create barriers for the following communities to vote: people in poverty, people of color experiencing poverty, people with disabilities, senior citizens, transgender people, and all of the intersections of these populations. In addition to the horrible impact of this action, it flies in the face of judicial tradition. Typically, appeals courts — including the Supreme Court — act to do the least harm while the laws in question work their way through the system. Allowing the law to stand while it is under appeal aggressively disenfranchises Texas voters during the important November mid-terms. Even if the law is struck down in the long run, that damage will have been done, almost certainly to the benefit of Republican candidates. Suspending the suspect law until a final decision is made would be more typical, sensible, and just. Of course those words can rarely be applied to Scalia, Alito, Roberts, or Thomas. If only we could get more voices like Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s. Justice Ginsburg composed the dissent and eloquently highlighted the damage of this verdict:

…may prevent more than 600,000 registered Texas voters (about 4.5 percent of all registered voters) from voting in person for lack of compliant identification…A sharply disproportionate percentage of those voters are African-American or Hispanic. Racial discrimination in elections in Texas is no mere historical artifact.

Both Justice Kagan and Justice Sotomayor joined Justice Ginsburg’s dissent. I want to believe there is hope that this court’s majority will soon gain a better understanding of their jobs and of civil rights.

Number 3 Hero of the Year 2012: The American Voter

29 Dec
Number 3 Hero of 2012

Number 3 Hero of 2012

This year’s election was a critical choice between two starkly different philosophies of government. Hundreds of millions of dollars were spent  (which will be a whole blog article in itself) and Americans were inundated with thousands of hours of advertising and opinions. In the end, despite poor expectations, corporate investment, hardship, and obstacles, the people stood up and said that they want a government that works for everyone, not just the chosen few.

Most pundits believed that the grass-roots coalition of voters built by the Obama campaign in 2008 was a fluke. Minorities, the poor, and the young are less likely to vote in general, so their turnout was supposed to go way down. What the naysayers didn’t realize is that the mobilization and empowerment weren’t just a one-time effort but an ongoing strategy. While all turnout in 2012 was down a bit from 2008 and the full data aren’t available, it’s clear that Latinos, African Americans, and young voters showed up at the polls, stood up for their rights, and helped Democrats and fairness take the day.  Never underestimate progressive social movements and grass-roots activists.

SuperPACs and corporate donations were also supposed to help Republicans this year. Hundreds of millions were filtered into shadowy groups who supported Mitt Romney and a host of Teahadists. Fortunately, all that Citizens United energy did little to change the election results. Obscene amounts of money were wasted, but voters made up their own minds and tuned out the ghastly shrieking from the right.

Many states launched voter suppression efforts, usually sponsored by Republican legislatures that expressly wanted to ensure a Romney win. Voter ID laws, voter registration purges, and changes to early and absentee voting were the typical strategies. Despite this, voters stood up and demanded their rights, paying attention to the changes and demanding their votes. The courts were also very helpful, striking down the vast majority of the odious new laws as unconstitutional.

American voters supported marriage equality for the first time in FOUR states. They handed President Obama a clear mandate for his second term. They kept Democrats in charge of the Senate and sent more women to that body than ever before. They shrank the Republican advantage in the house while electing the most diverse Congressional delegation ever. Despite the screaming and spending, voters showed up — even in the states ravaged by hurricane Sandy — and used their most powerful right. What a wonderful thing to see.

Honorable mention today goes to Oregon’s own junior Senator, Jeff Merkley. Since taking office in 2009, Merkley has been a champion of progressive values and functional government. He stood up for filibuster reform before he was even sworn in and is pushing hard for it now (with the help of Sen. Tom Udall (D, NM). His efforts won him recognition in The Nation‘s 2012 progressive honor roll as “Most Valuable Senator.” Congratulations and thank you, Sen. Merkley!

Last chance to elect Romney!

28 Nov

Sheryl Nuxoll, brewing some bitter tea!

Yep, you read that headline right. The most toxic elements of the teabag loon parade have finally admitted that they really (no, REALLY) don’t care  about democracy. They just really (no, REALLY) want their guy to win. So what if he’s a hypocritical, vacillating windbag with no morals or ideals of his own, at least he called himself a Republican and tried hard to hate gays, women, and brown people on a regular basis. A wearisome wave of wingnuts have hatched a plan to stop that nasty Kenyan Socialist President in his tracks…THE 12th AMENDMENT. Oy ist mir! I have such a headache!

The idea (if it can be given such a noble label) has been floating around for a few days, but it took a state senator from Idaho to really crystalize things. Starting with a tweet (140 characters may be all she knows), Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll, R-Cottonwood, pushed an article on how to keep Obama from getting a second term. It boils down to having at least 17 of the 24 states that gave Romney electoral votes refuse to participate in the electoral process. That would eliminate a 2/3 majority of the states and (according to Nuxoll) throw things to the Republican-controlled U.S. House.

One teensy little problem with this plan. It won’t work. The majority required only matters in the House itself, after the Electoral College meets. If electors don’t show up, their votes don’t count, and the President wins by a >ahem< wider margin — oops. Reading is a pesky business. The right wing really only likes selected parts of the Constitution (or the Bible, for that matter), so perhaps we can forgive Sen. Nuxoll for her somewhat — shall we say — overenthusiastic efforts.

What’s more disgusting about this blatantly hopeless nonsense is what it says about the Republican mindset. Before the election we had Repbulican officials in Pennsylvania and Florida admitting that the only reason they were trying to stop “voter fraud” was to keep Democrats from voting and give Romney an edge. When that didn’t work (at all, given that both states went for Obama again), the whining babies of Lossville admit that they don’t care about the process, just the win. Who cares if the people voted for a President? We can use dirty tricks to steal the election! That mindset really says all we need to know.

Hero of the Week Award: November 9, American Voters

9 Nov

Hero of the Week

Despite the billions of (often anonymous–thank you Citizens United) dollars poured into this year’s elections, democracy prevailed. It did so largely because millions of people participated in the democratic process, voting their hearts and consciences despite the bleating ads and cynical lies.

The racist and oppressive attempts to intimidate voters and suppress turnout had a splendidly ironic effect. Turnout — especially for early voting — was high and the minority communities targeted specifically refuted the attempts. Many exit polls indicated that Latino and African American voters specifically made the effort to vote — even when disenchanted by their choices — to reinforce their constitutional right to vote in the face of efforts to disenfranchise them. Almost without exception, these voters repudiated the Tea Party right and supported the President. While the final outcome might not have changed, results in Ohio, Virginia, and Florida (at least) were helped enormously by this turnout.

And what a result! Not only did the Tea Party suffer major defeats (Goodbye, Reps. Walsh and West!) but the overall results were progressive. The new Senators are almost universally to the left of the people they replace, including wonderful people-powered winners like Tammy Baldwin and Elizabeth Warren. Women repudiated the Republican attacks on their minds and bodies, demonstrating a gender gap and voting power never seen before. Thanks in part to the President’s bold leadership, gay rights — which should never be put to a vote but sadly still are — saw unprecedented victories with marriage equality ruling the day.

Karl Rove, the Koch brothers, and Citizens United poured huge sums of money into this election. They lost the top of the ticket, failed to take the Senate, and lost ground in the House. Ballot measures around the county routinely favored the people over corporate power and greed. We have a long way to go, and the President — despite his mandate — has a hostile House to contend with, but the message is clear and the direction is sound.  I am enormously relieved to see that a platform of hate and marginalization of so many people failed!

Voting Rights Act of 1965–What Happened?

6 Aug

Today marks the 47th Anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  The Voting Rights Act finally addressed the widespread discrimination African Americans faced when trying to cast their votes. Sadly, here we are in the 21st Century and there are still political factions trying to suppress minority voters (who vote overwhelmingly Democratic…). Florida’s Republican Gov. Rick Scott and and Secretary of State Ken Detzner are trying to block voting rights for thousands of Latino Floridians.  These silly Republicans clearly either don’t know history, or feel they are above the law.

Now Republican Tom  Corbett is watching as the State of Pennsylvania tries to disenfranchise minority voters by imposing a “photo ID” requirement to vote.  Of course, this adversely and disproportionately affects people of color, young voters, older voters and those with low incomes — all people who traditionally vote Democratic. Sadly, there are 35 states that require photo ID to vote; all these laws have been pushed through by Republicans led legislatures.  Even my home state of Georgia practices this type of discrimination by requiring voters to present a photo ID. I would point out here that an estimated 21 million people do not have a current, government-issued photo ID. The numbers are even higher for black people, Hispanics and other minorities.

It is amazing to see how Republicans work hard to chip away bit by bit at fundamental rights like those in the 14th Amendment. It’s just like their efforts to overturn Roe v. Wade incrementally and to block marriage equality one state at a time. Clearly, being on the right doesn’t make one right about rights…

Hero of the Week Award: June 15, County Election Supervisors in Florida

15 Jun

Hero of the Week

How nice to be able to celebrate 67 elected officials in one award this week! Election supervisors in every county in Florida have stood by their principles and refused to participate in the illegal voter purge that Republican Gov. Rick Scott is intent on carrying out.

In an effort to make Florida 2012 a repeat of Florida 2000, Scott and Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner are trying to block voting rights for thousands of Floridians. The program is being conducted under the guise of removing non-citizens and other ineligible people from the voting rolls. Curiously, however, the people targeted trend heavily Hispanic and Democrat. Voters are told that they will not be able to vote unless they appeal and appear in person within 30 days. This is a heavy burden for poor or elderly voters who are also heavily targeted.

A few election supervisors noted early on that the list of voters to purge was deeply flawed. (In Miami-Dade, for example, the false hits on the list outnumber the non-citizens 50-to-1!) They asked the Secretary of State to halt the program until it could be refined and were told NO. The purge is also a violation of the National Voter Registration Act under at least two sections. Purges cannot be conducted during a 90-day quiet period before a Federal election and with the Florida primary in August, that window is closed. Florida also has to comply with Federal review guidelines for any purges because of racist history in its voting practices.

Fortunately for Florida’s voters, County Election Supervisors have the final say on who is registered to vote — and with all 67 telling the Secretary of State to take his list and shove it, the purge is effectively halted. Says Ion Sancho of Leon County, one of the most vocal opponents of the purge,

We’re just not going to do this. I’ve talked to many of the other supervisors and they agree. The list is bad. And this is illegal.

Great to see these men and women doing the jobs they were elected to do and protecting the innocent. Bonus points to the U.S. Department of Justice, which is taking Florida to court over this blatant abuse of power.

Thank you to TSM reader and LGBT ally Voice of the Trailer for this week’s Honorable Mention which goes to The Department of Defense.  The Pentagon announced Thursday that it will be commemorating lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender pride later this month.
“The Defense Department is planning an LGBT Pride Month event for later this month,” Pentagon spokeswoman Eileen Laniez said in a statement issued Thursday.
Press Secretary George Little said senior Defense Department officials will take part in the event, but had no other details. It was just a year ago, a member of the military faced punishment or discharge if he or she admitted being homosexual, but last September the administration scrapped the policy known as “don’t ask don’t tell.”

Progress!  Thank you Department of Defense.

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