Though Republican election officials in battleground states sought to dampen voter turn out of traditionally Democratic voters through by instituting identification requirements and limiting early voting hours, a new analysis of census data by the Associated Press shows that African Americans “voted at a higher rate than other minority groups in 2012 and by most measures surpassed the white turnout for the first time.”
More significantly, the battleground states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Florida and Colorado would have tipped in favor of Romney, handing him the presidency if the outcome of other states remained the same.
African Americans outperformed their voter share, representing 13 percent of total votes cast in 2012
while making up 12 percent of the population — despite facing great obstacles to exercising the franchise.
A poll conducted by Hart Research poll immediately after the election reported that 22 percent of African-Americans waited 30 minutes or more to vote, compared to just 9 percent of white voters. A more thorough analysis from Massachusetts Institute of Technology confirmed that black and hispanic voters waited nearly twice as long to vote as whites. In Florida, home to the longest lines, at least 201,000 people may have been deterred from voting by the long waits.
Black youth was also far more likely to be asked to show ID, a study by professors at the University of Chicago and Washington University in St. Louis found, and many did not even try to vote because they lacked the required identification.
The Fourteenth Amendment protects every person’s right to due process of law. The Fifteenth Amendment protects citizens from having their right to vote abridged or denied due to “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” The Tenth Amendment reserves all rights not expressly granted to the federal government to the individual states. Article Four of the Constitution guarantees the right of self-government for each state.
The Civil Rights Act of 1965 was enacted as a response to the nearly century-long history of voting discrimination. Section 5 prohibits eligible districts from enacting changes to their election laws and procedures without gaining official authorization. Section 4(b) defines the eligible districts as ones that had a voting test in place as of November 1, 1964 and less than 50% turnout for the 1964 presidential election. Such districts must prove to the Attorney General or a three-judge panel of a Washington, D.C. district court that the change “neither has the purpose nor will have the effect” of negatively impacting any individual’s right to vote based on race or minority status. Section 5 was originally enacted for five years, but has been continually renewed since that time.
Shelby County, Alabama, filed suit in district court and sought both a declaratory judgment that Section 5 and Section 4(b) are unconstitutional and a permanent injunction against their enforcement. The district court upheld the constitutionality of the Sections and granted summary judgment for the Attorney General. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit held that Congress did not exceed its powers by reauthorizing Section 5 and that Section 4(b) is still relevant to the issue of voting discrimination.
Question Does the renewal of Section 5 of the Voter Rights Act under the constraints of Section 4(b) exceed Congress’ authority under the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, and therefore violate the Tenth Amendment and Article Four of the Constitution?
ORAL ARGUMENT OF BERT W. REIN ON BEHALF OF THE PETITIONER
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: We’ll hear argument first this morning in Case 12-96, Shelby County v. Holder.
Bert W Rein: Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:
Almost 4 years ago, eight Justices of the Court agreed the 2005 25-year extension of Voting Rights Act Section 5′s preclearance obligation, uniquely applicable to jurisdictions reached by Section 4(b)’s antiquated coverage formula, raised a serious constitutional question.
Those Justices recognized that the record before the Congress in 2005 made it unmistakable that the South had changed.
They questioned whether current remedial needs justified the extraordinary federalism and cost burdens of preclearance.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: May I ask you a question?
Assuming I accept your premise, and there’s some question about that, that some portions of the South have changed, your county pretty much hasn’t.
Bert W Rein: Well, I–
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: In — in the period we’re talking about, it has many more discriminating — 240 discriminatory voting laws that were blocked by Section 5 objections.
There were numerous remedied by Section 2 litigation.
The Neo-Confederate Supreme Court Gearing Up to Restore White Rule Over America, Alternet:
If white rule in the United States is to be restored and sustained, then an important first step will be the decision of the five Neo-Confederate justices on the U.S. Supreme Court to gut the Voting Rights Act, a move that many court analysts now consider likely.
The Court’s striking down Section Five of the Voting Rights Act will mean that jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination in voting – mostly in the Old Confederacy – will be free to impose new obstacles to voting by African-Americans, Hispanics and other minorities without first having to submit the changes to a federal court…..
The Supreme Court’s apparent intention to gut the Voting Rights Act also could be viewed in the continuum of its five-to-four ruling in the Citizens United case of 2010 in which the right-wing justices freed up rich Americans to spend unlimited amounts to influence political campaigns. In other words, the Court’s majority seems intent on tilting the political playing field in favor of white plutocrats.
But the Court’s Neo-Confederate rationale was underscored mostly openly by Justice Scalia and his sneering remark about minority voting rights being a “racial entitlement” and by Justice Kennedy’s insistence that Alabama has the “independent sovereign” right to set its own voting rules without federal oversight.
Jerome Gray, a 74-year-old black man, has voted in every election since 1974 in this verdant little outpost of some 4,000 people halfway between Mobile and Montgomery. Casting a ballot, he said, is a way to honor the legacy of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, a civil rights landmark born from a bloody confrontation 70 miles north of here, in Selma.
The franchise remains fragile in Evergreen, Mr. Gray said. Last summer, he was kicked off the voting rolls by a clerk who had improperly culled the list based on utility records.
A three-judge federal court in Mobile barred the city from using the new voting list, invoking Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires many state and local governments, mostly in the South, to obtain permission from the Justice Department or from a federal court in Washington before making changes that affect voting.
That provision is also at the heart of one of the marquee cases of the Supreme Court’s term, Shelby County v. Holder, No. 12-96, which will be argued on Feb. 27. It was brought by Shelby County, near Birmingham, and it contends that the provision has outlived its purpose of protecting minority voters in an era when a black man has been re-elected to the presidency.
The court in Mobile this month said the case before it, concerning Evergreen, was simple: because the city had not obtained preclearance from federal authorities, it could not revise its voting list using utility records. Nor could it use a municipal redistricting plan enacted by the City Council that had concentrated black voters, who are in the majority, into just two of the five districts, limiting black voting power.
It is not clear when the municipal election, originally scheduled for last August, will be held.
The Supreme Court could say as early as Monday whether it will consider ending the Voting Rights Act’s advance approval requirement that has been held up as a crown jewel of the civil rights era.
The justices sidestepped this very issue in a case from Texas in 2009. In an opinion joined by eight justices, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote then that the issue of advance approval “is a difficult constitutional question we do not answer today.”
Since then, Congress has not addressed potential problems identified by the court. Meanwhile, the law’s opponents sensed its vulnerability and filed several new lawsuits.
The advance approval, or preclearance requirement, was adopted in the Voting Rights Act in 1965 to give federal officials a potent tool to defeat persistent efforts to keep blacks from voting.
The provision was a huge success, and Congress periodically has renewed it over the years. The most recent occasion was in 2006, when a Republican-led Congress overwhelmingly approved and President George W. Bush signed a 25-year extension.
The requirement currently applies to the states of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia. It also covers certain counties in California, Florida, New York, North Carolina and South Dakota, and some local jurisdictions in Michigan and New Hampshire. Coverage has been triggered by past discrimination not only against blacks, but also against American Indians, Asian-Americans, Alaskan Natives and Hispanics.
One manifestation of this indiscriminate biliousness is the statement that gets aired every four years: that in presidential elections we are asked to choose the lesser of two evils. Now, this is not an analysis or an insight; it is a cliché, and a very tired one, and it often comes in the same package as the insistence that there is no difference between the candidates. You can reframe it, however, by saying: we get a choice, and not choosing at all can be tantamount in its consequences to choosing the greater of two evils.
But having marriage rights or discrimination protection or access to health care is not the lesser of two evils. If I vote for a Democrat, I do so in the hopes that fewer people will suffer, not in the belief that that option will eliminate suffering or bring us to anywhere near my goals or represent my values perfectly. Yet people are willing to use this “evils” slogan to wrap up all the infinite complexity of the fate of the Earth and everything living on it and throw it away.
I don’t love electoral politics, particularly the national variety. I generally find such elections depressing and look for real hope to the people-powered movements around the globe and subtler social and imaginative shifts toward more compassion and more creativity. Still, every four years we are asked if we want to have our foot trod upon or sawed off at the ankle without anesthetic. The usual reply on the left is that there’s no difference between the two experiences and they prefer that Che Guevara give them a spa pedicure. Now, the Che pedicure is not actually one of the available options, though surely in heaven we will all have our toenails painted camo green by El Jefe.
Before that transpires, there’s something to be said for actually examining the differences. In some cases not choosing the trod foot may bring us all closer to that unbearable amputation. Or maybe it’s that the people in question won’t be the ones to suffer, because their finances, health care, educational access, and so forth are not at stake.
As the election year dawns, the U.S. Supreme Court (1000L) is right in the thick of it.
The justices return today from their holiday break to hear arguments on an expedited basis over minority voting rights in Texas’s congressional and state legislative districts. Together with disputes over immigration and health care, the redistricting case is part of a Supreme Court term with repercussions for November’s presidential and congressional elections.
The Texas case will determine the power of judges to redraw voting-district lines — and will test the strength of a central provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act: its requirement that some states get federal “preclearance” before changing election rules. Texas is asking the high court to put in place three Republican-drawn maps for this year’s elections, even though they haven’t received that preclearance.
“It would essentially give a major way for states to circumvent the Voting Rights Act,” said Pamela Karlan, a professor at Stanford Law School who represents the Texas Mexican American Legislative Caucus, one of the groups battling the state’s Republicans in court.