There are now 71 GOP members of the Texas House signed onto the letter. The 5 that haven’t signed are Straus (Speaker, wasn’t asked), T. Smith and D. Bonnen (On the committee, staying out of the fray – for now), Merritt and D. Jones (voted against it last session). It’s not surprising that most have jumped on board, why wouldn’t they? Only bad could come from not having their name on this, no matter what the final bill has in it and how they vote on it.
From SCOTUS today preclearance, Section 5 of the Voting Right Act of 1965 may be in trouble, Court Reveals Customary Divide In Wrestling With Anti-Bias Law. Here’s key quote from today Justice Anthony M. Kennedy:
“The Congress has made a finding that the sovereignty of Georgia is less than the sovereign dignity of Ohio. The sovereignty of Alabama is less than the sovereign dignity of Michigan,” Kennedy said, referring to Congress’s 2006 reauthorization of the act.
That was always the case, but it was done because election law was being intentionally written to exclude. That’s why this excerpt from NPR caught my ear today, Voting Rights Act Faces New Challenge.
Voting Rights Act supporters say the law is still needed. They note, for example, that in many places with long histories of discrimination, voting is still polarized along racial lines. In Alabama and Mississippi, fewer than 11 percent of white voters supported Barack Obama.
Stanford law professor Pam Karlan says, “Saying ‘Let’s get rid of the Voting Rights Act’ is a little bit like saying ‘The doctor put some stitches in so you’re not bleeding anymore, let’s just rip the stitches out.’”
Nonsense, says Coleman, who notes that the Justice Department blocked voting changes in less than 1 percent of the places that sought pre-clearance.
“[You] have such a minuscule rate of objections that the declaration that state and local officials are presumptively not to be trusted in this area simply cannot be borne out,” he says.
But supporters of the Voting Rights Act reply that the whole point of the pre-clearance provision is to prevent attempts to discriminate. They pointed to hundreds of examples — more than 100 in Texas alone — in which the pre-clearance provision prevented elaborate schemes to suppress minority voting.
In one county they cite, it took decades for students at the historically black college there to win the right to vote. Then in 2004, county commissioners — aware that students would be on break during the primary election — voted to reduce early voting dramatically. The county abandoned this effort only after the NAACP complained to the Justice Department to see if the provision had been pre-cleared.
John Payton of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund says that without pre-clearance, the door would be opened for such schemes.
“Not only would we see all of these hundreds of proposed changes come into existence, we’d see others come out of the woodwork that would in fact infect and pervert our democracy,” he says.
While preclearance process doesn’t reject many new laws, lawmakers knowing that whatever election law they pass will have to go through preclearance forces them to make that law as inclusive as they can. Therefore preclearnace is still having it’s desired effect on election law. SCOTUS blog and Election Law blog have more.