"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“The Republican Self-Preservation Act”: Texas Voter ID Law Discriminates Against Women, Students And Minorities

Texas’s new voter ID law got off to a rocky start this week as early voting began for state constitutional amendments. The law was previously blocked as discriminatory by the federal courts under the Voting Rights Act in 2012, until the Supreme Court invalidated Section 4 of the VRA in June. (The Department of Justice has filed suit against the law under Section 2 of the VRA.) Now we are seeing the disastrous ramifications of the Supreme Court’s decision.

Based on Texas’ own data, 600,000 to 800,000 registered voters don’t have the government-issued ID needed to cast a ballot, with Hispanics 46 to 120 percent more likely than whites to lack an ID. But a much larger segment of the electorate, particularly women, will be impacted by the requirement that a voter’s ID be “substantially similar” to their name on the voter registration rolls. According to a 2006 study by the Brennan Center for Justice, a third of all women have citizenship documents that do not match their current legal name.

Just yesterday, this happened (via Rick Hasen), from KiiiTV in South Texas:

“What I have used for voter registration and for identification for the last 52 years was not sufficient yesterday when I went to vote,” 117th District Court Judge Sandra Watts said.

Watts has voted in every election for the last forty-nine years. The name on her driver’s license has remained the same for fifty-two years, and the address on her voter registration card or driver’s license hasn’t changed in more than two decades. So imagine her surprise when she was told by voting officials that she would have to sign a “voters affidavit” affirming she was who she said she was.

“Someone looked at that and said, ‘Well, they’re not the same,’” Watts said.

The difference? On the driver’s license, Judge Watts’s maiden name is her middle name. On her voter registration, it’s her actual middle name. That was enough under the new, more strict voter fraud law, to send up a red flag.

“This is the first time I have ever had a problem voting,” Watts said.

The disproportionate impact of the law on women voters could be a major factor in upcoming Texas elections, especially now that Wendy Davis is running for governor in 2014.

Moreover, the state is doing very little to make sure that voters who don’t have an ID can get one. As I mentioned, 600–800,000 registered voters don’t have an acceptable voter ID, but according to the Dallas Morning News “only 41 of the new cards were issued by DPS [Department of Public Safety] as of last week.”

Getting a valid photo ID in Texas can be far more difficult than one assumes. To obtain one of the government-issued IDs now needed to vote, voters must first pay for underlying documents to confirm their identity, the cheapest option being a birth certificate for $22 (otherwise known as a “poll tax”); there are no DMV offices in eighty-one of 254 counties in the state, with some voters needing to travel up to 250 miles to the closest location. Counties with a significant Hispanic population are less likely to have a DMV office, while Hispanic residents in such counties are twice as likely as whites to not have the new voter ID (Hispanics in Texas are also twice as likely as whites to not have a car). “A law that forces poorer citizens to choose between their wages and their franchise unquestionably denies or abridges their right to vote,” a federal court wrote last year when it blocked the law.

Texas has set up mobile voter ID units in twenty counties to help people obtain an ID, but has issued new IDs to only twenty voters at the sites so far.

Supporters of the voter ID law, such as Governor Rick Perry, argue that it’s necessary to stop the rampant menace of voter fraud. But there’s no evidence that voter impersonation fraud is a problem in Texas. According to the comprehensive News21 database, there has been only one successful conviction for voter impersonation—I repeat, only one—since 2000.

Texas has the distinction of being one of the few states that allows you to vote with a concealed weapons permit, but not a student ID. Provisions like these suggest that the law was aimed less at stopping voter fraud and more at stopping the changing demographics of the state. Based on what we’re seeing thus far, the law might better be described as the Republican Self-Preservation Act.


By: Ari Berman, The Nation, October 23, 2013

October 28, 2013 Posted by | Voter ID, Voting Rights, Women | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Let’s Not Beat Around The Bush”: Voter ID Laws Have But One Intent, To Limit The Franchise

Belatedly, federal Judge Richard Posner has arrived at the obvious conclusion about voter identification laws: They are enacted as a barrier to the franchise, an un-American tactic hatched by conservatives to prevent certain people from voting. It’s too bad that his epiphany came so late.

Posner is one of the nation’s most respected conservative jurists. As a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, he might have led the nation’s highest court to reject new restrictions around voting. Instead, in 2007, Posner wrote the majority opinion that upheld Indiana’s stringent law, setting the stage for the U.S. Supreme Court to reason that it did no harm to an unfettered franchise.

That was quite wrong, as Posner now acknowledges. While he disavowed his earlier endorsement of the law in a new book, Reflections of Judging, he went further in a video interview earlier this month with The Huffington Post, saying that the dissenting view was the right one.

In that dissent, the late Judge Terence Evans wrote: “Let’s not beat around the bush: The Indiana voter photo ID law is a not-too-thinly-veiled attempt to discourage election-day turnout by certain folks believed to skew Democratic.” That about sums it up.

Still, I see in Posner’s late-arriving epiphany occasion for hope that debates about obstacles to voting, which have proliferated in states controlled by Republicans, will now proceed with more intellectual honesty. Let’s give up the preposterous justification that the barrage of new restrictions around the franchise — regulations that include limits on early voting — are intended to prevent voter fraud.

Recently, the consequences of those restrictions have been clear in Texas, which was among the states that rolled out new measures after the U.S. Supreme Court decimated the Voting Rights Act earlier this year. (Posner has had interesting comments about that decision too, dismissing its intellectual and legal foundations as non-existent. “The opinion rests on air,” he wrote.)

Eighty-four-year-old Dorothy Card, a Texas resident, has voted for six decades, but she stopped driving 15 years ago and doesn’t have a driver’s license, the ID preferred in voter-suppression states. By late last month, she had tried three times to obtain an ID that would allow her to vote in November elections, according to Think Progress, a left-leaning political blog. Her daughter said she would keep trying but with little expectation of success since each attempt required a different set of documents.

But perhaps the case that poses the biggest challenge for the Texas voter-suppression camp concerns a sitting judge, Sandra Watts. She was nearly barred from voting earlier this month because her name is listed slightly differently on her driver’s license than on voter registration rolls. Her driver’s license lists her maiden name as her middle name, while the voter registration roll lists her real middle name. As a consequence, she was told she’d have to vote using a provisional ballot, which would be checked to assure her identity.

As she told a Texas TV station, it’s not unusual for a married woman to condense her name by putting her maiden name in the middle. “I don’t think most women know that this is going to create a problem. That their maiden name is on their driver’s license, which was mandated in 1964 when I got married …” she said.

Meanwhile, there are no — zip, zilch, zero — comparable stories of fraud prevented by the new laws. Perhaps that’s because in-person fraudulent voting of the sort the new laws ostensibly prevent is virtually non-existent. Analyses have consistently shown that voter fraud is much more likely to occur through absentee ballots, which the voter-suppression crowd have usually ignored.

Here’s the not-so-hidden agenda behind voter ID laws: blocking the franchise for voters who lean toward Democrats. Those voters can be found easily enough among poorer blacks and Latinos, who tend to be less likely to own cars and to have driver’s licenses. Target them, and you can shave off several hundred or a few thousand votes — enough to win a close election.

That’s what Republicans are up to. Let’s hope Posner’s acknowledgment might at least spark more honesty about their motives.


By: Cynthia Tucker, The National Memo, October 26, 2013

October 26, 2013 Posted by | Voter ID, Voting Rights, Voting Rights Act | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A City Of The First Class”; Federal Court Upholds Ban On Undocumented Immigrant Renters, Ruling Cities Can Keep People Out

In a significant win for the anti-immigrant movement, a federal appeals court upheld a Nebraska city’s statute Friday that bans renting property to undocumented immigrants, holding that the law was neither preempted by federal law nor discriminatory.

In a 2-1 opinion, Judge James B. Loken rejected the rulings of several other federal appeals courts that federal immigration regulation precludes local prohibitions on the “harboring” of undocumented immigrants. Reasoning that cities and states are perfectly entitled to keep undocumented immigrants out of their borders, Loken and fellow Republican appointee Steven Colloton upheld a statute making it unlawful to hire, rent to, or otherwise “harbor” an undocumented person in Fremont, Nebraska, dubbed a “city of the first class.”

“Laws designed to deter, or even prohibit, unlawfully present aliens from residing within a particular locality are not tantamount to immigration laws establishing who may enter or remain in the country,” Loken, a former Nixon advisor and George H.W. Bush appointee, wrote for the majority.

In support of this proposition, Loken cites to a footnote in a U.S. Supreme Court decision that, ironically, affirmed the right of undocumented children to obtain a public education. In that footnote, the court recognized, as an aside totally separate from the contrary holding in the case, that a law is not necessarily invalid merely because it imposes an unequal burden on undocumented immigrants.

Fremont’s law does far more than impose an unequal burden on undocumented immigrants. In requiring all rental applicants to register with the city and prove their citizenship, the city of Fremont is not only effectively removing many undocumented immigrants from its jurisdiction; it is also making its own separate determination of lawful presence in the United States, without the assessment and due process that accompanies federal removal.

Just last year, the U.S. Supreme Court reiterated the breadth of federal supremacy in the field of immigration law in striking down key elements of Arizona’s controversial SB 1070, writing that no state or local government is allowed to “achieve its own immigration policy.” And as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit explained in striking down an almost identical provision prohibiting the “harboring” of illegal immigrants, these sorts of local laws attempt to remove undocumented persons from the city “based on a snapshot of their current immigration status, rather than based on a federal order of removal.” Dissenting judge Myron Bright explained:

This produces conflict with federal law because unlawful presence or undocumented status is not in every case equivalent with removability or with eventual removal. “Under federal law, an unlawful immigration status does not lead instantly, or inevitably, to removal.” Additionally, undocumented persons are afforded numerous procedural protections under federal law before an order of removal may issue. The federal government will sometimes exercise its discretion not to prosecute a removal, “thereby tacitly allow[ing] the presence of those whose technical status remains ‘illegal.’ ” Even once a removal proceeding is commenced, it is far from certain it will result in removal.

This ruling is a major win for Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who profited handsomely from drafting this provision for Fremont and several other cities around the country.


By: Nicole Flatow, Think Progress, July 1, 2013

July 5, 2013 Posted by | Immigrants, Immigration Reform | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Congress As It Actually Is”: When The Voting-Rights Challenge Lands On Capitol Hill, A Strong GOP Incentive Not To Act At All

The Supreme Court’s ruling on the Voting Rights Act was almost clever, in an ugly and deceptive sort of way. The five-member conservative majority conceded what a great law the VRA has been, and hailed its efficacy over the years. (In a curious twist, the justices believe the law such a great success it magically became unconstitutional when we weren’t looking.)

Today’s ruling even left Section 5 of the law more or less intact, endorsing at least the concept of pre-clearance before states and municipalities can change their voting laws. So what’s the problem?

Actually, everything. While the high court’s ruling may seem fairly narrow — the majority said they simply want Congress to replace an old formula with a new one — it also probably marks the end of the Voting Rights Act. Today’s ruling calls for a fix, but as a practical matter, it guts the landmark civil-rights law.

The ruling, a 5-4 decision by Chief Justice John Roberts, leaves the future of the law deeply uncertain because it will be up to a sharply divided Congress to redraw the map, if it can agree on one at all.

“In practice, in reality, it’s probably the death knell of this provision,” said Tom Goldstein, the publisher of SCOTUSblog and a Supreme Court analyst for NBC News.

If we wore some kind of Rawlsian veil of ignorance, and forgot everything we know about the contemporary U.S. Congress, this wouldn’t necessarily have to be considered a complete disaster. Given widespread voting problems, a competent and capable legislative branch of government might even see the ruling as an opportunity to pursue meaningful election reforms.

But if we drop the veil, we see Congress as it actually is — an institution where procedural abuses are the norm, an extremist caucus holds control of the lower chamber, the politics of extortion and hostage strategies is routine, and lawmakers struggle badly to complete even rudimentary tasks.

And it’s not just about Congress’ dysfunction. As recently as 2006, the Voting Rights Act was easily reauthorized by large bipartisan majorities, and signed into law by a Republican president. But by any fair measure, the radicalization of Republican politics has intensified greatly over the last seven years.

Indeed, I imagine GOP lawmakers will see a strong incentive not to act at all on this issue — with the 2014 midterms coming up, and Republicans in the majority in so many state legislatures (especially in the South), the party will likely be content to reject all pre-clearance measures and encourage red-state lawmakers to enact sweeping new voting restrictions without fear of Justice Department oversight. In the process, Democratic hopes for electoral gains next November will be further undermined by institutional, not political, barriers.

The war on voting, in other words, is just getting started, and is poised to claim more casualties.

There is one more angle to keep in mind, though. You’ll recall that the Republican National Committee has said it’s sincere about outreach to minority communities and expanding its base beyond the GOP’s overwhelmingly white, older supporters.

If Republican lawmakers refuse to work constructively on the Voting Rights Act, and perhaps even kill immigration reform, the setback for the party’s alleged outreach efforts will be immeasurable.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, June 25, 2013

June 27, 2013 Posted by | Congress, Voting Rights Act | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Next Year’s SCOTUS Sensation?”: Irresponsible And Blatantly Unconstitutional Abortion Restrictions

As commentators begin to run out of words to speculate about the murky maneuverings of the Supreme Court on same-sex marriage issues as reflected in oral arguments, it’s occurring to some to compare and contrast the trajectories of law and public opinion on gay marriage and that other hardy perennial of the Culture Wars, abortion.

At Wonkblog, Sarah Kliff sums up the anomaly:

Tuesday marked for a watershed day for gay rights activists as the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on a case with the potential to legalize same-sex marriage across the country.

Across the country and 1,500 miles west of Washington, an equally notable event took place: North Dakota enacted the country’s most restrictive abortion law, barring all procedures after six weeks.

For decades, support (or opposition) for gay marriage and abortion went hand in hand. They were the line-in-the-sand “values” issues that sharply divided the political parties.

Not anymore. ”As recently as 2004, we talked about abortion and same sex marriage in the same breath,” says Daniel Cox, research director at the Public Religion Research Institute. “They were the values issues. Now, it doesn’t make sense to lump them together anymore. We’ve seen a decoupling.”

Actually, I beg to differ in part: abortion policy is, more than ever, a reliable and quasi-universal item that divides the two major political parties.

What’s different is that there’s no clear generational trend on abortion that makes the conservative and Republican position doomed, as Kliff notes:

Younger Americans have become increasingly supportive of gay marriage in a way that hasn’t necessarily happened for abortion rights. Young Americans’ views on same-sex unions look nothing like previous generations. But when it comes to abortion rights, Millennials look a lot more lilke their parents.

Millennials, PRRI has found, have similar views to the general population on the morality and legality of abortion. Fifty-two percent of the general public thinks abortion is “morally wrong.” Among Millennials, that number stands at 50 percent. Fifty-six percent of all Americans think abortion ought to be legal, compared to 60 percent of the younger crowd.

In terms of state activity, the irony is that a development adverse to the anti-choicers–President Obama’s re-election–is partially responsible for the wild competition Republican legislators around the country have been undertaking to enact the most irresponsible and–under existing precedents–blatantly unconstitutional abortion restrictions. Now that they’ve been denied a Romney presidency where Supreme Court appointments would be carried out under a strict anti-choice litmus test, abortion-rights foes have clearly decided to initiate a challenge that will test the commitment to Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey of the existing Court–and particularly its erratic “swing vote,” Justice Kennedy, who opened the door to new abortion restrictions in his bizarre opinion in a 2007 decision upholding a federal ban on so-called “partial-birth-abortion.”

When North Dakota’s Gov. Jack Dalrymple signed that batch of radical bills on abortion yesterday, he might as well have been holding up a big sign reading: “Hey, Anthony Kennedy! These bills are for you!” So I wouldn’t be surprised if abortion is the big issue in oral arguments before the Supremes next year or the year after that.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, March 27, 2013

March 28, 2013 Posted by | Abortion | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: