our return to state-sanctioned racism

Posted: June 29, 2013 in politics, poverty, racism, Republicans, the tea party, voting rights
Tags: , , , , , ,

why the voting rights act matters

Hey!  To all nine of my readers – just in case you missed it or aren’t aware of the significance of this particular ruling by the Supremes this past week, I want to lay it out in very simple terms.

Background:  In elections Republicans do terrible with minorities.  Blacks and Latinos, in particular, vote against Republicans almost 3 to 1.  That’s pretty much unsurvivable, if you’re the GOP.

Two ways the GOP could fix this:

1.  Change what you look like to Latino and black voters.  You know, things like stop voting only FOR the things that the corporations are paying you to vote for and AGAINST the things the corporations are paying you to vote against.  Examples: Raise the minimum raise, stop giving tax breaks to wealthy corporations while cutting food stamps for our neediest citizens, vote for jobs and education and background checks for gun purchases, and stop voting against reforms in health care, immigration and taxes.  Basically, try to erase the Republican “I hate minorities” image you have earned over the past many decades.

OR, of course, you could instead:

2.  Do everything you possibly can to keep minorities from voting.  

And, because this is the option the Republicans have historically chosen (and the option they apparently continue to choose when left to their own devices), Congress created the VOTING RIGHTS PROTECTION ACT.  

The Voting Rights Protection Act
Simply put:  Back in the 1960s the federal government recognized that there were some states and districts with long histories of disenfranchising minorities when it came to voting, and that, when left to themselves, these states would most likely do whatever they could to continue this tradition.  So Congress put into place a sort of second set of eyes by giving the Department of Justice the responsibility to review proposed changes in state election laws in these states and the power to veto laws that they determined to be racist or discriminatory.  And despite protests by some state law makers who claimed that their states had long ago abandoned discriminatory practices, this Act has since been renewed and amended by Congress four times, the most recent being a 25-year extension signed into law by PresidenGeorge W. Bush in 2006.  Needless to say, this Act has been seen as a landmark victory for civil rights and a source of empowerment for millions of citizens over the years.  

ZLpEd.La.91How it actually works:  A case study
In 2011, Texas Republicans put up a bill requiring that, if you wanted to vote, you had to have specific documentation that you never had to show before.  By their own estimate, these Republican lawmakers claimed that over 800,000 registered Texan voters did not have this ID…and that over 3/4 of these people were Latino.  An example of acceptable voter ID:  Your concealed weapon permit.  An example of unacceptable voter ID:  Your student ID (complete with photo).  Another unacceptable form of voter ID:  Your veterans ID card.  Seriously.

Well, when the Justice Department reviewed this proposed law they said, basically, “Um….no.  You can’t change your laws to knowingly block hundreds of thousands of Latinos from voting.”  So they vetoed it – they blocked this effort to keep minorities away from the polls.

And that’s not the only Texas Republican attempt to cheat their way to victory.  After the 2010 census these same lawmakers created new congressional districts with (according to a federal court) “discriminatory purposes.”  Texas Republicans took away the seats of minority law makers and redrew the districts of white lawmakers to make those seats easier for white lawmakers to win and hold on to.  In the new maps, the court noted, not a single white lawmaker lost his or her seat, but black lawmakers had their districts whittled out from under them.  Again, the federal court looked at this and said, in effect, “Nice try…but no way.”

This week, though, the law that allowed the feds to block those moves in Texas (and in many other locations around the country) images-177was gutted.  And in gutting the Voting Rights Protection Act, the conservative Supremes also threw out both of these protective Texas vetoes.   

So Texas is now good to go.

And guess what?  Texas Republicans wasted no time.  The voter ID law that was blocked for being too racist and the new election maps that were blocked for being too racist – these laws that were too obviously racist to be legal- they are suddenly legal, and Texas Republicans are going for it!  Remember, the Texas laws referenced above were officially called “obviously racially motivated” and “an attempt to keep whites in power.”  That’s why they were blocked.  But now Texan Republicans are going ahead with these laws.  So is Mississippi.  So is Alabama.  So is North Carolina.  This isn’t theoretical – it’s not that they are cleared to begin considering these racist laws.  The Republican controlled states are actually doing it, this week, right now.

images-176Red states that had wanted to change their election laws in racially discriminatory ways, but couldn’t get away with it because of the Voting Rights Protection Act – those red states are charging full steam ahead with racially discriminatory new election laws.

And now it’s up to Congress to decide whether or not they want a “national fix for this problem,” which Obama is now calling for.  The big question:  Are national Republicans going take the side of these far right state legislators and set us back 50 years, or will they take the side of civil rights, human dignity and fairness and help move us forward toward a future of equality and decency?

  1. Bruce Baker-Rooks says:

    What a mixed week of rulings, eh? I rejoiced with DOMA and Prop 8, and lamented the Voting Rights.

  2. This SCOTUS is a bit bipolar, don’t you think?

  3. Reblogged this on Unexpected Midlife Freedom! and commented:
    Simple. Concise. And a damn shame.

  4. Howisbradley says:

    It really has been a bipolar week. I fear the loss of the Voting Rights Protection Act. Coming from the south I can tell you this is not a good thing.

    My heart is warmed by the end of DOMA and Prop 8. My husband and I can finally get “legally” married here in California. Currently we can’t because of the loss of some financial benefits, but we’re both thrilled to know we are no longer 2nd class citizens and we can make it legal when the time comes.


  5. ras0927 says:

    Reblogged this on Ruth Ann Satchfield My Blog and commented:
    Please take time to read this it is very good

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