Voting Rights Act
The state of Louisiana is being sued for redrawing a congressional district to include a long, thin stretch from New Orleans to Baton Rouge with a high concentration of African Americans.
The racial gerrymandering of Congressional District 2 diminishes the influence of black votes in surrounding districts, says the suit filed by Maytee Buckley and other residents of District 2.
The New Orleans metro area has long been considered the Democratic island in an otherwise Republican state.
“Until recently, Louisiana was deemed a covered jurisdiction under the Voting Rights Act of 1965,” the lawsuit states. “Accordingly, its congressional maps were subject to preclearance by the federal government.”
Key portions of the Voting Rights Act were thrown out by the U.S. Supreme Court in June.
Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act is the “preclearance provision” which forced states with a history of discriminatory voting practices to receive federal approval before changing voting districts. Section 5 remains in effect until 2031.
The complaint states that officials are “specifically packing African-American voters into Congressional District 2 and thereby diminishing their influence in surrounding districts.”
Claimants say the new, oddly-shaped district, which contains parts of 10 parishes and four Congressional Districts, violates redistricting guidelines and doesn’t respect political or geographical boundaries.
“Congressional District 2’s tortured shape further contorts the districts around it,” the complaint states. “Congressional District 6 surrounds Congressional District 2 on three sides, appearing to shoot Congressional District 2 out of its cragged jaws like a crooked tongue.”
Claimants seek an injunction and want the district declared unconstitutional.
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, 80, told Adam Liptak of the New York Times that she has no intention of stepping down from what she called “one of the most activist courts in history.”
The first Jewish female justice said Friday that she regretted joining a 2009 opinion that led to the courts decision this year to strike down key provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. She referred to that decision as “stunning in terms of activism.”
“If you think it’s going to do real damage, you don’t sign on to it,” she said. “I was mistaken in that case.”
The high court in general, Justice Ginsberg said, “if it’s measured in terms of readiness to overturn legislation, this is one of the most activist courts in history.”
The number of interviews Ginsberg has granted this summer has led many to suspect she is preparing to step down from her seat. If she did, President Barack Obama would surely replace her with another liberal justice. Ginsberg said she hasn’t planned her retirement around the whim of the president appointing her successor.
“There will be a president after this one, and I’m hopeful that that president will be a fine president,” she said.
“I don’t see that my majority opinions are going to be undone. I do hope that some of my dissents will one day be the law.”
After two bouts of cancer, she is currently in good health. She said he advanced age has only made minor adjustments on her life.
“I don’t water-ski anymore,” she told the Times. “I haven’t gone horseback riding in four years. I haven’t ruled that out entirely. But water-skiing, those days are over.”
The court reconvenes Oct. 7 and she predicts more major decision will be handed down. She said the court would be wise to change speeds, move more incrementally and methodically.
She commented on 113th Congress, the least productive Congressional body in history, by saying simply, “Congress doesn’t seem to be able to move on anything.”
“In so many instances, the court and Congress have been having conversations with each other, particularly recently in the civil rights area,” she said. “So it isn’t good when you have a Congress that can’t react.”
Justice Antonin Scalia told an audience in Montana on Monday that the Supreme Court is overstepping its bounds by providing special protections to "invented" minority groups, like gay people and African-Americans.
“It’s not up to the courts to invent new minorities that get special protections,” he told an audience of about 300 people at an event sponsored by the conservative Federalist Society.
The high court struck down the Voting Rights Act, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and California’s Proposition 8 this year. Scalia dissented when it came to DOMA and Prop 8.
Scalia said courts should not create new rights; those matters are best left to voters or Congress. He suggested that justices are fighting a losing battle to preserve the “original meaning” of the Constitution.
“The most important question when there is a nomination is not, ‘Is this person a good lawyer,’” he said. “It’s, ‘Will this person put in the new rights that I like, and take out the ones I dislike.’ It’s like having a mini-constitutional convention every time you nominate a new justice.”
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, Ky., said Sunday that the Supreme Court should review the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs.
Scalia said national security questions should also be handled by Congress because it has more information on the extent of a security threat than the judiciary branch.
“Of all three branches, we are the one that knows the least about the nature of the threats to the country, and we have the least ability to find out about it,” he said.
At a press conference on Friday, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory (R) revealed that he was not entirely familiar with certain details of the controversial voter ID bill that he plans to sign into law.
When questioned about the bill’s provision that would prohibit pre-registration of underage voters, McCrory replied, “I don’t know enough…I’m sorry, I haven’t seen that part of the bill.”
Along with restricting pre-registration, the bill also requires voters to display particular forms of government-issued photo identification, cancels same-day voter registration, and cuts the period available for early voting by one week. The bill was passed by the North Carolina legislature after the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in late June to strike a key section of the Voting Rights Act.
Although McCrory and other supporters of the North Carolina bill claim that it will aid in the eradication of voter impersonation and voter fraud, recent research suggests that neither issue is a significant problem in North Carolina or anywhere else. New data collected by North Carolina’s Board of Elections discovered only 121 alleged cases of voter fraud out of the nearly seven million ballots cast in the state in the 2012 elections. In 2010, only 28 out of the 3.79 million votes cast were found to be cases of fraud.
Critics of the bill argue that the legislation is simply an attempt by the state’s Republicans to keep Democratic voters from the polls. Voting rights activists suggest that the bill will disenfranchise many individuals of their voting rights, particularly young voters, minorities, and the poor. Director of research and policy development for the North Carolina Policy Watch, Rob Schofield, called the bill an “omnibus elect-conservatives” measure. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has intimated that the Department of Justice may file suit should they find the law to be discriminatory in any way.
A Florida federal court dismissed a lawsuit brought by a Hispanic civic group and two naturalized citizens that blocked a voter purge in the state. After the Wednesday ruling, the process of screening suspected non-citizens and removing them from voter rolls will resume.
The process in 2012 included the flagging of people with Latino-sounding names and sending them a notice that they have 30 days to contest or they will be purged from the voter rolls.
The Department of Justice warned in 2012 that the voter purge, which would affect 180,000 people in Florida, was illegal, according to ThinkProgress. Election supervisors then refused to enforce the purge.
The suit was filed in 2012, arguing that the five Florida counties were protected under the Voting Rights Act. Since the U.S. Supreme Court removed a key section of the Voting Rights Act in June, states are not required to get federal approval in order to change the way they hold elections. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit had no choice but to dismiss the suit.
Despite the fact that the state never managed to find any non-citizens in the state of Florida who were registered to vote, Secretary of State Ken Detzner (R) plans to resume the voter purge.
During the 2012 presidential election, Floridians still had the longest waits at polls. Minority-heavy, urban areas had the most harried voting experience in the nation. Republican lawmakers cut early voting, changed ballot lengths so that could throw page after page of amendments onto ballots and restricted voter registration.
After the Supreme Court ruling, North Carolina also geared up to pass a number of new voting restrictions. North Carolina Republicans proposed the elimination of early voting, as well as Sunday voting hours and same-day registration provisions.
Rep. Steve King (R-IA) said on Thursday if Congress decides to amend the Voting Rights Act after the Supreme Court recently declared parts of it unconstitutional, there would be “no logical reason ballots should be in anything other than English,” according to MSNBC.
“The House GOP held their first hearing Thursday on how to handle the Voting Rights Act in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s ruling striking down Section 4 of the law,” according to MSNBC. “Section 4 determines which parts of the country must submit in advance their election law changes to the Justice Department, a process called ‘preclearance.’ Republicans have criticized the Section 4 formula for being based on outdated information, even though when the Republican-held Congress in 2006 reauthorized the Voting Rights Act it looked at data showing that the jurisdictions affected by the formula were more likely to engage in discriminatory election practices.”
King said he wanted to see “improvement in the integrity of the individual ballot,” arguing, “I think if we bring up the Voting Rights Act and we have an opportunity then to open it up, I think multilingual ballots become a question. There’s no logical reason that ballots should be in anything other than English. If you take a citizenship test, that’s the English — you have to demonstrate proficiency in English,” according to Raw Story
In 1975, Congress added Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act because it found that “through the use of various practices and procedures, citizens of language minorities have been effectively excluded from participation in the electoral process,” Raw Story reported.
King also suggested voter identification as a way of maintaining election integrity, calling it, “a reasonable device.”
“I wouldn’t know where to go look to find real voter intimidation and real discrimination,” King said. “So I think there is more damage that comes to our election system from lack of voter ID then might come from voter intimidation.”
A majority of Americans believe black people are more likely to be racist than whites or Hispanics, according to new Rasmussen Report.
The national telephone poll found that 37 percent of American adults believe most African Americans are racist. While 18 percent said most Hispanic Americans are racist, only 15 percent reported most whites are racist.
The report also found a huge difference in political ideology and the perception of racism.
Among conservatives, 49 percent considered most blacks to be racist, compared to 27 percent of liberals. In fact, 27 percent of liberals also said most white people are racist.
Results from the poll showed 30 percent of Americans believe race relations in the country are good or excellent. About 14 percent described race relations as poor.
For clarification, the questions Rasmussen asked over the telephone can be found here.
When asked about the outlook on race relations, 29 percent said it is improving, 32 percent said it is getting worse, and 35 percent said it is staying about the same.
Overall black people were more optimistic than whites about the state of race relations.
In 2012, Rasmussen Report called the election in favor of Mitt Romney. During the 2010 elections, statistician Nate Silver reported that Rasmussen had the least accurate majority pollsters.
North Carolina lawmakers are gearing up to pass a number of new voting restrictions that would have required federal approval before the Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act last week.
Despite the long lines created in Florida and Ohio after early voting was restricted, Republicans want to eliminate early voting in North Carolina, as well as Sunday voting hours and same-day registration provisions.
The GOP is pushing a bill sponsored by Rep. Bill Cook, R-N.C., that would even penalize college students who choose to vote at school rather than in their parents’ home district by raising taxes on their family.
The Republican voter ID bill would require identification be shown at the polls. ThinkProgress reported that requirement would be a problem for 1 in 10 voters. According to the State Board of Elections, 613,000 citizens in North Carolina do not have a government-issued ID that would be required to vote if the bill passes.
Allison Riggs, the staff attorney with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, told the Los Angeles Times that the restrictions are meant to compartmentalize black votes into one district, while bolstering the voting strength of nearby districts. She referred to the district gerrymandering as "a cynical strategy to disenfranchise blacks."
Riggs said North Carolina’s push to institute these voting restrictions are the first sign that the Supreme Court’s ruling will have "a demonstrably negative impact on voters of color.”
Rosanell Eaton, 92, told the LA Times that she remembers what casting a ballot in North Carolina was like before the Voting Rights Act. She said last week’s ruling "starts taking us right back to the old days.”
"Now it's easier for these Republicans to do anything they want to us, without the controls we had,” Eaton said.
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer said on Tuesday that she was satisfied to see that a portion of the Voting Rights Act had been struck down by the Supreme Court and added that the act “hampered” the state.
“Decisions that affect states should be left to states,” Brewer said. “I am grateful to the High Court for ruling on the side of sovereignty and federal restraint."
Section 4 of the act required states would to preclear voting laws in an effort that originally provided for protection against racial discrimination. When asked why she believed the clause was unnecessary, Brewer said that racial discrimination no longer exists.
“I think we were being punished by the Voting Rights Act for indiscretions, bad things that took place decades ago,” Brewer said. “We have grown and so it was the right thing to do so I’m pleased.”
The governor added that while racial discrimination was historically common when the act was created, the standard has now become redundant.
The Supreme Court’s latest decisions on the landmark cases of affirmative action and the Voting Rights Act show a remarkable lack of, well, decision. In the past two days, the Roberts Court has demonstrated what one might call "judicial passivism."
It started on Monday with affirmative action. The Supreme Court voted decisively on an indecisive ruling. In other words, they decided nearly unanimously (7-1) to let someone else decide by kicking the case down to the lower district courts. The Supreme Court officially ruled that the lower district court did not carefully scrutinize whether race conscious admissions programs were proven necessary for the educational benefits of diversity.
However the question of whether race conscious admissions are “necessary” is precisely what the court was expected to rule on. Moreover, nowhere in the opinion does Roberts define “educational benefits of diversity.”
Ten years ago, Justice Sandra Day O’Conner said affirmative action would not be needed in 25 years. It is uncommon for a judge to stamp her opinion with an expiration date. However, at least she answers the question whether affirmative action is still necessary. The debate has been ongoing since the 1960s and now it looks like it will continue for years to come.
Earlier today, the Supreme Court dodged another decision. They ruled that Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act is temporarily unconstitutional until a better formula is used for determining what states are discriminatory. Instead of kicking the can to a lower district court, they kicked it over to Congress.
But this decision — like its decision on affirmative action — left more questions than it answered. Namely, if the nine states specified are no longer targeted, which will be targeted next? How exactly will they be targeted? What new standards of voting equality must be met for a state to pass electoral laws without federal oversight? Must new states be targeted?
The federal government might pass regulatory laws that target specific states with apparent racial discrimination. However, the federal government might not pass bills of attainder — laws that single out specific groups for punishment. What is the difference between regulation and punishment? Regulatory laws are to correct current violations of law in certain districts. Punitive laws punish past violations of law even when the district has since reformed.
There is little doubt that given the persistent and prevalent racial discrimination in certain districts during the 1960s there must be some recourse for minorities. But that was 50 years ago when computers occupied floors rather than phones.
The South, despite it history of repression and blatant racism, has clearly reformed its electoral protections. Mississippi, once the worst offender of racial discrimination, had the highest turnout percentage among black voters in the country last election. Their rate flew from 7 percent registration in 1960 to 90 percent in 2012 where 80 percent of whites were registered. Five out of the nine Southern states targeted for their history of discrimination have higher rates of black voter registration than white. This immense progress brings up the doubt that federal laws are not so much regulatory as they are punitive.
No one is claiming that discrimination does not exist today. But it is clear the South has made tremendous and unrecognized progress. The court did not even consider nationalizing Section 5, like the law’s remaining sections, so that all states will be held to the same standards and must receive federal pre-clearance.
The court only put the provision on hold and is pending updates from Congress. Northern states, even with lower rates of black voter registration, are not in danger of requiring federal oversight further implicating the provision of being punitive rather than regulatory. Only Southern states, despite all the progress they have made, are left wondering how much longer they will be penalized for the faults of their grandparents.