In the run-up to the 2012 election, I was attending meetings on voter protection. I’ve been doing voter protection in this county since 2006, so the Obama campaign and Ohio Democratic Party training sessions were a review and update for me (and for most of the other people in the room as well). At one of the last pre-election gatherings, however, there was a very young lawyer who spoke up and said he didn’t understand the written materials and he wasn’t sure what he was supposed to do in a real-life situation. A lawyer who had been a GOTV volunteer in Florida in the 2000 election came and spoke to us that day and his story was just chilling. He gets a call that something “hinky” is going on with balloting in Palm Beach County and then it all went to hell from there. The dramatic re-enactment of Bush versus Gore from the visitor may have been what alarmed the poorly-prepared Ohio lawyer.
Anyway, an older man responded to the young lawyer’s concerns. He just looked at him and growled “blow the doors off and we won’t have to worry about any of this shit.” By “blow the doors off” he meant “turn out voters.” And that happened. I don’t know that we blew the doors off but Democrats turned out. It’s my belief that the coordinated GOP campaign to suppress Democratic voters DROVE turnout, to some extent. I have never seen such broad concern about voter suppression among “our” voters. I heard it everywhere I went. Concern wasn’t limited to those groups who have a history of being disenfranchised, as it has been in the past. I heard it from 65 year old white guys who have voted in the same precinct their entire adult lives. They were worried about it. That was new in 2012. We’ve always had a noisy, extremely litigious faction who care about voting rights, but we didn’t have broad buy-in, not here, anyway.
Which brings me to this challenge to the VRA:
In a little more than three weeks, the justices of the United States Supreme Court will hear oral argument in a case about the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act, the venerated federal law that for the past 48 years has helped eased the sting of official discrimination in the exercise of the most important of all civil rights — the right to vote. It’s the Voting Rights Act that has stopped bigoted state and local officials from ginning up new literacy tests or poll taxes. It’s the Voting Rights Act that has forced cynical legislators to limit (somewhat, anyway limit the scope of their racial gerrymandering. In Shelby County v. Holder, the court has been asked by an aggrieved Alabama county to strike down Section 5 of the statute, the provision which requires certain jurisdictions (like those in Alabama) with long patterns and practices of discrimination in voting to “pre-clear” with the Justice Department their proposed changes to voting laws. It’s a vitally important case for many reasons — not least of which that the court’s conservatives appear poised to strike down the statute just months after it was invoked, successfully and often, in the 2012 election cycle to protect the vote for millions of Americans.
Here are some of the groups that are supporting preservation of the law, and it isn’t just African-Americans:
National Latino Organizations – Aspira, Dominican American National Roundtable/National Dominican American Council, Hispanic Federation, Hispanic National Bar Association, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, LatinoJustice PRLDEF, MANA, Mexican American Legal Defense & Educational Fund, National Association of Hispanic Federal Executives, National Association of Hispanic Publications, National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Education Fund, National Conference of Puerto Rican Women, National Council of La Raza, National Hispanic Media Coalition, National Hispanic Medical Association, National Institute for Latino Policy, National Latino Institute for Reproductive Health, National Organization for Mexican American Rights, Inc., National Puerto Rican Coalition, Inc., Service, Employment, and Redevelopment, United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, United States Hispanic Leadership Institute
National Asian American Organizations ¬ Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, Asian American Justice Center, Alliance of South Asian Labor, Asian Citizens for Justice/Asian Center for Justice, Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Bay Area, Asian American Insitute, Asian Law Alliance, Asian Law Caucus, Asian Pacific American Legal Center, Asian Pacific American Legal Resource Center, Asian PAcific American Network of Oregon, Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forun, Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote ¬ Michigan, Asian Services in Action, INC., Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations, Center for Pan Asian Community Services, Inc., Chinese for Affirmative Action, Chinese Progressive Association, Hmong American Partnership, Japanese American Citizens League, Korean Americans for Political Advancement, Minkwon Center for Community Action, National Asian Pacific American Bar Association, OCA, Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund, South Asian Americans Leading Together, South Asian Bar Association of Northern California, Southeast
That’s a partial list. It’s all organizations like CATO and comic book character and voting rights villain Hans von Spakovsky on the GOP side. There’s been a ton of media attention paid to GOP struggles with Latinos and Asian American voters. I assume Republicans have given up on persuading a majority of African-Americans voters, because no one even mentions that anymore. Are voting rights another area where Republicans are on the wrong side of an issue, if they hope to sell the Party to a larger more diverse group of voters? Could this backfire politically for them even if they win the court case?