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Default SCOTUS ruling on pre-clearance conditions of the Voting Rights Act

June 26th, 2009, 22:35
Originally Posted by elkston View Post
They may not revert back to Jim Crow, but they will DEFINITELY try to suppress the black vote in subtle and creative ways. Don't ever think these attitudes are just going to go away. Racism runs deeps and is passed on generation to generation.

Taking the law off the books gives them license to run wild.

Its funny to me how some people just want us to forget that slavery and Jim Crow ever existed.
How do we know this, though? Of course racism still exists, but those states do have a good deal of black representation and participation. Do you think they would just sit idly by if their rights were being threatened? And what type of ways do you think they would suppress these votes?

Let's look at the 2008 election results for the states we're discussing: Arizona, Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Missouri, Georgia, South Carolina, and Virginia.

Arizona: McCain wins by 3.5%
Texas: McCain wins by 13.0%
Louisiana: McCain by 19%
Alabama: McCain by 23.3%
Missouri: McCain by 0.7%
Georgia: McCain by 4.0%
South Carolina: McCain by 10%
Virginia:Obama by 4.4%

So we can cross out Virginia from being run by evil racists, I guess.
Missouri, Georgia, and Arizona are basically toss ups for the next race.

Alabama, South Carolina, Texas, and Lousiana all went solidly McCain - I think, however, that it would be profoundly unfair to dump that on racism (especially since those areas are very strongly conservative politically). That'd be like when crazy right-wingers try to claim New York and California are pro-drug pro-terrorist America haters.

I'm not forgetting slavery, and I'm not forgetting Jim Crow, but at some point those cease to be valid excuses for pieces of legislation or social policy that people want to enact, and I think it's patently unfair to assume that if these restrictions were repealed you'd end up with the Klan putting polling places in their territory and lynching people who try to vote.

Originally Posted by coyote View Post
I think the point is this: sure things have improved since the last 40 years or so, but is it enough? Racism still seems to occur on a smaller scale — correct me if I am wrong, please — and it happens in other states for other minorities. Maybe it is better to err on the side of caution, then, to relax the rules gradually, instead of abandoning them altogether.

Considering that similar circumstances often cause similar issues regardless of location, it could also be a good idea to check voting parity in other states on a federal level — it is one of the most important aspects of democracy, after all.

On the other hand, I agree that it looks like the Department of Justice and the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia have taken things too far.
"

Well, I have two concerns here:

1) Is it Constitutional? I would argue "no" or "ehhh…maybe…." at best.
2) Is it right? I am more mixed on this one.

But why should african americans get special protection? They've already achieved voter parity! Like I said earlier, are Hispanics and other ethnic groups third class citizens? I think things have changed, and continuing to have these laws may actually do more harm than good to race relations at this point - even Obama has made similar statements on other divisive issues, such as Affirmative Action.

Look at my generation. Issues of race, gender, and sexual preference don't really matter to us. We typically don't even understand the questions or the issues involved. People talk to me about the civil rights movement and I just stare blankly at them - "Why *wouldn't* you have the right to vote?" is my first question, typically.
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June 26th, 2009, 23:27
Originally Posted by Rithrandil View Post
[…]Well, I have two concerns here:

1) Is it Constitutional? I would argue "no" or "ehhh…maybe…." at best.
2) Is it right? I am more mixed on this one.

But why should african americans get special protection? They've already achieved voter parity! Like I said earlier, are Hispanics and other ethnic groups third class citizens? I think things have changed, and continuing to have these laws may actually do more harm than good to race relations at this point - even Obama has made similar statements on other divisive issues, such as Affirmative Action.

Look at my generation. Issues of race, gender, and sexual preference don't really matter to us. We typically don't even understand the questions or the issues involved. People talk to me about the civil rights movement and I just stare blankly at them - "Why *wouldn't* you have the right to vote?" is my first question, typically.
I did not really write it like this, but what I meant by checking voting parity also in other states on a federal level is that there should be identical federal oversight on voting laws in all states.

This could be similar to section 5, examining each and every change. Another probably naive possibility — maybe it already exists — would be to have one federal address which is above party lines, like the Department of Justice, being accessible for complaints about voting parity by private persons or organisations, which would then have to be followed up and examined, with the possibility that state laws on voting are immediately overruled. The main point for this would be that it should be very easy to formulate and hand in complaints; there should be no barriers attached to this process, or it would become meaningless.
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June 27th, 2009, 05:15
Originally Posted by coyote View Post
I did not really write it like this, but what I meant by checking voting parity also in other states on a federal level is that there should be identical federal oversight on voting laws in all states.

This could be similar to section 5, examining each and every change. Another probably naive possibility — maybe it already exists — would be to have one federal address which is above party lines, like the Department of Justice, being accessible for complaints about voting parity by private persons or organisations, which would then have to be followed up and examined, with the possibility that state laws on voting are immediately overruled. The main point for this would be that it should be very easy to formulate and hand in complaints; there should be no barriers attached to this process, or it would become meaningless.
See, I'm completely fine with oversight. I just don't like the *pre-clearance* conditions. I also find it really vague - what is an acceptable amount of 'disenfranchisement' we are willing to accept? I think if someone is too lazy to get a Photo ID they shouldn't be able to vote, whatever race they are. But no, that's banned under Section 5! I think we could safely remove pre-clearance and then just have enforcement of the other conditions of the Voting Rights Act - if a state/district stepped out of line, then we could smack them down at that point.

I think we already have governmental organizaitons that do monitor complaints, though I could easily be mistaken. Is it the Federal Election Commission or is there some other group? I know we *have* something that does it… I know most states' Secretary of State runs the actual election on the state level…
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June 27th, 2009, 05:39
Originally Posted by Rithrandil View Post
See, I'm completely fine with oversight. I just don't like the *pre-clearance* conditions. I also find it really vague - what is an acceptable amount of 'disenfranchisement' we are willing to accept? I think if someone is too lazy to get a Photo ID they shouldn't be able to vote, whatever race they are. But no, that's banned under Section 5! I think we could safely remove pre-clearance and then just have enforcement of the other conditions of the Voting Rights Act - if a state/district stepped out of line, then we could smack them down at that point.

I think we already have governmental organizaitons that do monitor complaints, though I could easily be mistaken. Is it the Federal Election Commission or is there some other group? I know we *have* something that does it… I know most states' Secretary of State runs the actual election on the state level…
Pre-clearance seems to be the only way fast enough to prevent changes immediately before the election. And if you don't know who to complain to when you think your ability to vote is curtailed, the old Hispanic grandmother whose polling booth was made nearly inaccessible to her won't know for sure! This is what I meant by a high barrier making this option meaningless. By the way, I checked, and the Federal Election Commission is not responsible.

Regarding the Photo ID, is this only used for electoral purposes, or is it also used for criminal investigation? How do the people think about it, in particular the black community? I think it is likely that the only way for a Photo ID to not affect voting parity is to make it obligatory for everyone. Is this suggested or even possible given the current mentality?
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June 27th, 2009, 14:43
Originally Posted by coyote View Post
Pre-clearance seems to be the only way fast enough to prevent changes immediately before the election. And if you don't know who to complain to when you think your ability to vote is curtailed, the old Hispanic grandmother whose polling booth was made nearly inaccessible to her won't know for sure! This is what I meant by a high barrier making this option meaningless. By the way, I checked, and the Federal Election Commission is not responsible.
I don't know because I've voted absentee all but one election. I just don't understand how they can have voting access curtailed - transportation to voting sites is typically available, all you have to do to get an absentee ballot is to request it, etc. There are organizations like the NAACP and La Raza that watch these things like hawks, too.

I checked, and you call the State Attorney's Office. They usually have complaint lines open.

Originally Posted by coyote View Post
Regarding the Photo ID, is this only used for electoral purposes, or is it also used for criminal investigation? How do the people think about it, in particular the black community? I think it is likely that the only way for a Photo ID to not affect voting parity is to make it obligatory for everyone. Is this suggested or even possible given the current mentality?
Well, you need a photo ID to do a lot of things in America. Board a plane, at the doctor's office typically, etc. A cop can ask to see your ID, too, I guess. I honestly don't know how the black community feels about it - but I'd argue even if they hate it 100% it'd be irrelevant. You should have to prove your identity to vote. They cost absolutely nothing to obtain and there is no excuse to not have one.
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June 27th, 2009, 19:48
Well, you need a photo ID to do a lot of things in America. Board a plane, at the doctor's office typically, etc. A cop can ask to see your ID, too, I guess. I honestly don't know how the black community feels about it - but I'd argue even if they hate it 100% it'd be irrelevant. You should have to prove your identity to vote. They cost absolutely nothing to obtain and there is no excuse to not have one.
If the state says you are registered to vote, then you can vote. In most states this requires a valid residence and a SS#. You exist, you are 18, you live in this state. THAT IS ENOUGH TO ALLOW YOU TO VOTE. Attempts to add more layers of authentication on top of this are simply smoke screens to further suppress poor/inner city votes. If some people had their way, only land/home owners would be given the right to vote.

It's funny how now that a black man has been elected President, voting procedures are being scrutinized again. Are certain people eager to make sure it never happens again? I wonder …
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June 27th, 2009, 19:52
Originally Posted by Rithrandil View Post
I don't know because I've voted absentee all but one election. I just don't understand how they can have voting access curtailed - transportation to voting sites is typically available, all you have to do to get an absentee ballot is to request it, etc. There are organizations like the NAACP and La Raza that watch these things like hawks, too.

I checked, and you call the State Attorney's Office. They usually have complaint lines open.
If there were a real danger of discrimination from the state, this would be a weak check, since the State Attorney is still bound to the state, unlike the Department of Justice. The NAACP and NCLR organisations can complain, and I assume that they have the resources to go to a federal court, but since they have no actual authority, they cannot quickly overrule unfair voting practises should they arise immediately before an election.

I am not saying that you are wrong, just that it critically depends on the moral clarity of the respective state officials, if discriminative attitudes are purged from them or not. And I admit that your quote from the Georgia Rep. official in the original post sounded rather too polemic to be sincere to me. People who are completely honest and confident in their position usually do not have a need for hyperbole. Maybe this was just an unlucky quote, though.

Originally Posted by Rithrandil View Post
Well, you need a photo ID to do a lot of things in America. Board a plane, at the doctor's office typically, etc. A cop can ask to see your ID, too, I guess. I honestly don't know how the black community feels about it - but I'd argue even if they hate it 100% it'd be irrelevant. You should have to prove your identity to vote. They cost absolutely nothing to obtain and there is no excuse to not have one.
Were there valid concerns that votes were manipulated in the past when a photo ID was not required? If yes, that would be a very reasonable argument for requiring photo IDs. If a large part of the black community were against the photo ID requirement, I would definitely want to hear their arguments before deciding on anything, though.
Last edited by coyote; June 27th, 2009 at 20:09.
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June 27th, 2009, 19:58
Originally Posted by coyote View Post
Were there valid concerns that votes were manipulated in the past when a photo ID was not required? If yes, that would be a very reasonable argument for requiring photo IDs. If a large part of the black community were against the photo ID requirement, I would definitely want to hear their arguments before deciding on anything, though.
Voter fraud is the official sport of Chicago, so yes, votes are manipulated where a photo ID is not required.

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June 27th, 2009, 20:07
Originally Posted by dteowner View Post
Voter fraud is the official sport of Chicago, so yes, votes are manipulated where a photo ID is not required.
I heard that before, but I don't really know much about it. Do you know how they did it?
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June 27th, 2009, 20:15
Well, the most famous one is when couple cemetaries worth of dead people voted democrat. Here's a summary article. While the source isn't what I'd call reliable (it actually appears to have an anti-Dubya agenda), I expect it wouldn't be too hard to check out the Chicago Tribune reference if you wanted.
http://www.bradblog.com/?p=1021title…scounted+Votes

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June 27th, 2009, 20:28
Thanks for the link! Where they send people to vote for the deceased, photo ID would have helped indeed. It would not have helped against people registered to vote at multiple places, but overall it sounds like a photo ID really makes things more difficult.
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June 27th, 2009, 20:43
Originally Posted by coyote View Post
If there were a real danger of discrimination from the state, this would be a weak check, since the State Attorney is still bound to the state, unlike the Department of Justice. The NAACP and NCLR organisations can complain, and I assume that they have the resources to go to a federal court, but since they have no actual authority, they cannot quickly overrule unfair voting practises should they arise immediately before an election.
I don't think there's much of a real danger anymore. Anything they could do would pretty much be struck down immediately by the courts if it violated the VRA.

Originally Posted by coyote View Post
I am not saying that you are wrong, just that it critically depends on the moral clarity of the respective state officials, if discriminative attitudes are purged from them or not. And I admit that your quote from the Georgia Rep. official in the original post sounded rather too polemic to be sincere to me. People who are completely honest and confident in their position usually do not have a need for hyperbole. Maybe this was just an unlucky quote, though.
Granted, but if your town had to clear every single voting change it had to make with another authority (when nowhere else had to do with it) because of things that happened half a century ago - and it seemed that this provision wasn't going anywhere, wouldn't you be pretty pissed about it too?

Originally Posted by coyote View Post
Were there valid concerns that votes were manipulated in the past when a photo ID was not required? If yes, that would be a very reasonable argument for requiring photo IDs. If a large part of the black community were against the photo ID requirement, I would definitely want to hear their arguments before deciding on anything, though.
Voter fraud is always a problem - Chicago (like dte pointed out) is the largest example, but I don't think it's unreasonable to make people prove who they are before they engage in democracy. Just like I don't think it's unreasonable for people to have to be able to read English to vote here.
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June 27th, 2009, 21:06
Originally Posted by coyote View Post
I heard that before, but I don't really know much about it. Do you know how they did it?
It's a tradition in my home town, coyote. Back in the day, it was run by the Irish mafia of Richard J Daley—all the cops were Irish, all the city officials, etc. Everybody owed their position to the Democratic party. Like New York's Tammany Hall and so forth, it was and for all I know still is dominated by a one party system. The cemetery vote dte quoted regularly turned out. Winos were bought a drink for selling their votes. Et cetera.

When all the precinct captains are muscular and belicose, and frequently wearing the unifrom of a police force not known for it's restraint, it isn't hard to intimidate the faint of heart, stuff ballot boxes, falsify voter rolls, etc. Who are you going to complain to? The Mayor? As long as the garbage trucks were running and the average joe could make a living, no one really wanted to make too many waves. I don't know what it's like there now, but I do draw your attention to Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald and a certain Rod Blagojevich.

Eventually this stuff does draw attention and get some level of curtailing, but sadly, it's foolish to think that those who hold power won't abuse it wherever possible. Which is exactly why that Section 5 business was enacted to begin with. We'll have to see how it plays out—I certainly don't see any problem with a Voter ID, or moving a polling place without Federal say so, but imo voter fraud has to constantly be monitored by public and private groups to keep the playing field even.

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June 29th, 2009, 11:35
I think magerette has a very good point, and I agree with all of you - maybe with the exception of elkston - that Federal control was too stringent in Georgia. Also, considering the frequency and danger of voter fraud, it seems to me that the advantages of photo ID outweigh the disadvantages.

Originally Posted by Rithrandil View Post
I don't think there's much of a real danger anymore. Anything they could do would pretty much be struck down immediately by the courts if it violated the VRA.
Although it comes from a different direction — the democratic party — here, what magerette says seems to call for some kind of Federal oversight that is fast and accessible to everyone. What exists right now seems insufficient.

Originally Posted by Rithrandil View Post
Granted, but if your town had to clear every single voting change it had to make with another authority (when nowhere else had to do with it) because of things that happened half a century ago - and it seemed that this provision wasn't going anywhere, wouldn't you be pretty pissed about it too?
A good politician does not let personal feelings control the rhetoric, instead it is designed to appeal to the audience, their mind and their emotions. In this case, I got the impression that the former was lacking and the latter preeminent. Personally, I have yet to meet someone with strong prejudices against Germans for their past crimes — things like being called a Nazi or being refused lodging, it never happened to me, fortunately. When it happens, I will know how to answer your question honestly (I sincerely hope that I will not react with cynicism and anger, though).
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June 29th, 2009, 13:26
Originally Posted by coyote View Post
I think magerette has a very good point, and I agree with all of you - maybe with the exception of elkston - that Federal control was too stringent in Georgia. Also, considering the frequency and danger of voter fraud, it seems to me that the advantages of photo ID outweigh the disadvantages.
Right - I think there's a problem when you can't move a polling place for a legitimate reason. Now, if they want to do the old Southern strategy of moving the polling place into a KKK stronghold so blacks get lynched … we have a problem.

Originally Posted by coyote View Post
Although it comes from a different direction — the democratic party — here, what magerette says seems to call for some kind of Federal oversight that is fast and accessible to everyone. What exists right now seems insufficient.
Right, I'd rather just ditch preclearance and move to a more active/robust monitoring system that could handle complaints about election practices and would also review state laws to make sure they're fair. But I think they also need to establish an "okay" level of disenfranchisement. If a completely legitimate change needs to be made to the voting system, how much disenfranchisement is okay? I think intent needs to matter more than it does.

Like, I'll modify the example of this court case to make my point. Say they have two different polling places - one covers local elections (school boards, town council, etc) and the other is for the federal offices/governor. Let's say they want to consolidate the polling places for convenience's sake, and because people tend to forget which is the right one to go to. Now, let's say bus service to the consolidated polling place is a little lacking - the closest bus stop is a mile and a half away. There's an argument to be made that this will disenfranchise low-income/minority voters because they're going to have to rely on public transportation then walk to the polling place. Should this be allowed to stand, should it be repealed, or should it be allowed to stand if they provide alternate transportation for these voters to the polling place?

I think there's a 'reasonable' amount of disenfranchisement that should be allowed if it's a byproduct of another decision.

Originally Posted by coyote View Post
A good politician does not let personal feelings control the rhetoric, instead it is designed to appeal to the audience, their mind and their emotions. In this case, I got the impression that the former was lacking and the latter preeminent. Personally, I have yet to meet someone with strong prejudices against Germans for their past crimes — things like being called a Nazi or being refused lodging, it never happened to me, fortunately. When it happens, I will know how to answer your question honestly (I sincerely hope that I will not react with cynicism and anger, though).
Very true. I think it helps though that (at least from an American's view) your entire culture is based on a mea culpa for what happened in WW2. Especially when you compare it with Japan, who still engages in revisionist history about what *they* did.
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June 30th, 2009, 16:08
I think it is extremely difficult (i.e. practically impossible) to formulate a general rule that defines a level of disenfranchisement that is acceptable, which is, I believe, why section 5 was installed in the first place: to catch all the cases that are not covered by the rest of the National Voting Rights Act.

It requires some sentient being, be it a judge or a citizen, to look at changes and evaluate their impact on voting parity. And while it is relatively easy to decide on appropriate places for a polling booth if you have knowledge of the local sensibilities and transportation, it becomes more complex for issues like the requirement of photo ID.

I only have to look at Italy to see that the US is not the only true democracy with problems, or to the larger issue of electronic voting machines to see that voter fraud could become even more dangerous in the future, but Magerette's examples already illustrate that humans are far from perfect in this regard in the past just as today. It is a small step for local authorities to disenfranchise minorities in order to retain their power, and if they need to justify themselves, I am sure they will hide their true intent as well as possible and make up reasonable arguments to justify their means.

Originally Posted by Rithrandil View Post
Very true. I think it helps though that (at least from an American's view) your entire culture is based on a mea culpa for what happened in WW2. Especially when you compare it with Japan, who still engages in revisionist history about what *they* did.
Right. For example, it was a real novelty for Germans to proudly display the German flag during the 2006 football world championship. Otherwise, there are no big shows or symbols of patriotism, since unfortunately, the small, typically young, male and unemployed fraction of neo-nazis managed to claim these for themselves. Also personally, I see myself as world citizen and do not care much about nationality to the point where overt patriotism — the kind you see in Texas, for example — seems a little ridiculous to me.
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