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UPDATE: Back in March, we turned our attention to the 47th anniversary of Bloody Sunday. In the months since, we’ve crisscrossed the nation and detailed how the fights of 50 years ago are being resurrected today. The Atlantic’s Andrew Cohen yesterday offered his own telling, invoking Dr. King’s famous quote, “The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice,” to break down the dangerous myths and machinations of voter suppression, concluding that “[t]hese new laws seek to bend the arc backward again, to take away from people their effective right to vote.” It’s important that we remain vigilant over the next nine weeks, so that on November 6 eligible Americans are able to cast a vote and have it count. In the words of LBJ, “Then with his vote and his voice he is equipped with a very potent weapon to guarantee his own dignity.” Click here and here for more from Andrew Cohen.
In a ruling last week hailed by voting rights advocates, US District Judge Gregg Costa temporarily enjoined Texas Election Code provisions restricting voter registration, including those implemented by HB 2194, which has ALEC ties in author Larry Taylor and sponsor Mike Jackson.
Citing the Federalist Papers, Judge Costa wrote:
The Right to Vote under Attack: The Campaign to Keep Millions of Americans from the Ballot Box, a Right Wing Watch: In Focus report by PFAW Foundation explains the methods the Right is using to suppress the vote under the guise of preventing non-existent “voter fraud.” It also shows the disproportionate effects that this has on minorities and other vulnerable populations. We’ve continued to highlight a national trend toward massive disenfranchisement, such as requests for citizenship data to purge the voting rolls and voter ID.
Last Thursday a Heritage Foundation panel discussion featured people who are leading the charge.
UPDATE: Attorneys for both sides gave closing arguments last Friday after a weeklong trial. Experts expect the ruling, which could come before November, will hinge on whether the defendants have successfully shown that the law has a disparate impact on minorities. Representative Fischer highlighted the hurdles that many Texans would have to clear in order to acquire valid ID, pointing out that some "would have a 200-mile round-trip drive." Attorney General Eric Holder described the ID requirement as a "poll tax." As the New York Times editorialized, "People died to achieve [the Voting Rights Act], but 47 years later, the discrimination has not disappeared."
Since Florida Governor Rick Scott and Secretary of State Ken Detzner refused to comply with a Department of Justice warning to stop their sweeping effort to purge voters from the rolls, the DOJ has filed a suit against the state, contending the purge violates the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
Last May, Texas Governor Rick Perry signed SB 14 into law. An ALEC award-winner himself, Governor Perry had the support of several ALEC members and others who pushed the legislation. Together they made Texas a photo ID state.
Then the DOJ issued an official objection that stopped the law from going into effect, saying that it disproportionately affects Hispanic voters. Not only is Texas defending the law but Attorney General Greg Abbott has amended the state’s complaint with a direct challenge to Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. The AG has also dropped his objection to taking depositions from state lawmakers.
Though it remains tied up in court, the effects of the law have already been felt statewide, especially surrounding the May 29 primary. KSAT:
UPDATE: Texas has responded to last week’s DOJ ruling against the Texas voter ID law. Attorney General Greg Abbott has amended the state’s complaint in pending litigation to not just defend the law but to also add a direct challenge to Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, saying, “For the Department of Justice to now contend that Texas cannot implement its voter ID law denies Texas the ability to do what other states can rightfully exercise under the Constitution.” Austin American-Statesman reporting. US Senator John Cornyn also hit back at DOJ, saying, “The Justice Department's refusal to preclear this change in Texas law by the Texas Legislature is simply inexcusable.” As you can see below, the data just doesn’t back up their political claims. Texas is not subject to VRA preclearance without cause. In all locations, but especially where there are histories of discrimination, we must remain vigilant when voting law changes are made and bear out the review process.
March 7, 2012 marked the 47th anniversary of the “Bloody Sunday” when voting rights marchers were beaten in their attempt to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. NAACP President Ben Jealous joined activists from then and now in marking the occasion with another march, saying protest is just as necessary now as it was then.