Holder and DOJ Need to Act to Stop Voter Suppression on Steroids

ACORN Voting Rights

polling_place_photoNew Orleans An lead article in the Sunday New York Times was a wan effort to footnote the partisan efforts of Republicans controlling an increasing number of state legislatures to suppress the ability and access to voting for lower income citizens, elderly, infirm, and others without current picture identifications.  There was a weakly researched editorial comment inserted on the front page by reporter Lizette Alvarez slamming ACORN:  “In 2008 ACORN, a group organizing minority and low-income communities, became a particular target, with Republicans asserting that ACORN was trying to steal the election with large voter-registration drives, some of which were found to be seriously flawed.”  I read all of these articles pretty carefully and though I know Ms. Alvarez is right that the Republicans have been beating this drum without rhyme or reason for their own purposes for many years, I’m not sure when she talks of the efforts having been “found to be seriously flawed” what she might be referring to, since for all of the storm and fury around the 2008 election, it is now hard into 2011, and virtually nothing has been established anywhere to back the partisan histrionics at that time.

But I digress, since my real issue here is that the systematic efforts, aided and abetted by sloppy reporting like that done by the Times as a matter of policy it seems, must be stopped.

The article mentions that these efforts have “advanced” in “13 states in the last two months,” though unfortunately there is no listing or reference to which 13 states they might be counting in this particular rogue’s gallery.  The article mentions only Wisconsin, Texas, Florida, Kansas, and South Carolina as having curtailed voting rights with Ohio and Pennsylvania moving in the same direction.  That’s 7 states.  There’s every indication that this problem is even worse than we imagined:

The National Conference of State Legislatures reports that eight states — Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, and South Dakota –currently require or request that voters present a photo ID at the polls. Another 20 or so states ask for some form of identification but do not require a photograph. And new, restrictive laws have been proposed in more than 30 states, include provisions that require voters to provide proof of citizenship.

We need the Attorney General Eric Holder and the Department of Justice to step up right now and enforce the Voting Rights Act.  Southern states, like Texas, have to undergo a preclearance anyway to assure that any new laws impacting voting do not adversely impact minorities, and it hard to argue that more expansive and rigid poll-tax like ID’s are exactly doing just that.  Without clearance the Texas law and any new law in the South cannot move forward, which would include South Carolina and new modifications in Florida.

For those with short memories when Georgia implemented voter ID requirements under the last Bush administration the staff of the DOJ ruled that the new provisions should not be allowed because they violated the Voting Rights Act provisions.  They were politically overruled by the Bush Administration and emerged in the light of day to do their dirty deeds.

The precedents for action now are clearly established and Holder needs to step up and do the right thing  in the South.

The DOJ also has a duty to enforce the Voting Rights Act everywhere, not just in the South.  In the same way that Holder finally stepped up in Arizona on the human rights violations of immigrants, the DOJ needs to move to challenge all of these new voting curtailments for what they are:  systematic disenfranchisement of the poor, minorities, and all of the differently able.

This is a national phenomenon and part of a state-by-state strategic and conspiratorial campaign to stop people from voting.  It has to be stopped now!