Bad week for voter ID laws. Will Supreme Court weigh in before election?
In case after case, federal judges are siding with the Department of Justice’s claims that tougher state voting rules discriminate against the poor and minorities. But states vow to appeal to the Supreme Court, which has viewed voter ID laws favorably.
(Page 3 of 3)
In the Texas redistricting case, judges specifically cited evidence of discrimination in the way Republicans redrew voting maps, in one case to create a district where they replaced likely Hispanic voters with less-likely ones, ostensibly to favor conservative Anglo candidates.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
What’s more, during the trial over South Carolina’s voter ID law, which the Justice Department refused earlier to preclear, one of the state’s attorneys last week had to admit one piece of evidence had the “shade of racism.”
It related to an e-mail to the attorney from a constituent, who noted that more minorities and elderly would get the ID if the legislature offered them $100 to do it. “It would be like a swarm of bees going after a watermelon,” the constituent wrote, to which the attorney replied, “Amen … thank you for your support of voter ID.”
Watermelon imagery has long been associated with racist comments in the South. In July, Attorney General Eric Holder, too, raised the specter of racism by calling the Texas voter ID law a “poll tax,” a reference to Jim Crow-era efforts in the South to make voting difficult for minorities.
A recent report by the nongovernmental Brennan Center for Justice suggests that new voting restrictions could disenfranchise more than 5 million voters in November.
Yet there are also arguments that the federal judiciary may be failing to see the forest for the trees. In Pennsylvania, a state judge cleared the way for Pennsylvania’s voter ID law for November, ruling that it ultimately would not disenfranchise anybody since even those who came to the polls without an ID would have their votes counted if they signed an affidavit asserting their identity.
Moreover, a recent Washington Post poll showed that 74 percent of American adults supported voter ID laws, including 65 percent of African-Americans. What’s more, several key voter fraud cases in the past few years have occurred in majority-black districts in Georgia and Mississippi, suggesting to proponents of tougher voting laws that voter fraud is a concern for not just white, conservative voters.
Some experts, meanwhile, have suggested that many Americans don’t understand the issue well enough to form a cogent opinion about voter ID laws or the stakes they raise.
“The problem with that polling is you get casual responses to a casual impression. You assume members of the public are knowledgeable when, in fact, there’s a lot of variation in how much they know or how much they’ve thought about the issue,” says Philip Meyer, a polling expert at the University of North Carolina, in Chapel Hill.