Modify the VRA?

AJC: Voting Rights Act under scrutiny

Led by freshman Rep. Lynn Westmoreland of Sharpsburg, they are urging Congress not to renew an expiring provision in the act that requires Georgia and all or part of 15 other states to get federal approval when they change their voting procedures, whether by drawing new congressional districts or moving a polling station.

If the provision, known as Section 5, is renewed, it should be expanded to include all 50 states, Westmoreland said.

“Why should Georgia be singled out under this?” Westmoreland said. “Georgia has more than gotten their act together” since 1965.

In practical terms, Section 5 requires pre-clearance from the Justice Department on any change in the conduct of Georgia’s elections. For example, in my home county of Gwinnett, the Elections office created a number of new voting precincts. Those new precincts cannot be used in an election until Justice gives the pre-clearance.

Surely there is no longer any need for Georgia to be subjected to such a requirement. Of course, Cong. Lewis and friends are vehemently oppose to any changes to the Voting Rights Act, but hopefully reasonable people will prevail and the VRA will be modified to reflect the new reality. What do you folks think?

16 comments

  1. Silence says:

    Section 2 and 5 are the sections of the Voting Rights Act that cause the most trouble with Georgia’s elections law. It’s precisely what has driven Georgia’s voter ID law into an insufferably atrocious legal battle in the courts, which will most likely not be decided until the Supreme Court. It does nothing but cause problems.

  2. If I recall, you Republicans were more than happy to hide behind section 5 of the VRA when you sued Georgia over legislative districts that had too small of a black VAP (the Supreme Court famously disagreed in Georgia v Ashcroft). So what is it? Use the VRA in an attempt to pack black voters into the smallest number of districts when it is convenient, but bash the VRA when it interferes with your pet ID bill?

    I’d say Republicans be careful what they wish for. Section 5 of the VRA has been the main enabler of the Republican legislative takeover of the South. Why get rid of it now that it gets in the way of one little bill?

  3. Correction: Republicans didn’t sue Georgia in Georgia v Ashcroft, but actively supported the Bush justice department which argued that certain state Senate districts needed to have a black majority instead of ~45% black VAP in order to comply with section 5 of the VRA. Perdue felt so strongly about this that he famously sued our AG over jurisdiction in the matter.

  4. billy says:

    Unfortunately, it is still needed. I’ve seen all kinds of antics aimed at African American voting. I will not aim charges of racism at those who do such things, neccisarily. It turns out that AA voters vote overwhelmingly Democratic and are easier to target with such nonsense tactics.

    Case in point: Laurens County. The county recently moved all the election precinct polling places farther away from black neighborhoods. Whether intentional or not, it isn’t fair to make it harder on a population to vote.

    Further case in point: South DeKalb County 2002. The GOP, or someone acting on their behalf, put up many posters, signs, and distrubuted flyers directly trying to surpress black turnout. I saw a flyer that listed the wrong election date and polling places being distrubuted by a bunch of white guys on candler road. I saw a sign being put up that said, “Support Billy and Cynthia: stay home on election day!” being put up by a white guy in a car from Cobb County on Flat Shoals Road. If shenanigans like that are going to happen then I do not rule out the possibility of more ‘official’ means being put in place to surpress black turnout.

    Perhaps it should be a nation-wide law, certainly racism and election tampering is not just a southern phenomenon, but most southern lawmakers who push for it are just trying to find a way to kill the law rather than make it more fair or better policy.

    Again, it is unfortunate. I wish it weren’t so.

  5. macongop says:

    On Election day 2002, I pulled down hundreds, yes hundreds of flyers put up on every Republican yard sign in Macon and Bibb county that morning equating the GOP to the KKK ( I still have some copies). The knife cuts both ways on tactics used by both parties Billy. Don’t try and make it a Republican abuse issue. AA use the system just like everybody else tries too. The VRA needs to go the way of the DoDo bird.

  6. prophet says:

    Oh please since when has the 11th “circus” court of appeals ever given out anything but a liberal ruling???? Decaturguy you and your revisionist friends aren’t gonna win this “newspeak” battle this way. Again this is great let’s equate racism with not being able to commit blatant voter fruad. I’m sure the Supreme court is gonna want to go on record as supporting that!!!
    If so the end is truly near!!!

  7. billy says:

    Macon, I did not point fingers at Republicans, I simply relayed my experience where race and iffy-campaign/election practices has crosssed. It isn’t a Republican vs Democrat issue, I do not think Republicans hold a monopoly on race-based electioneering. In fact, in the south, it was Democrats who started it. But i don’t think it is a party issue, I think it is a black vs White issue. As long as shenanigans like what I mentioned still happen, regardless of who or which party does them, then the VRA is still relavent. Pointing out the base tactics you encountered in your own neck of the woods just shows your have some classless opponents to deal with, not much else.

    On the Voter ID Bill (someone actually tried to get me to change the way i refer to it, something like “the Voter Supression Bill” which i thought was silly)
    I wouldn’t have a problem with requiring IDs at the polls if it were 1) free to get an ID and 2) easy to get the ID physically. As long as you have to pay and as long as it is more difficult to get if you are poor, lack transportation, or have a hard time getting around because of age or disability then it is unfair and wrong. It makes it harder to vote, esspecially for those who it is already hard to vote.

    Some have suggested that you could still vote absentee, and it is even easier to do so. To which I ponder the possibility of voter fraud being uniquely easy with absentee voting, and always has been. So I find it strange that such an arguement comes from a group of people so concerned about the integrity of elections.

    But, if you mail out absentee ballot applications to everyone who is registered then i can certainly get behind that. If done correctly we could double voter participation levels. Wouldn’t that be great for our Democracy? Regradless of party; who couldn’t get behind that? Who would be against making it easier to vote?

  8. albert says:

    of course this has no relationship to the VRA, but to bolster Macon’s point. The Bibb GOP has a website http://www.bibbgop.org, some idiot has created a site http://www.bibbgop.com . Whoever thinks the Dems are the masters of morality are fools. I’ll concede we have some issues. I really think this kind of mentality is in every Party.

  9. Bill Simon says:

    Chris, perhaps had the law been revised back in 2001-2002, our Republican Party, led by infamous Ralph, wouldn’t have WASTED all that money and time on useless strategies.

    We finally won a majority due to the “one-man, one-vote” strategy throwing out the multi-member districts. We didn’t win on challenging Roy’s maps on the basis of what it would do for the African-American influence in elections.

  10. Bill Simon says:

    Billy, you might call it “voter suppression,” but I call it hilarious pranks. If the voter doesn’t know that the Election Day happens when it happens, and is so easily confused by someone holding-up a sign that says “Republicans Vote on Tuesday, Democrats on Wednesday” or, any of the signs you cite, then I say they may just be plain too stupid to vote, regardless of their skin color.

  11. Bill, I agree the one man one vote ruling led to the actual takeover. But the “max black” redistricting strategy fueled by the GOP’s reading of the VRA in the early 90’s had a lot to do with building the foundations, particularly on the Presidential level. I think Don Johnson’s district went from being like 35% black to 20% between ’92 and ’94…

    That said, Republicans had a number of different strategies/routes in attacking redistricting, and one WAS an interpretation (favorable to Republicans) of the VRA.

    And, to throw gas on the fire, wasn’t it David Schaffer that argued the one man/vote challenge, not Ralph?

  12. Bill Simon says:

    Yes, it was Shafer’s strategy. My apologies for misleading on my statement…I was combining 3 year’s worth of lawsuits into something that sounded like it happened over a 2-year time span.

    You see, Ralph took orders from the RNC on what legal strategy to employ for arguing against the Democrat-dominated maps. Ralph was told, and he agreed, that in the “aggregate” of Congress, the Republican-dominated maps of the states of Pennsylvannia and Texas would produce more Republican safe seats than the Georgia maps. The maps in these two states were drawn by Republican-dominated legislatures in much, if not the same, exact way the maps in Georgia were drawn by Roy Barnes and Bobby Kahn.

    You see, the RNC, with Ralph willingly going along, decided they could sacrifice Georgia Republican voters and stick to arguing the VRA side in an effort to get the maps thrown-out.

    Early in the process (like, summer of 2002), Senator Shafer saw that the “one-man, one-vote” argument was the better way to go on a Constitutional basis and he sent letters to both Ralph and some other muckety-mucks in the GOP. His advice was tossed aside in favor of protecting the Republicans in Texas and Pennsylvannia.

  13. macongop says:

    One last thought on the Voter Picture ID for everyone to think about.
    If you want to buy Sudafed at the store, you have to show the Pharmacist a Picture ID and sign a log now, part of the Meth bill to reduce the large purchases of the base ingrediant. Why is everybody not raising hell about this? You can not show a utility bill to say who you are, photo only. There are several other state that do require a Photo ID in order to vote. If I recall right, Sen. Daschale was trying to say it was unfair also, Native Americans couldn’t afford a Drivers lincense either, but some how everybody was issued an ID, just like Georgia has made available, and was able to vote.

  14. billy says:

    I wouldn’t have a problem with the Voter ID Bill if everyone had a photo ID. But as long as it is only avaible in some counties and costs money, getting an ID should not be requisit to vote.

    And I’ll focus my attention on making sure everyone can vote before I start to worry about access to sudafed.

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