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The state of Texas has already proven the case for the Voting Rights Act

So as you know, the state of Texas had its rear end handed to it in both the redistricting and voter ID preclearance lawsuits. Both of these rulings will be appealed to the Supreme Court, with the ultimate goal being a constitutional challenge to Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which is the provision that requires Texas and some other former Confederate states to undergo preclearance. The argument that Texas and these other states are making is that it just isn’t fair that they have to go through these extra steps and get subjected to this extra scrutiny that other states do not.

The irony, of course, is that these two ruling should make it abundantly clear why Section 5 is still needed. Ricardo Pimental reviews the evidence.

Let’s be clear on what two federal court rulings this week against Texas don’t say.

They don’t say that Texas, with voter ID, made things worse for minorities, and with redistricting, outright discriminated against them.

The two opinions say Texas had the burden to prove it didn’t do these things. And failed utterly.

But these are distinctions without difference. You see, Texas didn’t meet its burden because it couldn’t.

Oh, there was misdirection aplenty but the state’s defense was pretty much reduced to “nuh, uh; no we didn’t” in redistricting and with voter ID, yeah, minorities may suffer disproportionately, but we’re not doing this to them because they’re minorities.

And this is akin to that kid pointing to the dog as mom asks about the busted lamp on the floor.

Right, mom is technically overreaching. She wasn’t there. But she’s had years of breakage etched in memory. And, funny thing, it was always either just a “coincidence” that junior was standing over the damning evidence or, when junior did own up, damage wasn’t his intent.


Attorney General Greg Abbott pledged to appeal both rulings. Naturally. The end game is getting the U.S. Supreme Court to upend Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires states such as Texas with histories of voter discrimination get changes to voting and election law pre-cleared either by the Justice Department or a court.

In other words, since Texas legislators act in such bigoted fashion, the best course is to remove any requirement for the state to prove this isn’t on purpose.

Convenient. And scary. This high court might just buy it.

Let’s be clear on what just happened here. Texas was just outed by two panels of judges for measures whose effect would be to suppress minority votes and gerrymander away their representation.

Yup. Let’s discriminate like it’s 1959!

In the redistricting case, Judge Griffiths noted, among other things, Texas’ long and unbroken history of losing redistricting litigation. The Republican-controlled Legislature was found to have acted with discriminatory intent in addition to the discriminatory effect of the maps. The panel that ruled on voter ID did not address the question of intent because they ruled that the voter ID law would have a discriminatory effect, but does anyone doubt they would have found significant evidence of such intent? They took pains to point out that other states, including states like Georgia that are also under the purview of Section 5, managed to pass voter ID laws that weren’t inherently discriminatory because unlike Texas they made an effort to provide IDs to those who needed them. Texas’ voter ID law goes out of its way to not lift a finger to help those who would be adversely affected by it.

In each case, the state of Texas didn’t even bother to challenge large swaths of evidence against them. The voter ID case came down to uncontroverted Census data. The state never argued that they didn’t do what they were alleged to have done by the Justice Department and the various intervenors. They simply said, in effect, “So what? What are you going to do about it?” And this is exactly why the state is subject to Section 5 scrutiny, and why that scrutiny is as necessary now as it was in 1965. By its own actions, the state has clearly shown that it hasn’t changed its behavior. Maybe someday it will, and when that happens it will be appropriate to revisit this question again. But how can anyone say that the state of Texas doesn’t engage in discriminatory behavior against minorities any more after two federal courts unanimously said they did this week? You couldn’t ask for a better demonstration of why Section 5 is still very much needed.

Along these lines, the Chron urges AG Greg Abbott to drop his appeals of these rulings. (He wasn’t listening.) At the end, they ask what must be rhetorical questions:

In Texas, of all places, does Abbott really want to defend a redistricting map that dilutes the electoral strength of Hispanics, even as his party scrambles to cultivate them? Or to argue that the few, scattered incidences of voter ID fraud are worth disenfranchising many Hispanics?

I think we all know the answers, don’t we? Anyway, TPM notes another voting rights victory in Ohio, and ProPublica has more on the state of Section 5.

UPDATE: Burka is thinking along the same lines.

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  1. Mainstream says:

    As long as 20 years ago it was already the case that black voters in Houston and in rural South Carolina were voting at higher levels than many northern and midwestern cities.

    So I disagree that a law which requires election administrators in Houston to get approval to move the voting place from a church to a school in a neighborhood, but does not require anyone in about 35 other states to do so is fair, or constitutional.

    Basically, the law results in administrators caving in to any sort of complaint, just to avoid the hassle. I recall reviewing a stack of the complaints presented to DOJ from the 1980s to 1990s at one point. Hispanic voters in one jurisdiction complained that they did not feel comfortable going to the local VFW lodge to vote. Election sites ought to be selected based on access, parking, visibility, safety, adequate facilities instead of whether one racial group or another prefers a site.

  2. Mainstream says:

    Garnet Coleman has sent out a defense of the Voting Rights Act which is riddled with distortions and spin:

    He says: “Anglos make up only 33% of the Harris County population but control 54% of the House Districts.”

    First, he is using total population, not adult citizens for these numbers. When you remove the 17.5% of Harris County which the Census Bureau says are not US citizens and adjust for persons under age 18 as well, the Harris County numbers for eligible voters who are Anglo is much closer to the 54%. Second, who “controls” a house district? When Kristi Thibault wins over Jim Murphy on the strength of a huge black turnout for Obama, while most white voters in the district stick with Murphy, is the district “controlled” by whites because a white person is elected, or is it “controlled” by the black swing voters who helped place her in office? The same could be said for John Whitmire, Scott Hochberg or most other Anglo Democrats who are not the preferred candidate of the Anglo voters in their districts. Third, using his own simplistic form of analysis, blacks in Harris County are OVER-represented locally. Black officeholders sit in 24% of the Harris County state house seats, but are 19% of the county.

    He also complains that no new minority opportunity districts were created in the Harris County state house delegation despite minority (mostly non-citizen Hispanic) population growth.

    But Harris County LOST a seat in the state house delegation this cycle. And his analysis ignores the scattering of Hispanic voters up in Kingwood, Cypress, Tomball where they cannot be corralled into a single district without crazy distortions.

    The irony is that Garnet was not the candidate preferred by black voters in his own district when he was elected to office. He won because of the near unanimous support of local white voters for him in his contest with Jew Don Boney, combined with some black support. If the Voting Rights Act had been used to require his district to be more overwhelmingly black, in order to insure that a candidate preferred by black voters alone could win the district, he would not even be in office.

    He does make a fair point that DMV does not have any office convenient to those of us who live inside Loop 610, except perhaps Dacoma nearby. And in-person voter fraud is indeed more rare than absentee ballot shenanigans.

    But there is something to be said for transparency, and a requirement that all voters show a photo ID will go a long way to deflating the complaints those who continue to seem to think they are being robbed at the polls when their candidate loses.

  3. […] and get subjected to this extra scrutiny that other states do not. The irony, of course, is that these two ruling should make it abundantly clear why Section 5 is still needed.” OK. … Climate: “West Nile virus illnesses in TX continue to rise dramatically, […]