Sunday, September 04, 2016

"Look, if African Americans voted overwhelmingly Republican, they would have kept early voting right where it was,” Wrenn said. “It wasn’t about discriminating against African Americans. They just ended up in the middle of it because they vote Democrat.'”

The point of this post relates to comments by a North Carolina Republican consultant about whether the changes in North Carolina voting rules were racist or not.  That's down near the bottom.  First is background to the quote.

Background of the Quote

A long Washington Post article by William Wan documents how the North Carolina Republican majority in the state legislature passed new voting laws that set up significant barriers to voting, mainly by African-Americans.  They changed what voter id could be used, shortened early voting including a Sunday when African-American churches helped their members vote early.  The reduced the hours polls would be open, even specifically saying that polls could not accommodate people who had waited in long lines prior to closing time.  At the same time the reduced the number of polling places in African-American neighborhoods, assuring that there would be long lines of people shut out when it was closing time.

The bill had been much more modest when it was passed by the state house and sat in the senate until a few days before the legislature adjourned.  The magic date was June 23, 2013 when the US Supreme Court in Shelby v. Holder ruled that Chapter 5 of the Voting Rights Act no longer was valid.  This act required that some identified states (including Alaska) were no longer required to have their redistricting plans and changes in the voting laws pre-approved by the Department of Justice.  I remember that well, because I was blogging the Alaska Redistricting Board and it was a big deal for them.

Once the word came out that Justice Department approval was no longer necessary, according to the article,  the North Carolina senate added a bunch of new voting barriers to blacks, held 20 minutes of public hearings, passed the law, and sent it back to the house which also passed it in record time.

And then they were sued.   A Federal District Court judge upheld the law, but the three judge panel of the 4th Circuit US Court of Appeals overturned his decision,
"calling it “the most restrictive voting law North Carolina has seen since the era of Jim Crow.” Drawing from the emails and other evidence, the 83-page ruling charged that Republican lawmakers had targeted “African Americans with almost surgical precision.”  
(The District Court judge was a Republican, the panel were all Democrats.)

The governor asked the Supreme Court to reinstate the voting restrictions in the new law stating it was too close to the election to change things.  But last week the Scalia-less US Supreme Court was deadlocked four to four, thus letting stand the Appeal Court's ruling.

Throughout the article the reporter quotes Republican legislators as saying the changes were made to prevent voter fraud, despite emails that came out in court where legislators and their staff were asking for specific information on black voters - the kinds of id they used; how many voted early; how many were university students, etc.  And despite the fact that there were only two cases of in-person voter fraud referred to a district attorney from 40 million votes cast from 2000 to 2012.

The Quote
"Longtime Republican consultant Carter Wrenn, a fixture in North Carolina politics, said the GOP’s voter fraud argument is nothing more than an excuse. “'Of course it’s political. Why else would you do it?' he said, explaining that Republicans, like any political party, want to protect their majority. While GOP lawmakers might have passed the law to suppress some voters, Wrenn said, that does not mean it was racist. 'Look, if African Americans voted overwhelmingly Republican, they would have kept early voting right where it was,” Wrenn said. “It wasn’t about discriminating against African Americans. They just ended up in the middle of it because they vote Democrat.'”

My Response:
  1. Democracy is about the will of the people.  Any voter suppression, whether it be of African-Americans or Democrats is wrong.  Winning elections by preventing people from voting violates the spirit of American democracy.  
    1. So Wrenn's admission that it was political (and not about voter fraud) exposes the Republicans' lies.  
    2. His admission that what they did was voter suppression of Democrats, not African Americans acknowledges the voter suppression.
    3. It's possible that shifting it from suppression of Democrats rather than African-Americans may be a ploy to avoid problems with the Voting Rights Act which, as I understand it, is aimed at preventing suppression of minority voters, not parties.  
  2. The majority opinion of the Supreme Court's Shelby v. Holder decision focused on the idea that the list of states required by the Voting Rights Act to submit changes for pre-approval was a relic of history and that conditions had changed.  The Court said, knowing it wouldn't happen given the deadlocks in the legislature, that Congress could pass new standards that better the states with the problems requiring pre-clearance of voting changes.    
    1. North Carolina's action, taken days after the Shelby decision demonstrate that, at the very least, nothing really had changed in this area in North Carolina.  
  3. The fact that changes were aimed at African-American districts, not white Democratic districts, also undermines Wrenn's comments.
    1. According to FactCheck African-Americans were only 38% of the registered Democrats in 2006.  That left the rest, mostly white, with some Latinos.  
    2. It may be that because of housing segregation, and economic conditions that make it harder for African-Americans to get off work to get proper ID and to vote during the day, that it was easier to target blacks.  But the result is the suppression of the black voice in North Carolina politics.  

I'd note that the Alaska Dispatch News has been posting a number of important investigative reports from national media.  And I'd guess, important as they are, most people find it easier to read about the latest Trump insults, than to tackle a longer story that requires some thinking.  Not my readers, of course.  

Reports in recent days have included:

How spy tech firms let governments see everything on a smartphone
Tobacco industry works to block federal rules on e-cigarettes   (NYTimes online headline different from ADN print headline)
Flawed missile system produces $2 billion in bonuses
Exxon ignores near-term glut to play liquefied gas long game

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