Category: voting rights

If it’s all about winning elections, it ain’t moral

Davis filibuster took place in an near empty Senate floor. The bill she was fighting would have banned abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy and force many clinics to upgrade their facilities and be classified as ambulatory surgical centers.By Alan Bean

Regardless of your political persuasion, these are the best of times and the worst of times.  The Supreme Court cuts the heart out of the 1965 Voting Rights Act and then nixes the oddly-styled Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional.   Meanwhile, in Texas, Senator Wendy Davis and a gallery crammed with abortion-rights activists kept the Republican majority from passing a law that would have shut down the majority of abortion clinics in the Lone Star State.

Liberals are celebrating in Texas, but Rick Perry has already announced that he call another special legislative session with the specific purpose of undoing what was done last night.

Although the majority decision in the DOMA case turned on arcane legal arguments, the Supreme Court is yielding to a massive shift in public opinion on the gay marriage issue.  Upholding DOMA is a nonstarter in today’s America, so the justices were forced to cobble together a legal justification for a pragmatic decision.

The same cannot be said for the gutting of the Voting Rights Act.  Gay rights has recently gained in popularity in virtually every demographic group–including white evangelicals.   Opposition to the Voting Rights Act is limited to the conservative white voters who control political reality in much of the American South and a fairly large slice of the Midwest.  Support for the Voting Rights Act is rock solid among African American and Latino voters.

Southern states may be insulted by the suggestion that their legislatures continue to discriminate against minority voters, but there can be little doubt that they do.  It is ironic, for instance, that Wendy Davis would have been unable to filibuster the Republicans’ abortion bill in the Texas Senate if proposed electoral maps that deleted thousands of minority voters from her district had not been declared unconstitutional.  Moments after the Supreme Court demolished the significant parts of the Voting Rights Act, Texas Republicans moved to revive a voter ID bill that was patently intended to eliminate as many minority voters as possible.  Election laws that create long lines in minority precincts but not in conservative white precincts can now move forward without opposition.

If reaction to the Voting Rights Act decision split along largely racial lines; the abortion debate breaks across the no-mans-land created by the culture war.  Personally, I am too conflicted on the abortion issue to support Texas Republicans or to hoot and holler for choice in the Senate gallery.  I am reluctantly pro-choice.  There are profound moral issues involved in the abortion debate.  When a woman decides to terminate a pregnancy it is almost always with a heavy heart.  This is appropriate.   Pro-life politics work really well precisely because many progressive people of faith are morally conflicted on the issue.  We understand and feel the arguments on both sides of the debate.

But conservatives cannot protect the unborn without creating major health problems for poor women who, denied access to safe abortions will turn to back alley butchers.  It should also be noted that conservative states like Texas refuse to adequately fund public education and have far more uninsured poor families than the balance of the country.  If Texas Republicans were genuinely concerned about the unborn they would give more thought to the post-birth plight of poor children.

Abortion has become a prized political issue because it allows politicians who oppose gay rights and voting rights to regain the high moral ground.  “We may be doing everything in our power to neutralize minority voters and discriminate against gay Americans,” the logic goes, “but at least we’re fighting to save the unborn.”

But it’s a lie.  They aren’t trying to save the unborn; they’re trying to win elections.  Banging the pro-life drum and minimizing the impact of minority voters are two equally effective strategies for maintaining political control.   If the abortion issue became a political detriment, most conservative politicians would abandon it in a heart beat.  I’m not saying the stalwarts on the front lines of the prolife fight aren’t sincere (they are) but the same cannot be said for their political supporters.

Scalia is wrong about the Voting Rights Act

This op-ed in the WP argues that Justice Antonin Scalia misunderstands the egalitarian nature of the Voting Rights Act.  The act doesn’t just protect the rights of African Americans; it protects everyone. 

Scalia’s limited understanding of the Voting Rights Act

By Gary May, Published: April 26

Gary May is a history professor at the University of Delaware and the author of “Bending Toward Justice: The Voting Rights Act and the Transformation of American Democracy.”

In the debate over the future of the Voting Rights Act , it sometimes becomes apparent that certain members of the Supreme Court are either oblivious to our nation’s recent history or willfully ignore it. Justice Antonin Scalia made this abundantly clear in his comments during the Feb. 27 oral argument in Shelby County v. Holder , statements that he repeated in a speech on April 15. (more…)

Back to Dred Scott and Jim Crow?

Rachel Maddow was the first American journalist to draw attention to a story the mainstream media has studiously ignored: a Republican plan to score presidential elections using gerrymandered state district maps.  It is thanks to these electoral maps that Republicans were able to hold on to House in the last election while losing the popular vote.  If six Republican states (including Virginia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Ohio) had calculated their electoral college tallies using the same maps employed in state elections, Mitt Romney would now be president even though he lost the popular vote.

In Virginia, for instance, Barack Obama would have won only for of the state’s thirteen electoral votes under this plan even though he won the popular vote.   The trick is to make rural and suburban votes worth more than urban (that is minority) votes.  When you do the math, as several bloggers have done, this means that your average urban vote is worth precisely three-fifths as much as your average white vote. (more…)