Herald-Leader Editorial

Quick assault on voting rights in GOP-controlled states reveals Supreme Court's mistake

August 2, 2013 

In her dissent to last month's wrongheaded Supreme Court decision striking down the heart of the Voting Rights Act, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg wrote that ending the preclearance requirement for districts with a history of discrimination was "like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet."

Just one month later, Republican lawmakers are flooding the country with voter suppression laws masquerading as voter ID laws and redistricting plans.

Texas gleefully announced within two hours of the decision its plan to institute a redistricting map and strict voter ID laws that had been challenged by the Department of Justice as discriminatory.

Attorney General Eric Holder is commendably trying to battle Texas' discriminatory laws under a different section of the Voting Rights Act, but draconian voter ID laws are rapidly spreading through Republican-controlled states.

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory says he will sign a nakedly partisan voter suppression bill, though he admits that he has not read it. Perhaps he should.

Republican lawmakers insist that they must disenfranchise thousands of voters to ensure the integrity of the electoral process — even though there has been only one case of voter impersonation fraud in the past 12 years in North Carolina, according to the State Board of Elections.

The extreme measures to eradicate a non-epidemic conveniently suppress voting by groups that traditionally support Democrats.

Of the 319,000 voters who will lack the required photo ID, nearly one-third are black.

The bill discourages young voters by refusing to accept college photo IDs, requiring a North Carolina-issued ID from anyone who has resided in the state for 90 days and eliminating a highly successful voter registration drive in high schools. Meanwhile, the bill expands voter registration drives for senior citizens who tend to be more conservative than young adults. In North Carolina, civic participation is encouraged only if it's likely to benefit Republicans.

The new law would also eliminate same-day voter registration, reduce the early voting period by a week and prevent precincts from extending polling hours in response to long lines. None of those restrictions have any shred of relevance to the supposed issue of voter fraud.

The bill's only conceivable intent is to deceptively and artificially keep the Republican Party in control by riding roughshod over the most essential constitutional right of voting.

The spate of photo ID laws is heir to the disheartening American tradition of inventing ways to suppress voters. Once there were literacy tests and poll taxes; now we have gerrymandered districts and needlessly stringent identification laws that seek the same outcome, albeit dressed up in the language of "electoral sanctity."

The Republican Party should drop its clearly partisan pursuit of these laws. No party can build broad success on the kind of sordid tricks and deceptions that America should have abandoned long ago. We should be making it easier, not harder, for people to vote.

Nothing proves the continued necessity of the Voting Rights Act more than the current rush to suppression. As Justice Ginsberg said, "I didn't want to be right, but sadly I am."

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