Monday, December 30, 2013

The segregation front

Ari Berman has been reporting for a while on the disenfranchisement efforts that the Republican Party has made a key part of their electoral strategy. And he recognizes the very important continuities with the segregation/Jim Crow strategy of the the post-Reconstruction white South.

In The New Nullification Movement The Nation 10/23/2013, he mentions one tactic that I haven't heard a lot about before, creating a two-tier voter registration system that makes registration for state and local elections separate from registration for federal elections.

This is how segregationist voting strategies work: create as many barriers, difficulties and frustrations for targeted minority voters as possible within the existing limits of the law. Berman writes about the Supreme Court case, Arizona v. The Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, a case that SCOTUS decided in favor of voting rights just before their judicial-activist ideological assault on the Voting Rights Act in their infamous Shelby County v. Holder decision. He describes the background of the Arizona case:

The case stemmed from 2004, when Arizona voters approved Proposition 200, a stringent anti-immigration law that included provisions requiring proof of citizenship to register to vote and a government-issued photo ID to cast a ballot. Last year, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit blocked the proof-of-citizenship requirement, which it said violated the NVRA. Under the 1993 act, which drastically expanded voter access by allowing registration at public facilities like the Department of Motor Vehicles, those using a federal form to register to vote must affirm, under penalty of perjury, that they are US citizens. More than 24 million people used that federal form to register in 2008. Arizona’s law, the Ninth Circuit concluded, violated the NVRA by requiring additional documentation, such as a driver’s license, birth certificate, passport or tribal forms. According to a 2006 study by the Brennan Center for Justice, at least 7 percent of eligible voters "do not have ready access to citizenship documents." The Supreme Court affirmed the lower court's ruling, finding that states like Arizona could not reject applicants who registered using the NVRA form.
And so Arizona, along with its partner in segregation Kansas, is doubling down:

Now Arizona and Kansas—which passed similar proof-of-citizenship laws in 2011—are arguing that the Supreme Court’s decision applies only to federal elections and that those who register using the federal form cannot vote in state or local ones. The two states sued the US Election Assistance Commission in August, arguing that the NVRA form should include a proof-of-citizenship requirement, and both are setting up a two-tiered system of voter registration, which could disenfranchise thousands of voters and infringe on state and federal law. It’s a strategy that, if successful, is all but certain to spread to other states and entrap more unsuspecting voters.
And he connects to its direct model, Southern segregationism:

In the Jim Crow South, citizens often had to register multiple times, with different clerks, to be able to vote in state and federal elections. It was hard enough to register once in states like Mississippi, where only 6.7 percent of African-Americans were registered to vote before the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. And when the federal courts struck down a literacy test or poll tax before 1965, Southern states still retained them for state and local elections, thereby preventing African-American voters from replacing those officials most responsible for upholding voter disenfranchisement laws.
He concludes with a true and important observation: "When it comes to voting rights and so many other issues, the Confederates and Dixiecrats of yesteryear are the Republicans of today."

I worry that even a lot of progressives don't fully understand the full implications of that.

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