Now that the furor has died and warm feelings have passed because SCOTUS struck down DOMA, let’s rewind and talk about the VRA. In light of the progress made on behalf of gays and lesbians, SCOTUS’ earlier ruling on the VRA is even more heinous and I’m going to try to explain it to you in five parts.
What did SCOTUS even rule on?
What’s the big deal with needing an ID to vote?
Does it matter where people vote?
Does this even matter anymore?
I’m not an expert and all of this will be in simplest terms because the law isn’t my wheelhouse. If this were Basketball Wives, I could really dig into the issue. So allow me, as a super-regular person, to explain what happened for other super-regular people to digest.
In my opinion, part of the reason less people paid attention to the VRA was the fact that nobody really knows what it is. Gay marriage is easily understood by a lot of people so the joy over DOMA’s demise far outpaced the outrage over the VRA. That’s why I feel this information is necessary so we can all break it down together.
What did SCOTUS even rule on?
The Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965. Between Reconstruction immediately following the Civil War and the VRA of 1965, blacks in most of the country were unable to vote due to a series of roadblocks specifically set up to target them. Poor whites in many locales also felt the consequences of those barriers, but the focus was to keep blacks from voting. If blacks couldn’t vote, they couldn’t elect people to take up their cause and would by default remain on the lower rungs of society.
SCOTUS ruled on the part of the VRA related to states that have to apply for pre-clearance before enacting voter legislation. Southern states with a history of racial prejudice are allowed to make changes to their voting regulations but only if they receive the OK from the Department of Justice. If Justice says, “No, Mississippi, you’re only making these changes so less black people can vote,” then Mississippi doesn’t get to enact those changes.
SCOTUS invalidated the list of states that have to apply for pre-clearance. Technically, the rule is still on the books, that some states need to be pre-approved, but now there is no standard by which to choose those states. As a result, it is now open season in the Deep South and southern states can make any changes they want without approval from Justice.
What’s the big deal with needing an ID to vote?
Many people around my age don’t really see an issue with needing an ID to vote because we’ve always assumed that it was necessary for everyone. Older people hadn’t needed one previously. Under today’s laws, first-time voters in most states who register by mail must present a photo ID, a copy of a current bill, or a bank statement. In a few states, they recommend bringing some form of photo ID but it’s not expressly necessary in most locations. Prior to 2006, no state required a voter to produce government-issued ID to vote. You registered, got your voting card, and that’s what you used. A lot of older people who’ve never had an ID and never needed one to vote are now forced to get one. There are countless stories of older people in their 80s and 90s who’ve been voting for longer than our parents (or grandparents) have been alive who would now be required to obtain a photo ID for the first time in their lives.
11% of voting-age US citizens don’t have a government issued ID. They wouldn’t be able to vote. Of those 21 million citizens, the majority are young people, Hispanic, poor, and/or have not gone to college. That’s a big swath of Democratic voters that Republicans are attempting to disenfranchise.
Also, IDs are not without cost in many locations. Requiring someone to pay $25 to secure a photo ID just to vote is akin to the poll taxes which kept many poor blacks from voting prior to 1965 because they couldn’t afford to. $25 doesn’t sound like a lot to most of the people reading this right now, but if you are dependent upon the government for your livelihood (and most likely a voting Democrat) and you budget your finances down to the cent, $25 will many times deter you from attempting to vote at all. Additionally, factor in the process and cost to secure the necessary documents to get a photo ID (for example, an elderly woman born in rural South Carolina who now has to petition the state for her birth certificate) and you have a situation where people are paying time and money just to vote.
Republicans found a “solution” to a problem that never existed. They claim voter ID laws will cut down on voting fraud when the overwhelming cause of voting fraud comes from absentee ballots and officials who try to change the voting results. There have been less than 100 convictions for voter ID fraud over the past 5 years.
Does it matter where people vote?
The last presidential election showed a staggering number of people waiting in line for hours and hours to cast their vote. Most of those people in line were minorities at their neighborhood voting location.
For an example of voting location changes struck down because of the VRA, we can look at Houston. In one suburb, there were 84 voting places and they wanted to reduce the number to just 12, most of which were in white neighborhoods. The location in the neighborhood with the highest percentage of white people was slated to serve 6,500 voters. The location in the neighborhood with the highest percentage of minorities was slated to serve 67,000 voters. Clearly the second location would have prohibitively long lines, causing many voters to stay at home or go to work because they couldn’t afford to wait all day to vote. SCOTUS didn’t approve that scheme and that legislation died.
Gerrymandering is the process by which voting district lines are re-drawn to capture certain demographics. I’m going to try to explain it in the simplest terms.
This below is Square City and it’s standing in for any number of metropolitan areas throughout the US. I’ve divided the city into four districts. Red is where Republicans live and Blue is where Democrats live. I did it this way to capitalize on the prevailing thought that most inner-cities have minority residents while all of the white residents have moved to the suburbs.
In the first Square City example, you see the district is drawn simply and evenly with 4 identical sections. Sections 1 and 3 will probably elect a Democrat while Sections 2 and 4 will probably elect a Republican. Let’s say that statewide, Republicans control congress and they want to ensure that they keep a Republican majority. Square City is an easy way to add more Republican representatives during the next election through gerrymandering. They propose to redraw the voting districts this way.
Now, the inner city is all one section and the other three are Republican suburbs. My example is super-simple. In practice, Republicans have carved out some truly outlandish shapes in order to essentially rig future elections. Check out North Carolina’s 12th Congressional District that makes absolutely no sense at all.
After Obama won in 2008, the country’s Republicans fired up their constituents and won countless elections in 2010. Gerrymandering became the hot topic and every piece of voter ID legislation was introduced by a Republican majority legislature aside from the state of Rhode Island.
Does this even matter anymore?
SCOTUS’ decision apparently rested on the fact that, to quote Justice Roberts, “Our country has changed.“ They feel that the 60 years that have passed since the VRA more than makes up for the 100 years that passed between Reconstruction – when blacks were voted into office for the first time before the Klan and their intimidation tactics put a stop to that – and the 1960s.
Nice thought. Racism is over. Warm Fuzzies all around.
The very same day SCOTUS came down with their decision, Texas said they would enact their voter ID laws (which reduce the acceptable forms of ID from 8 photo & non-photo categories to just 4 photo categories) and would re-start legislation to redraw many of their voting districts. Texas’ previous attempts to do just that were denied by the justice department for being unfair to minorities. Newly-minted national hero Senator Wendy Davis owes her seat to the fact that Texas was unable to redraw her district into a shape more favorable to Republicans.
Mississippi is now moving forward with their voter ID laws. The same goes for Alabama. Both states were denied by the Justice department under the very same parts of the VRA they just struck down because the country has apparently changed. North Carolina didn’t even bother to petition the Justice department to approve their voting legislation because they knew it would be denied. With the new ruling, they’re going full steam ahead with a plan to enact new voter ID rules, reduce early voting (which disproportionately affects African Americans working for hourly wages), and eliminate Sunday voting (which led directly to Obama’s election, as massive numbers of black churches organized their congregations to vote after church). This would have been deemed racist under the VRA, but now they can do it. Since the year 2000, 74 different pieces of proposed voting legislation were denied by SCOTUS under the VRA…but Justice Roberts says the country has changed since 1965.
In a nutshell, the Supreme Court just turned the clock back to the 1960s and the South is beginning to do all they can to place as many restrictions on voting that are legally possible, restrictions that are primarily put in place to keep minorities from voting. Congress can take up the matter and draft new legislation, but considering they can never agree on anything, the outlook isn’t that bright.
I advise you to call your 90 year old great grandmother on social security and tell her to start collecting her coins to buy an ID so she can vote in the next election. That is, unless the South can think of some other creative ways to keep Democrats away from the polls. Let’s hope dogs and fire hoses don’t come back in style.
GOP lawmakers don’t want metal detectors at the Capitol.
People broke into your job with weapons, but you don’t want metal detectors?
Louie Gohmert just walked around the magnetometer.— Matt Fuller (@MEPFuller) January 13, 2021
“You can’t stop me; I’m on my way to a vote,” he said as he passed the cops.
For members of Congress to enter the floor of the U.S. House, we now have to go through intense security measures, on top of the security we already go through. These new provisions include searches and being wanded like criminals. We now live in Pelosi’s communist America!— Congresswoman Debbie Lesko (@RepDLesko) January 13, 2021
Rep. Steve Scalise, the No. 2 Republican, told me that the situation is “untenable” because it “impedes the ability of members to come and vote. This is our job.” These are the lines pic.twitter.com/Z6WP9ZXmC0— Manu Raju (@mkraju) January 13, 2021
Rep. Rodney Davis told Mullin not to shout at Capitol Police, and he said: “This is not their fault, they’re doing their job.”— Manu Raju (@mkraju) January 13, 2021
But Davis, who is the top Republican on House Admin, told me: “I’m pissed” that the mags have gone up without any consultation.
Republicans don’t believe the election was “free and fair”
In that case, I hope they just stop voting.
Three days after every major media outlet called the election for former Vice President Joe Biden, President Donald Trump has shown no signs of conceding as he continues to push baseless claims of widespread fraud. The campaign he is waging against the integrity of the election, which first took root months ago, has had a major impact on how Republicans perceive the results, according to new Morning Consult polling.
This latest survey, conducted Nov. 6-9, 2020 among 1,987 registered voters nationwide, is part of an ongoing research project to gauge the level of trust Americans have in their electoral system. Results will be updated on this page weekly.
(cont. Morning Consult)
This was absolutely the goal of the Trump administration from the start. The writing was on the wall — he was going to lose this election bigly and he needed to make his supporters doubt the results, so they all cast a shadow on mail-in votes. They knew the largest share of mail-in votes would be Democrats because Democrats have not rejected COVID science and are more likely to avoid crowds. Sending in your ballot from the safety of your home makes sense to someone who believes the coronavirus pandemic is a real thing. Then the GOP prevented those ballots from being counted until after all of the same day ballots in places like Pennsylvania, so Trump declared victory on the day, and his supporters watched it slip away as these sketchy mail-in ballots were counted.
That’s the one-two punch. Mail-in ballots have more fraud, and I won before the fraudulent ballots started being counted.
So now we have an entire political party undermining the foundation of our democracy, by following behind this orange baby man throwing a tantrum because he hates losing, and they’re all but ensuring lower turnout for the next election cycle among their base. If 7 out of 10 people on your side of the aisle believe the election is rigged, how many of them are going to sit out next time because their vote doesn’t matter anyway? If just 1 of every ten says “why waste the time?” the GOP loses by an even wider margin.
Fine with me! I especially hope Republicans in Georgia have lost faith in the voting process so they don’t turn out for the Senate runoffs in a few weeks. I know plenty of Lazy Liberals who’ve sat on the couch on election day because we keep seeing these races stolen from us due to gerrymandering and voter restrictions and polling site closures. A big chunk of us have said “why waste the time?” and it has cost us every time. A little pessimism on the other side is music to my ears.
Also, it’s important to note that whichever party loses the White House has less trust in the election. It happens every time. Strangely enough, the only recent election where faith in the election was about equal for Democrats and Republicans was Bush v. Gore back in 2000, where the election hinged on less than 600 votes in Florida (as opposed to tens of thousands of votes in multiple states for Biden this go ’round).
This is the share of voters who said the election was free and fair, going back to Bush vs. Clinton.
It’s interesting that the trust gap of the 90s doubled once Barack Obama was elected, and it has doubled again now that the sitting President has spent the past few days telling his base over and over that the results weren’t fair. The Republican Party is circling the drain and I would love for this distrust in the voting process to be the final nail in their coffin. They can’t win if they don’t even show up.
Donald Trump’s ego would love nothing more than to see his supporters rise up and fight for him, so he will fan the flames for as long as they will believe his lies. I can’t think of a bigger indictment of his fabrications than Fox News refusing to give them more airtime:
Fox News has left the chat. pic.twitter.com/SwW9cq9bJI— The Recount (@therecount) November 9, 2020
I guess Rusty and Carole will have to get all their conspiracy theories straight from the source now.
2020 Election Firsts
The last four years have been hard, and these “firsts” show that we are in fact still moving in the right direction.
You know where this is going to end up (but not for the reason you think!) and I just wanted to highlight some other “firsts” from last week’s election. On the one hand, it’s 2020, so having “the first” of anything when it comes to representation is tiring. On the other hand, it’s 2020, and the last four years have been hard, and these “firsts” show that we are in fact still moving in the right direction.
Oklahoma has never had a Muslim elected to their State Legislature. The US has never had a non-binary person elected to any State Legislature. Until Mauree Turner.
Being a queer Black Muslim activist in Oklahoma comes with a lot of hurdles just to be seen and heard, but during the course of their activism and organizing behind other politicians, Turner was being encouraged to just run for office themself. They ran on a platform of inclusion and defeated their challenger with 71% of the vote.
If at first you don’t succeed, keep at it until you do. That’s what Cori Bush did.
Cori Bush ran for Senate in 2016, but was defeated in the primary. She ran for the House in Missouri’s 1st Congressional District (St. Louis mostly) in 2018, but was defeated in the primary. When she ran again this year and upset incumbent Lacy Clay in the primary, it ended the Clay Family’s hold on that seat which began with Lacy’s father Bill Clay back in 1968. Bush got her start in politics after the Ferguson protests where she served as a triage nurse and organizer. With her win in the general, she’s the first Black Woman elected to Congress from Missouri.
In 2012, Sarah McBride became the first openly trans woman to work in the White House. In 2016, she addressed the Democratic National Convention, becoming the first transgender American to address a major political party. Now, she has another first.
After winning her State Senate race in Delaware, Sarah McBride is the first trans person elected to a state Senate in the US. As a campaign staffer in Delaware, McBride previously worked on Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden’s campaign before coming out as trans during her last week as student body president of American University. A flurry of media coverage followed and the Biden Family continued to express their support, culminating in a position at the White House Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs.
Mondaire Jones won his House race to become the first openly gay Black Congressman.
Jones was running in a solidly Democratic district just north of NYC without a strong challenger in the primary. He easily pulled ahead of his challengers back in June during the primary for a seat that had been held by the same woman for thirty years. Jones has the support of Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, but I’m most excited to see him working with another of his high-profile supporters — AOC.
Another openly gay first, this time the first openly gay Afro-Latino in Congress.
Ritchie Torres will also be representing New York alongside Mondaire Jones when Congress seats its new class. His primary challenger was a notorious homophobe by the name of Rubén Díaz Senior, not to be confused with his more popular and more liberal son, Rubén Díaz Junior, who is the Bronx borough president. The ballots during that primary didn’t specify Junior or Senior, which I’m sure was an intentional “oversight” by the father’s campaign to capitalize on his son’s popularity, but in the end, Torres pulled it off and defeated his Republican challenger in the general last week. Torres said during his campaign that he wants to tackle the affordable housing crisis, expand the Supreme Court, and make Puerto Rico a state. He’s got big dreams and a bright future.
Madame Vice-President Elect will be the first female Vice President, the first Black VP, and the first Asian VP.**
There’s not much to add that hasn’t already been breathlessly covered everywhere for the past few days, but! She’s also the first Vice President who doesn’t share a last name with their spouse, which hadn’t occurred to me until last night, but I think it’s really awesome!
Full Disclosure: I hate when women feel pressured to change their last names after they get married, but I especially hate it when they have a career. You have papers and interviews and titles associated with one name, so why change that because of an outdated tradition that stems from ownership? Kamala Harris married Douglas Emhoff, and she’s still Kamala Harris. I was watching a documentary about Hillary Clinton before the 2016 election and it bummed me out that she felt she had no choice but to change her last name when Bill lost his reelection for Arkansas governor. She had kept her name and her job and she was too “independent” as a Southern wife, so she changed herself to help her husband appeal to voters, and that included taking Clinton as her last name. Forty years after that, I’m really excited that a woman has finally gotten to the White House and she kept hers.
**Kamala Harris is the first woman of color, but she’s not the first non-white VP. Hoover’s Vice President Charles Curtis was 3/8ths Native American.
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Weaponizing Whiteness on Christmas
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