The Republican attorneys general of Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, South Carolina, South Dakota and Texas filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court arguing that a key provision of the Voting Rights Act is unconstitutional. Significantly, the brief points to the fact that the Voting Rights Act impedes laws intended to make it more difficult for racial minorities to cast a ballot as a reason why Court should cast a skeptical gaze on the landmark voting rights law responsible for breaking the back of Jim Crow:
South Carolina and Texas, both Covered Jurisdictions, have not yet been permitted to enforce their voter-identification requirements, despite the fact that these laws are similar to the Indiana law upheld in Crawford. The DOJ denied preclearance for South Carolina’s voter-identification law. South Carolina has filed a declaratory judgment action, seeking reconsideration of DOJ’s preclearance denial. Trial begins on August 27, 2012.
Texas, like South Carolina, requested DOJ’s preclearance. Despite Texas’s responses to DOJ’s repeated requests for more information, DOJ still had not provided a preclearance decision six months after the State’s initial submission. By then, DOJ had rejected South Carolina’s similar law and, facing a likely similar rejection, Texas opted to file a declaratory judgment seeking preclearance. The DOJ eventually rejected Texas’s request for administrative preclearance nearly seven months after the initial submission. Trial was held from July 10 through 13, 2012, and Texas is awaiting a preclearance decision from the district court – more than a year after its legislature enacted the voter identification law.
Supporters of voter ID laws, which require voters to present ID at the polls, claim they are necessary to prevent an epidemic of voter fraud at the polls. This is false. In reality, a person is more likely to be struck by lightning than to commit in-person voter fraud. One study of Wisconsin voters found that an vanishingly small 0.00023 percent of votes are the product of such fraud.
What voter ID laws will do, however, is disenfranchise thousands of American citizens who want to do nothing more than lawfully exercise their right to choose their own leaders. Although estimates vary on how many voters will be disenfranchised by these laws, conservative estimates suggest that these laws will prevent 2 to 3 percent of registered voters from casting a ballot. Moreoever, the voters disenfranchised by voter ID are disproportionately likely to be racial minorities, low-income voters or students — all of whom tend to favor Democrats over Republicans.
Which explains why six Republican officials are so eager to ensure that these laws take effect.
[HT: Rick Hasen]