Open Gutting of the VRA Thread

As requested by EG on this week’s Open Thread:

I need a thread on the gutting of the VRA. I was so upset I couldn’t even feel any joy over the end of DoMA. Not even 50 years since Goodman, Schwerner and Chaney were lynched–really lynched, not what conservative assholes call “lynching.” And how many of those states moved to restrict voting how many hours after the ruling? I feel like so much of what was fought for and won with good men and women bleeding and dying was just rolled back and thrown out.

This thread will be pre-moderated.

Addendum: Mother Jones has, as usual, excellent coverage:


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40 Responses to Open Gutting of the VRA Thread

  1. Clytemnestra's Sister says:

    This is a kind of thing where the majority went for a principled stand–and in isolation, without any cultural context, the principle of we can’t apply different laws to different states for an indefinite period of time does make sense.

    That completely ignores some 400 years of cultural context, and as Justice Ginsberg pointed out, throws out the very thing that brought good change because there was good change.

    • EG says:

      Fuck that. So subject all states to that supervision. Don’t just IGNORE decades of states’ rights bullshit that was just code for Jim Crow. Don’t pretend that not even a lifetime–NOT EVEN A LIFETIME–is equivalent to “an indefinite period of time.” John Lewis is not only still alive, but he’s a congressman! THIS ISN’T ANCIENT HISTORY. It’s real, it’s alive, and it will happen again.

      CS, please understand that my anger is not directed at you. It’s directed at the SCOTUS, and at any excuse for what they did.

      • Fuck that. So subject all states to that supervision.

        /thread!

        I mean, unless anyone really wants to argue that there are non-systemically-racist states in the USA?

      • gratuitous_violet says:

        /thread indeed!

        IANAL, etc, but it seems to me that providing equal oversight for all states would be the elegant solution to keeping the spirit of the act alive by acknowledging the country’s history of voter suppression without appearing to be partial toward some states and not others. However, I suppose that would mean actually acknowledging our country’s history of fucked up voter suppression.

        I have a hard enough time keeping my students’ spirits up during the duration of US history classe; this is such an awful addendum to the already excessive mountain of fuckery that is the failure of Reconstruction.

        Shame on the Supreme Court.

      • Willard says:

        Also NAL, but I think that would have been impossible for the court to do, it’d be up to Congress to enact new criteria for preclearance imposition. It really should be expanded though, we barely dodged a boneheaded voter id amendment here last fall and if you go any farther north you’ll hit Canada.

        I think the administration should have seen this one coming after 2009 and headed it off. The DoJ has done a pretty crap job of defending this portion of its portfolio from incursions anyway. No surprise though that in both cases Thomas thought all the pointless civil rights legislation ought to be thrown out (**snark**).

      • Nyara says:

        Fuck that. So subject all states to that supervision.

        Exactly. If this were actually about any kind of “fairness”, that’s what would have been done.

      • Anon21 says:

        As Willard says, that was not within the Court’s power to do.* Congress could do it; I think Republicans will be loath to expand VRA’s coverage.

        *Which is not in any way meant to excuse what the Court did do, which was awful.

      • Willard says:

        Definitely Anon21, no excuses implied in this.

        Also I think it’s probably fair to throw the Dems under the bus as well here, since as gratuitous_violet mentioned expansion of the VRA would require an admission that a) the legal treatment of voters isn’t that much better than it was 40 years ago b) that those practices aren’t limited to “historically” racist areas (ie. places where people of color actually existed in any large number 40y ago) and c) the party itself commands little control over some of its more conservative members and has little to no ability to pull in cross aisle votes.

      • Clytemnestra's Sister says:

        No offence taken and I actually agree with you.

        Something that has been a constant source of frustration for me with politics anywhere and US politics in particular is the sheer lack of subtlety and nuance in the discussion. Solutions to complicated problems, whether it’s engineering design or societal conditions, rarely have simplistic answers.

        My take is that (a) yes, extend pre-clearance to all 50 states and (b) something nobody I’ve heard mention so far is yes yes state’s rights, but at what point does Momma Fed have to start administering spankings and grounding to states who have proven long-term track records of flagrantly violating the rights of individuals, since that is so very destructive to federalism? A violation of equal protection of the 5th, as well as the obvious 15/19/26. Remember that the VRA stated that the need for pre-clearance would go away, if a state were to not attempt blatantly discriminatory legislation for a pre-determined period of time. This wasn’t legislation in perpetuity, it was, if you demonstrate that you can behave, you can have your toys back.

        Well, every single year, multiple violations for each state occurred, at state and local levels. So, you don’t get to have nice things.

  2. Donna L says:

    What a complete nightmare. 1964 isn’t so long ago at all. I remember when it happened, as young as I was then. Just like I remember hearing on the radio when James Meredith was shot, also in Mississsippi.

    And it was only in 2005 that Edgar Ray Killen was finally put in prison, where I hope he rots until he’s 100.

    For anyone who doesn’t remember:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mississippi_civil_rights_workers%27_murders

    Personally, I don’t give a shit if some states are treated differently in terms of federal oversight. Look at what they’re doing since the decision was handed down. And no, not every state goes out of its way to pass laws restricting voting rights..

    • Tim says:

      And no, not every state goes out of its way to pass laws restricting voting rights.

      Maybe not every state has an active effort going on right now, this very minute, but that doesn’t mean that the situation couldn’t change in a flash in any of them. The GOP in Iowa, for example, would have pushed through a restrictive photo-ID voting law by now, probably in time for the 2012 election, if not for a one-seat Democratic majority in the State Senate. Subjecting every state to the same scrutiny might not be a perfect solution, but probably the best one to keep a revised VRA from being thrown gutted again. Unfortunately, that would never pass with the current makeup of Congress.

  3. ts NT 1964! ts 2013! Thngs hv chngd. Lws hv chngd nd ppl hv t. W hv blck prs. whch n 1964 ws nthnkbl, bt tdy ts fr rl. S hv ppls vws. n n hnd y sy tht ts rlly bd tht th SCTS sht dwn VR, bt n th thr hnd y sy ts gd tht th sm SCTS sht dwn DM. S y r syng tht snc y thnk tht t shld sty n plc, tht th SCTS s wrng n strkng dwn VR, bt t th sm tm y thnk ts k tht th SCTS strk dwn DM. S wht y r syng s tht wht y wnt s mr mprtnt th wht th tp crt n th lnd hs fnd. Wh dd nd md y Gd? Whl dn’t lk vrythng tht th SCTS hs dn, t s stll th srprm crt n th lnd nd s sch hs th fnl wrd n th lgl nd f thngs. S ntl y gt t st n th SCTS ht st nd hv vryn scnd gss y, njy th css tht y wntd t g th wy y wntd, nd b nhppy wth th ns tht ddn’t.

    [Moderator note: comment content has been disemvoweled]

    • FLUFFINATED: taz says:

      the head of a giraffe against a bright blue sky: its mouth is pursed sideways

      ::: Why isn’t my condesplaining welcome here? It’s so well-intentioned even though it’s ill-informed! :::

      [Moderator note - ORIGINAL COMMENT CONTENT HAS BEEN FLUFFINATED]

  4. Angie unduplicated says:

    Look at events far more recent than fifty years ago: the rejection of numerous black votes in Jacksonville, FL, during the Bush-Gore presidential election challenge, and other attempts to throw out black votes or deny blacks the right to vote in other cities. Look at Forsyth and Gilmer Counties in Georgia, where no blacks live, and at Murray, which has a black population of .008% or thereabouts, three or four families. Do have a gander at stories on Mike Connell, who ran a neocon org’s boiler room in Chattanooga, TN, of all places, where computer vote totals in Ohiowere routed for (re)tabulation and probable editing. Connell, threatened by Karl Rove, died in a suspicious crash, and Republican Chattanooga is now bragging about having the fastest Internet in the nation.
    These guys are sooooo pissed at having a black president, maybe next time they should face the election of a black female prez.

  5. GallingGalla says:

    I am very sad about the situation, and appalled that SCOTUS would vote to gut such important legislation. And I agree that VRA ought to be extended to all states. There certainly have been voter suppression efforts in Pennsylvania (such as the law – partially on hold for now – that requires photo ID to vote).

    The Supreme Court has just given their stamp of approval to a frenzy of voter suppression efforts. Shame on them.

  6. Comrade Kevin says:

    I think that Civil Rights ought to be allowed to be a joyful relic of our past. Any fact I bring up will be refuted, but I do not think we live in a post racial society. I did, however, grow up in a state and region where past sins are never allowed to die an honest death. We need to acknowlege our own desire to move forward with today’s challenges, not those fifty years old.

    • gratuitous_violet says:

      oh, bless your heart.

      I think that Civil Rights ought to be allowed to be a joyful relic of our past.

      We’re well on our way, just not in the way you think.

      Any fact I bring up will be refuted, but I do not think we live in a post racial society.

      …nobody’s arguing that. Unless you’re just using it as ass-cover for this:

      I did, however, grow up in a state and region where past sins are never allowed to die an honest death.

      I know, right! If only those meanies would keep bringing up slavery and the continuous failure of Reconstruction, everyone could move along with fixing things!

      Do you honestly think those sins deserve an honest death? They’re not even dead; not by a longshot.

      We need to acknowlege our own desire to move forward with today’s challenges, not those fifty years old.

      …except rolling back legislation basically sends us back to the exact same set of challenges as fifty years ago. And your insistence that these issues are “history” is showing a marked ignorance of the current, numerous attempts at voter suppression going on RIGHT NOW via voter ID laws and the mass disenfranchisement of the incarcerated/paroled/etc.

      tl;dr, it must be nice in your little part of the US where these things are “past” and “old.”

    • Annaleigh says:

      Past sins? Really?

    • past sins

      LOLing forever.

      Segregated prom.
      Race-driven murders.
      Rape rates for black women.
      Voter suppression.
      Black poverty rates.
      Rates of hate crimes against black people (particularly black women and LGBQ black people and ohsoverymuch against black transfolk).

      Dude, don’t make me break out the Let Me Google That For You. There were as many murders of trans men and women in the US last year as there were murders of trans men and women in the entire Indian subcontinent, so please, don’t tell me how reformed y’all are. I watched that episode of Loony Tunes, too.

    • EG says:

      I think that Civil Rights ought to be allowed to be a joyful relic of our past.

      Joyful? JOYFUL? The fact that white racists were so committed to their cruelty that they both independently and using the apparatus of the state, tortured, jailed, and fucking murdered black and some white people for the sin of demanding full citizenship rights should be JOYFUL? What kind of fucked-up bullshit is that?

      Let alone the “relic” bullshit, as though Texas didn’t decide to disenfrancise as many voters of color as possible two hours after the decision.

    • Clytemnestra's Sister says:

      Past sins my happy white ass.

      I graduated high school in 1995. That, incidentally, was the same year the sign “N***** don’t let the sun set on you in Vidor” was taken down. It was the first thing you saw when you came into Vidor via I-10. Charming, right?

      Three years later, a few chucklefucks decided it would be a good idea to beat a man senseless, chain him by his ankles, and drag him from the back of a truck until he died. Such poor misguided souls, I’m sure their mother weeps for them.

      In 2001 I sat on the beach with a friend of mine, who has significantly more melanin than I, while a pair of similarly-minded chucklefucks drove up and down the beach with not one but two confederate flags big enough for double beds flying from their pick-em-up truck. They kept trying to stare her down. She and I drank our margaritas and enjoyed the sunshine.

      That same year, another friend was pulled over and interrogated and nearly arrested, because brown men don’t drive gold lexus cars, especially not in THAT neighbourhood, and that car isn’t registered to you surely you stole it wait what do you mean the woman it’s registered to you who has the same last name as you is your mother and you took it to get an oil change?

      Flash forward a decade and you have, finally, a state other than the one I live in….where a bunch of 18-21 year olds thought it would be a good idea to go, and I quote, “Let’s go fuck with some n******,” the fucking of which culminated in beating a pair of black men who were minding their own business, and after assaulting both of them, running over one of them with a truck and killing him.

      If this were a workplace, this kind of thing would be called a hostile environment and each of these incidents used to prove a pattern.

      What you are doing is making a tone argument. If they had just been more nice about what they said, I’d listen to them! If they would just quit harping on the massive and systematic state-sponsored (or at least state-sanctioned) terrorism* perpetrated against black people for generations, and look at the things I want to look at, we can have a discussion! Sorry, nope.

      There is NO possible level of nice that can overrule the level of injustice perpetrated against people of colour in this country, particularly amongst those in the former slave states. There is NO possible nice way of describing exactly what happened with the blessing of those in power. There is NO possible polite, impartial summary of just how much horrific damage was done, from individual wrongs to class action justice to the scars it has rent on the nation’s political system (birthers, anybody?). The past sins you so wistfully sigh about may have happened long ago, but they are very, very real and tangible things that have real and tangible effects in peoples’ lives today, and there are still people alive who remember marching to Selma or standing on the Mall with Dr. King for whom those marches were a matter of life and death.

      I would absolutely fucking LOVE for past sins to be buried. Thing is, they have to be PAST sins, and they are not even close.

      *Lynching is in living memory. And Birmingham was called Bombingham for a good reason.

      • Computer Soldier Porygon says:

        Are you from Vidor? Rough.

        Growing up in Huntsville, I remember very clearly the execution of Shaka Sankofa (Gary Graham). And I saw people standing outside of the Walls with signs that said ‘DIE N******* DIE’

        That was, what, thirteen years ago? Seems like yesterday. Might as well have been. This shit is current.

      • Clytemnestra's Sister says:

        I’m from the People’s Republic of Austin, now living in Houston (and loving it). I may have seen the Vidor sign on a high school band trip to the mouse house–we definitely passed by it on the bus but it was a long time ago.

        Rick Perry is a chucklefuck’s chucklefuck who is so dumb that bricks and boxes of rocks are insulted by the comparison, the AG is a vile little person and Dewhurst is a scary scary person who just isn’t quite politically savvy enough to get his career going where he wants (and Davis may have just sent him down in flames). It will be interesting to see what happens with their ID law–the pre-clearance panel already ruled that it was unconstitutional, hopefully that gets nailed home again and again.

      • karak says:

        I live in a former Sundown Town. The white supremacist Matt Hale is from the town next door and there are White Power flags hanging up here and there. There is, I think, one black family in town–we have a few Asian and Hispanic families, but, “those are the okay ones to have around” ynowwhatimean?

        We don’t even have any black people here and I’m telling you that racism isn’t dead, and when I talk to PoC from the nearby area, especially black people, they admit they are afraid to come here, especially at night, and I tell them they are right to feel that way.

        So yeah I mean whatever happy rainbows Jim Crow blah blah.

    • Willard says:

      I do agree that focusing on “past sins” is counterproductive. There’s racism aplenty in the here and now and its certainly more evenly spread around than it was in ’72 (the year used for VRA Section 4 formula). Casting the problem itself as in the past though erases the reality on the ground today that minority voters are still targeted by gerrymandering efforts and voter id laws. Certainly the some of the tactics of 40, 50, 60 years ago are no longer in play, which makes the lack of substantial adjustment to the VRA weaken the overall argument that it is still needed with all sections intact. The motivations are depressingly still widespread and with the changes in demographics less regionally isolated.

      I think it’s also falsely comforting to some in the north that all the bad states are in the south* apart from Alaska which is an honorable mention since it shows up at the bottom of maps anyway.

      *yes there are some covered jurisdictions north of the Mason-Dixon, but not the Whole Damn State.

  7. Sally Archer says:

    With the 5:4 majority:minority SCOTUS vote that overturned VRA, it saddened me that Justice Clarance Thomas as a black man could be counted on politically to make the majority. Just as far too many women have internalized misogyny in the USA “God-fearing” culture premised on a myth about “evil Eve made from Adam’s rib to be the downfall of man,” far too many people of color have internalized the evil racism that makes them rule with the white patriarchal majority (as occurred to overturn the VRA).

    While Rosa Parks and Dr. King led the civil rights movement to move their people from the back of the bus to the front, also spawning the VRA, Justice Thomas has thrown his people under the bus and joined with those other Justices of SCOTUS whose racism hides behind the veneer of legalism.

    While in law school decades ago, I realized (reading SCOTUS decisions start to finish including footnotes from casebooks) that it was who got appointed to the Court, or as FDR knew, who presidents packed the Court with, more than the law (hypocrisy) that determines who wins and who loses before our highest judicial tribunal.

    Like her or not, it was Janet Napolitano, Esq. (now of Homeland Security) who represented law professor Anita Hill, if my memory serves, in being unsuccessful in trying to block Clarence Thomas from becoming a SCOTUS Justice. It would be a digression to take those relationships to the ends of thought about how on either side (red or blue) of the USA political party divide, “we, the people” seem irrelevant to the reigning powers. Very very sorry, keeping to the point, that VRA is gone. We needed it once, and we still do. Once again, we have been betrayed by SCOTUS, by the reigning powers, by our own trust of rulers who do not deserve it.

  8. Sally Archer says:

    P.S. No disrespect intended to what should be an honorable office (Justice of the SCOTUS) in the typo of Justice Thomas’s first name, which instead of Clarance should correctly be Clarence.

  9. taz says:

    I’ve been reading a lot on this issue. Mostly here and in the news. I have an idea. Instead of just talking about it lets do something. Lets push congress to make a new VRA. This time have it simple cover all of the US. Make it state that if you are a US Citizen of the US and are in good mental health you can vote. Just take it all out of the hands of the states and put it in Federal hands. Then make another law for a Federal ID. Make it take the place of a Driver’s lic. or if you don’t drive just make it an ID. Make it free to all Citizens! Take it out of the hands of the states! That way the states can not block any citizen of the US from voting! It will not matter if you are black, white green red with yellow stripes! You will be able to vote and with it being free everyone will be able to get it! At voting time just show it and vote!

    • PrettyAmiable says:

      are in good mental health

      Seriously? No.

      Otherwise, fine but naive.

    • trees says:

      Make it state that if you are a US Citizen of the US and are in good mental health you can vote.

      I’m not a certified expert or anything, but I’ve diagnosed myself as having a case of arachibutyrophobia; should I be allowed to vote?

      It will not matter if you are black, white green red with yellow stripes!

      But what about the billions of people with silver spots??????!!!!!!! You also neglected to mention all the blue and purple checkered people. They count too!!!!!!!!!

    • Angel H. says:

      First of all, this isn’t just about IDs. As recent as the last presidential election, voting districts were changed and early voting ended early in minority populated neighborhoods in an attempt to weaken the Black and Latin@ vote. A woman in Florida was arrested during the last election because, after waiting in line for 8 hours, she refused to leave without casting her vote. That is the type of shit that the VRA was created to protect.

      And another thing: There are more than enough POC with more than enough issues without you pulling some imaginary striped race out of your ass.

    • Anon21 says:

      Congress doesn’t have the power to require that States allow everyone convicted of a felony to vote (for example). It can only legislate in support of the Constitution’s various protections for the right to vote (so race, gender, and 18-or-older), and generally as to the time, place, and manner of federal elections.

    • Annaleigh says:

      Make it state that if you are a US Citizen of the US and are in good mental health you can vote.

      How is this any different than the libertarian who told me I shouldn’t be allowed to vote, or at least, shouldn’t be allowed to vote on anything that involved tax increases, because I am on SSDI right now for bipolar and PTSD, and I might vote to raise his taxes for my own (meager) benefit? It’s still disenfranchisement, just one based on fucked up ableism instead of fucked up racism.

      • karak says:

        I typed a lot of rage about false objectivism and self-blindness and then went and angrily ate a bunch of breadsticks over how fucking stupid a thing that is to say.

        On another note, my opinion is that anyone who doesn’t have a court-appointed guardian is qualified to vote, and that includes people in assisted living, with payees, and on SSDI.

    • Fishing for Insults says:

      I’m not sure why the federal government would do any better at protecting voting rights than the states have.

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