Thursday, October 20, 2005

Let The Next Representation Fight Begin

Election Law Blog links to this from the Mobile Register:

"It's time to let Section 5 die, and thus parole the South from punishment for its ignoble, distant past."

Start your engines . . . .

16 comments:

doughnut70 said...

Anyone who has spent significant time in the South knows that a lot of those people are still fighting the civil war. If someone thinks all of this is something that happened fourty years ago, then you need to take a trip to Richmond Virginia where the main street in the African American Community is Jefferson Davis Highway and the main High School is Stonewall Jackson High. Both were so named as an intentional putdown of African Americans and the locals have been unable to change those names even though they have been trying for years.

If you go into states like Georgia, Mississippi, Virginia or most of the others, they do everything possible to make it harder for African Americans to register to vote and if Section 5 is allowed to lapse, things will only get worse.

cd said...

Too simple an answer.

Read this: http://electionlawblog.org/archives/osu-final.pdf

Also - is it possible a new remedy should be fashioned? Something different than Section 5. Do you know what section 5 does? 4 counties in California are subject to Section 5 - should they be?

What about Section 5's subjects? Designed for African Americans, the Section is increasing used for other groups. That's not necessarily bad, but if it's no longer serving its original intent, then isn't the federalism argument stronger? How can the federal government interfere in state processes in perpetuity?

If you thought the Prop 77 debate was full of misinformation, wait intil we really get into the VRA. The message will become "Save the VRA!" Which, of course, isn't likely in danger. Parts, perhaps, but not the VRA.

cd said...

And using the example that there still exists a street called "Jefferson Davis Hwy" is a rather weak argument for painting continuing voter disenfranchisement in the South.

Anonymous said...

The only way I'd be happy if Section 5 died, was that if I was confident that localities, counties, and states in the South could be trusted not to try to implement voting changes that have a more harmful effect on minorities there.

Unfortunately, GA's voter id laws are a recent dramatic example of the continued need. Polling places are moved around away from african american voters, they are placed in police stations or other fraternal clubs, etc. And with redistricting on all these levels, even if it isn't based on a racist ideology, lots of times, lines are drawn in a manner that preserves incumbency but decimates african american political power. (dont get me wrong, if a minority incumbent engages in the same, it's just as wrong).

as far as changes to section 5? we got to have a more impartial arbiter, or section 5's promise is just a joke. when GA voter ID laws and Arizona voter ID laws can be approved by the DOJ without so much as a blink, something's wrong. I want my DOJ to be looking at the actual facts, and not cramming them to fit some long or short term partisan goal.

Anonymous said...

I'm guessing DOJ did plenty of blinking.

Jared said...

In looking at ID laws like GA's voter ID requirement, I think we would do much better to look at the net effect on valid voting.

Why the net effect, instead of just considering those potentially valid voters that would be disenfranchised because they lack any form of ID? Because every invalid voter that votes disenfranchises someone too. They do so by first using the name on the voter rolls of someone who has not yet voted, or they register illegally (since there's no requirement for ID to prove citizenship), or do both, since it's not hard to register with a false name and then get an absentee ballot in many places. Each vote cast by someone who is not entitled to vote dilutes the value of the votes of everyone who is entitled to vote in that election. While the effect on an individual vote is complicated to determine, the overall effect of a fraudulent vote in an election is one vote per fraudulent vote, the same magnitude as the effect of a disenfranchised voter.

Until we take seriously the problem of voter fraud, all of our votes are worth less, and each of us is disenfranchised just a little. And while it's speculation on my part, I would bet that in most places the impact of voter fraud exceeds the number of people who would be disenfranchised by broad ID requirements that allow everything from SSN cards to pay stubs to utility bills. This is the place we should really be fighting to secure our representation.

doughnut70 said...

First comment on the Jefferson Davis Highway, my point was that if you talk to people in Virginia they don't even try and hide the fact that they are rubbing African American noses in the dirt by not changing the name of the street.

The High School name is even worse because the students have been holding demonstrations and circulating petitions to change the name and the school board has refused to go along even though there is no serious group that publicly supports keeping the name.

It's just a whole different world down there (Partly because education is so undervalued in much of the South that 11 of the lowest 14 states in high school graduation rates come from the old Confederacy) and a lot of the people down there believe that they are sticking up for their anscestors by keeping African Americans in their place. There is also a belief in letting the elite make decisions that has led to those areas throwing roadblocks in front of voter registration in general.

Section 5 is needed because the nastiness and the attempts at disenfranchisement are so widespread that without oversight minority groups are more likely to get cheated in the process and even with oversight it's still a battle for them to vote in a lot of these states.

As for the comments on Voter Fraud, I may be exposing my own naivete here, but is there any real evidence of large scale voter fraud anywhere recently?

My problem is that I know our system works best when everyone participates. But I have seen a lot of people throw up phony roadblocks by saying things like "if you don't really know what's going on then you shouldn't vote" and things like that. When I start hearing about things like showing identification, I think of people who are trying to pitch voting as a privilege that you have to earn and that just strikes me as UnAmerican. To me the idea is that if you are a part of this society and in one form or another you pay taxes to help keep it going, then you ought to have a say in how it's run and as a society we ought to be doing as much as possible to make it easy for you to do so. JMO!

cd said...

I'll address the sec 5/VRA stuff later, but for now: erasing our lesser loved history does not change things, does no one any favors, does not make people face their demons, and will certainly not ensure a brighter tomorrow.

What it DOES do is help us hide from our troubled pasts.

Anonymous said...

jared,

the problem with your argument, is that voter fraud is largely non-existant. And, purported voter fraud "fixes" leave out the types of voting where it is easiest to engage in that type of mischief...absentee voting. study after study shows that the "problem" really isn't. More often, the "solution" disenfranchises thousands more than any type of "fraud" that's happening.

voter integrity plans are not just unsound in their implementation, i'd go one step further and say they are purposefully designed to keep certain people from voting and at the same time attempt to secure partisan advantage (creepy reeps).

Jared said...

Anonymous,

Please note that I specifically mentioned absentee balloting, as that is almost certainly the principal source of voter fraud. You might also notice that I suggested voter ID as a means to deal with false voter registrations for absentee ballots. Under the status quo in California, registering to vote does not require any identification, so it is easy to register dozens of times if you choose to do so. And there are definitely people who so choose, and who then have their absentee ballots sent to an office or abandoned home.

As for whether there are significant instances of voter fraud, in the Central Valley we have identified some strongly suspicious activities, particularly in Orange Cove, but have not been able to get enough evidence to prosecute anyway. If you need larger scale instances, I am unaware of good examples in CA, but in PA, Philadelphia's recent shenanigans provide a strong example of what can happen with widespread voter fraud.

cd said...

"First comment on the Jefferson Davis Highway, my point was that if you talk to people in Virginia they don't even try and hide the fact that they are rubbing African American noses in the dirt by not changing the name of the street."

Which Virginians?

As I recally, Jefferson Davis runs through wayyy northern VA - home to most DC workers. In fact, if memory serves, and if we're talking about the same Jefferson Davis Hwy, it runs through Alexandria and Arlington counties, which, along with Fairfax county, went blue in 2004. (http://www.cnn.com/ELECTION/2004//pages/results/states/VA/P/00/map.html) I use that as correlative evidence against your argument that Virginians summarily aim to rub anyone's nose in anything.

Also - education isn't undervalued in the South. It is likely underfunded because the economies of those states tends to be depressed compared to we wealthy, privileged Californians. We also suck big booty on many national education metrics.

As for voter fraud - I dunno - but both - BOTH parties and all interested constituencies have been proven perps of such behavior. That you don't hear much about it isn't a good reason to think it doesn't continue.

How would you now the system works best when everyone participates? Okay - everyone sit down - I'm not saying voter disenfranchisment is ever okay - but really, how often does everyone participate? I don't think your arguments get at the root of the evils the VRA deals with.

As for voter ID laws - I'm no expert on that at all. But if Vons asks for my ID to buy groceries, is it REALLLLLLY that big a deal to request some form of identification to vote? Most everyone has SOMETHING to prove who they are. How can we battle identity theft on one side and protect unsubstantiated identification claims on the other? Too different to compare the two situations? Maybe. But maybe not.

If you pay taxes or otherwise you should have a say in how things are run. As much as possible to make it easy to do so? That's an overly blankety blanket statement.

And as for Jared's comment - whatever happened in Philly in '04 - I had NOTHING to do with it. ;)

doughnut70 said...

My comments about Jefferson Davis Highway are based on personal comments that I have heard on my numerous trips through the Richmond Area. I don't know how far it runs, but I do know that it runs right through the African American section of Richmond and there have been a few complaints about it that I was aware of.

The Stonewall Jackson High School thing is much bigger with petitions and rallies and the whole bit to try and change the name to no avail and that doesn't count the statue which does qualify as a historic landmark and has been there a long time but is still located in the Black community and universally despised to the point that they often have to put guards up so no one destroys it.

But if you are challenging my comments, I can't defend them because they are made by personal observation. When I travel to Richmond (One of my best friends from grammar school lives there) I see stories defending the civil war in the local paper and I hear nasty racial slurs all the time. More than that though, I hear the very direct and sick jokes about sticking it to the blacks. You will find if you travel to Richmond that virtually every street in the black part of town is named after a Confederate war hero. From the well known like Longstreet and Johnston to the more obscure like Cutler and Semmes and when you mention it to a white person you are very likely to get a chuckle about it and a comment along the lines of "Yeah, we don't do Martin Luther King Highways here like they do in the North" or on the high school "We are just reminding those people about how the majority feels and if they want to fit in and get along they have to learn our values not the other way around." Those are not occasional comments just like the stories saying the South was right in the civil war are not occasional stories. They are what a large number of people down there believe and I personally believe after having dealt with them that if you start requiring a photo ID to vote, you will find more white poll judges creating excuses to disqualify minority voters than you have now and you have a lot of problems now.

People down there are raised to believe that outsiders often come in to screw up their society and that any time African Americans have a complaint, it is just because they are being egged on. Because it has become a thing of defending your parents, those people are very adamant about it (Which is why George Bush has never supported removing the Confederate flag as the State flag in any of the states that have it. Because those voters would leave him in a minute. That stuff is important to them. George Bush has supported federal intervention in a million different areas from education to welfare requirements to speed limits on the highway. But even to make a moral comment on the Confederate flag is something he refuses to do. There is a reason).

As for education, the most common excuse given is that many people in those states are farmers, but of course that doesn't affect workers in most of the midwest.

When you have states like Kentucky where only 39% of all adults have high school diplomas or Florida which is less than 1% higher, you have the symptoms of a disease and I would suggest that the disease exists because rich folks control the system so much in these places and they want a cheap labor force that nothing changes.

As for having all of the people participating, again that's a values decision. I think based on my own observation that the more people (in quantity that participate in decisionmaking) generally the better. Not always, but usually. I also think that all people wind up benefitting or suffering from the decisions of their elected officials, but I like to use the pays taxes comment one because it is true through sales taxes and two because it's a reminder. A lot of times people who are hectoring their elected officials are drinkers or have emotional problems or whatever. However, those elected officials are spending large amounts of their money too as well as making important decisions about their lives. My experience has been with many governing bodies that the rich who have problems expressing themselves can go out and hire an attorney or a lobbyist or whatever. The poor, especially those with some emotional issues often have serious concerns and trouble getting help. That is worse in places like parts of the south where picking on the disadvantaged is considered cool like being one of the bullies on a grammar school playground is to some people.

doughnut70 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
cd said...

"A lot of times people who are hectoring their elected officials are drinkers or have emotional problems or whatever."

[whistle, whistle] Okay kids,out of the deep end . . . .

Since the whole of your argument is based on anecdotal evidence excused as "personal observation," there's little point in me rebutting anything.

If you confine your accusations to "parts" of the south and not The South altogether, I'll receive your views more warmly.

And to get back to the route discussion - how much will Section 5 itself help the problems you highlight and how much is more closely tied to other VRA provisions?

doughnut70 said...

I just wanted to add that the lack of a high school education in many of the Southern States is not limited to minority students.

You will often hear political leaders make statements like "An eighth grade education is all most people really need". The people that run things in those states have a belief system that has a strong caste system still in place to back it up.

doughnut70 said...

As for your comments about section 5, my observation was that in creating another hoop to jump through by requiring identification, I think you could be opening the door to more problems.

As far as requiring the Department of Justice to approve any changes in the rules of how they hold elections, I think that's very necessary and almost self explanatory.

As for the comments about people with emotional issues and what not, I really think that's what is at the heart of things. I think all of us can get turned off for example by panhandlers on the street or whatever. But I also think one of our problems as a society is that our elected officials often think of themselves as an elite being rewarded rather than as public servants trying to solve peoples problems.

I don't think people in the south are any worse than people anywhere else, but I think what they believe is that every community is supposed to be run by the good people in that community and for anyone else to have a say, first they have to fit in and work their way up. Because of some things in their own history, African Americans are on the bottom of their social structure and White Southerners don't think they hate them like their anscestors did (they don't really think their anscestors did either) but they believe that they are just bums that are not willing to pull themselves up. You see a little of that in the North when debates over things like affirmative action never touch on subjects like building new colleges and instead focus on apparently limited opportunities. But in much of the south, when you talk about the fact that schools in African American areas get dramatically worse funding, you will get stories from white people about how they didn't learn how to read in school, they learned from their mother and if black parents would work just as hard, their kids could read too. I just simply think they are wrong, but it's what most white folks in Dixie believe.

As for Section 5 and all of the rest of it, I also believe that many white residents think they are doing a good thing by not letting the troublemakers get an upper hand and teaching them their place. After all, if they work at it hard enough, their neighbors will learn to appreciate them. That's what always happens in a small town. Right!

Well, unfortunately that's not right. History has shown that in some cases, people will keep other people down for generations as a way to build themselves up. This is true even if it is their closest neighbors we are talking about.