The WSJ's North Carolina Voter ID Law Spin

'For Eric Holder, American racial history is frozen in the 1960s.' Well, you folks keep dragging us back there and locking us in a freezer.

This might be a good time to review what the term “racism” means: the belief that race determines human ability and renders one race superior to another.

Racism is not: Observing that different races have different physical, and sometimes cultural, characteristics.

It’s not the admission that different races in this or any other country have received disparate treatment, and that the disparity often was based on race.

And it’s certainly not the acknowledgment that racism continues to exist, and the argument that it affects public policy.

But that’s the strange, metastasized definition that seems to have emerged from years of conservative backlash to (admittedly oft-overblown) charges of racism against them: to argue that American non-whites are often treated differently from whites is itself racism.

We saw a lot of this after the George Zimmerman verdict. And it seems to be the principle behind The Wall Street Journal’s editorial from yesterday, headlined “Eric Holder’s 2014 Racial Politics.” It’s about the Justice Department’s suit against North Carolina for its “voter ID” law, which also restricts early voting, eliminates same-day voter registration and pre-registration, and generally makes it harder for people who happen to usually vote Democratic to cast ballots.

The GOP-controlled General Assembly powered H.B. 589 through once the U.S. Supreme Court in June threw out the Voting Rights Act requirements — Section 4 of the VRA, and in effect Section 5 — that state and local governments “pre-clear” changes to their voting laws and procedures with the federal government. Freed of that burden, North Carolina enacted flagrantly discriminatory election laws, what multiple observers have called the nation’s most restrictive.

So here’s the short version of the WSJ’s editorial: Because the Supreme Court ruled that Section 4 is no longer necessary because racism no longer exists, it’s racist for Eric Holder’s Justice Department to assert that North Carolina’s voter ID is discriminatory because the Supreme Court has ruled that racism no longer exists.

In detail:

For Eric Holder, American racial history is frozen in the 1960s. The Supreme Court ruled in June that a section of the 1965 Voting Rights Act is no longer justified due to racial progress, but the U.S. Attorney General has launched a campaign to undo the decision state-by-state. His latest target is North Carolina, which he seems to think is run from the grave by the early version of George Wallace.

The arguments make your head spin. To argue that voting restrictions carry us closer to the pre-Civil Rights days of the 1960s is … to remain stuck in the 1960s. To argue that racism exists is … racist. I suspect they’re designed to.

But here’s a fact for you: The DOJ has not “launched a campaign to undo the decision.” Justice is challenging the new voting laws in North Carolina and Texas under the after-the-fact enforcement mechanisms in Sections 2 and 3 of the VRA, which the Supreme Court in Shelby County vs. Holder didn’t address.

(Also — more on this at some later point — know who really popularized the whole “Southern white male grievance-Civil War was about states’ rights not slavery-intrusive federal government poking its nose in our business” line of political baboon butt, long before Ronald Reagan sugar-coated it? Hey, if the loafer fits …)

One claim is that North Carolina’s shorter early voting period will have a more pronounced impact on African Americans, who made up 23% of registered voters in North Carolina in 2012 and cast 29% of early ballots. But while the state reduced the number of days for early voting, it maintained the number of total hours for early voting. That change maintains ample time for voters to cast a ballot but reduces the burden on county election officials who have to man early voting sites in the run-up to Election Day.

I fail to see how forcing election officials to work fewer but far longer days and find new polling places to meet the new requirement constitutes a reduction of their burden, but OK.

Here’s the crux of the biscuit:

Courts have already reviewed similar laws in other states and found them legal. In 2008, in a 6-3 decision written by liberal former Justice John Paul Stevens, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of Indiana's voter ID law …

The worst argument against such laws is that they must be racially motivated because there is so little evidence of voter fraud. Yet no less that former Justice Stevens said in his opinion in the Indiana case that “flagrant examples of such fraud in other parts of the country have been documented throughout this nation's history by respected historians and journalists, [and] that occasional examples have surfaced in recent years.” Anyone who thinks voter fraud doesn’t exist hasn’t lived in Chicago or Texas, among other places.

1. No one argues that “voter fraud doesn’t exist,” just that the scanty evidence available doesn’t warrant wholesale restriction of voting rights.

2. If you’ve lived in Chicago (DOG WHISTLE DOG WHISTLE CHICAGO-STYLE POLITICS OBAMA SOLYNDRA CORRUPTION BLACK PANTHERS ACORN BENGHAZI) or Texas and you know about widespread voter fraud that’s resulted in undeserving Democrats getting elected, please put the hell up or shut same.

3. About that SCOTUS ruling on the Indiana case? Some context: Justice Stevens does in fact note that voter fraud has happened at times in the 230-plus years of the Republic; in particular, he cites the infamous New York City mayoral race of 1868, rigged by the infamous Boss Tweed, which of course resulted directly in the foundation of ACORN and the subsequent election of Barack Obama.

Stevens also writes this:

The only kind of voter fraud that [the new law] addresses is in-person voter impersonation at polling places. The record contains no evidence of any such fraud actually occurring in Indiana at any time in its history … In its brief, the State argues that the inflation of its voter rolls provides further support for its enactment of [the law]. The record contains a November 5, 2000, newspaper article asserting that as a result of NVRA and “sloppy record keeping,” Indiana’s lists of registered voters included the names of thousands of persons who had either moved, died, or were not eligible to vote because they had been convicted of felonies … Even though Indiana’s own negligence may have contributed to the serious inflation of its registration lists when [the law] was enacted, the fact of inflated voter rolls does provide a neutral and nondiscriminatory reason supporting the State’s decision to require photo identification. [emphases mine]

In other words, voter ID was justified in Indiana because of specific irregularities that were shown to have occurred. In North Carolina? “Rampant and undetected.”

All the evidence suggests that Mr. Holder’s real motive here is political. Portraying voter ID laws as racist helped to drive Democratic voter turnout among minorities in 2012, and the White House wants a repeat in 2014. Never mind if the suits eventually fail in court. The goal is to elect more Democrats in the meantime, even if it means needlessly increasing racial polarization.

Well, projection ain’t just a river in Egypt. Parse H.B. 589 and the DOJ suit to your heart’s content. It won’t override a pair of immovable facts: the law negatively affects the poor, young and minorities, who tend to vote Democratic, more than the affluent and white, who tend to vote Republican; and, in the succinct words of a certain federal official, “By restricting access and ease of voter participation, this new law would shrink, rather than expand, access to the franchise.” If you have to make voting harder, you’re doing something wrong.

Categories: Poking the Hornet’s Nest