by Jeremy Leaming
Just as the nation is beset with invidious and widespread voter fraud, according to rightwing pundits and activists, there exists little, if any, intent among state lawmakers to suppress the vote of certain groups of people, like minorities.
But in reality claims of voter fraud are wobbly, for there’s not much evidence it actually exists and racial discrimination whether overt or latent most certainly continues to hinder the nation’s long and difficult march toward full equality for all.
Earlier this week a three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia blocked South Carolina’s voter ID law, R54, from being implemented for the 2012 elections. The federal court found that state election officials did not have sufficient time to implement the law in compliance with Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits states from implementing laws that have the intent or the effect “of denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race or color.” Section 5 requires states and localities with histories of denying minorities the right to vote, South Caroline is one such state, to get “pre-clearance” from the federal court in D.C. or the Department of Justice.
The federal court in South Carolina v. U.S. granted pre-clearance for S.C.’s voter ID law for future elections, but only after S.C. lawmakers had made revisions to the law to ensure it did not subvert the Voting Rights Act. In addition the court noted that racial discrimination still exists in this nation and highlighted the importance of the law’s Sec. 5 pre-clearance provision.
In the majority opinion, Judge Brett Kavanaugh emphasized the continued need for Sec. 5, saying, “Racial insensitivity, racial bias, and indeed outright racism are still problems throughout the United States as of 2012. We see that reality on an all-too-frequent basis.”
And the only reason the S.C. voter ID law won pre-clearance for future elections rested primarily on changes to the law that provided for a “reasonable impediment provision,” which is meant to “ensure that all voters of all races with non-photo voter registration cards continue to have access to the polling place to the same degree they did under” the state’s previous voter ID law. The reasonable impediment provision is supposed to allow voters who show up at their precincts without a photo ID to still cast a provisional ballot if they sign an affidavit saying why they could not obtain an ID, such as inability to travel to an office to get the ID, illness, work-related matters, among other subjective reasons. And the provisional ballot, according to how the law has been interpreted, will be counted unless evidence surfaces that an affidavit is false.
But Media Matters’ Sergio Muñoz points out that some rightwing media are, perhaps not surprisingly, claiming that the decision is actually a ringing endorsement of the need to kill Sec. 5 of the Voting Rights Act.