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August 4, 2015 10:23 PM   Subscribe

A Dream Undone: Inside the 50-year campaign to roll back the Voting Rights Act.
posted by zarq (17 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
This is a comprehensive look at 50+ years of political machinations that have tried to bypass, undermine or eliminate the United States' Voting Rights Act of 1965. It establishes a timeline of repeated attempts to disenfranchise minorities and the poor, and focuses in part on the current trial in North Carolina over H.B. 589, a law passed in 2013 which rolled back a number of voting protections.
posted by zarq at 10:30 PM on August 4, 2015 [4 favorites]

Also known as that time we managed to reduce racism just enough that we decided we could go back to being racist again.
posted by JauntyFedora at 11:08 PM on August 4, 2015 [14 favorites]

And this is a BIG part of the reason the Republicans, in spite of being "demographically dying off", control both houses of Congress today and really do have a good shot at taking the White House next year (maybe not with Trump, but with some more reasonable-seeming white guy).
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:35 AM on August 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

One member of the group’s advisory board was an obscure elections official out of Georgia named Hans von Spakovsky, who would become a central figure in the campaign against fraud.

Von Spakovsky first became active in politics as a particularly assertive chairman of his local homeowners’ association. After a stint as a poll watcher, he became obsessed with the specter of voter fraud and the idea that every voter should have to show photographic identification at polls. He began writing in small conservative journals on the need for states and counties to scrub felons and dead people from their voter rolls, which led to a seat on the board of the Fulton County Board of Registration and Elections in Georgia — and also caught the eye of V.I.P.

V.I.P. ostensibly offered its services to all comers, but it tended to investigate Democrats.


The 2000 election fiasco drew nationwide bipartisan calls for election reform. Congress set out to draft a new law to avoid a repeat, and the Bush Justice Department turned to the conservative expert on elections to help guide its role in the legislative process — Hans von Spakovsky.

Von Spakovsky told me that he applied for the job when he heard that the new attorney general, John Ashcroft, was creating a unit to lead the Justice Department’s effort on the bill. “It was basically a blind application,” Von Spakovsky said. “When I got hired, there wasn’t anybody in Washington who knew who the hell I was.”
That statement in the second quoted section smells worse than a week-old rotted fish to me.
posted by hippybear at 2:42 AM on August 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

Also noting that while the ethnically named Xavier Suárez was a legitimate trigger for investigation of voter fraud the supposedly NOT ethnically named Has von Spakovsky was a MAJOR player in using voter fraud court cases and legislation to disenfranchise the Suárezes of the country.
posted by hippybear at 2:46 AM on August 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

methodically set out to undercut or dismantle its most important requirements..

But why? Seriously I fucking hate regressives. I truly fucking do. Take a look what's happening in my poor country under this dribbling dullard of a prime minister. A high profile footballer has been subjected to constant spectator jeering because he's well, black. News Corp columnists can't see what the fuss is about - and PM idiot isn't about to contradict them. I used to think that my country wasn't racist, now I know it is to it's core.
posted by mattoxic at 3:29 AM on August 5, 2015 [4 favorites]

Spakovsky previously

But he [Spakovsky] cited a 2000 investigation, by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, of voting records in Georgia over the previous two decades; the paper reported that it had turned up fifty-four hundred instances of dead people being recorded as having voted. “That seems pretty substantial to me,” he said.

He did not mention that the article’s findings were later revised. The Journal-Constitution ran a follow-up article after the Georgia Secretary of State’s office indicated that the vast majority of the cases appeared to reflect clerical errors. Upon closer inspection, the paper admitted, its only specific example of a deceased voter casting a ballot didn’t hold up. The ballot of a living voter had been attributed to a dead man whose name was nearly identical.

posted by PenDevil at 4:10 AM on August 5, 2015 [6 favorites]

I'm really glad this article delved into how John Roberts has been trying to kill the VRA for the better part of four decades, because it just goes to show how high the rot goes (more on Roberts from Adam Serwer and Scott Lemieux). And von Spakovsky is a real nasty piece of work himself, who's been peddling racist theories that fall apart the instant you scratch the surface.
posted by zombieflanders at 4:29 AM on August 5, 2015 [7 favorites]

Well, when you find your hegemony on the losing end of the demographic stick, one must be creative in shrinking the electoral pie. Race has been a most useful tool in this regard...
posted by jim in austin at 4:49 AM on August 5, 2015

> Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., writing for the majority, declared that the Voting Rights Act had done its job, and it was time to move on.

Another 5-4 decision... Just something else to keep in mind for those of you who don't think your presidential vote really matters.
posted by MysticMCJ at 6:23 AM on August 5, 2015 [4 favorites]

> In a party split, Southern Democrats attacked it relentlessly as a violation of “states’ rights,” a justification their predecessors used to resist abolition.

This is something that you will see repeatedly throughout the era - a defense of overt racist tactics under the guise of "states' rights" - something that everyone will do well to remember this election season, as we hear many congressmen (in this case, always men) defer to states rights as they attempt to tear down any form of government that may benefit the non-privileged.

We've mentioned dog whistles often on the blue - I feel that "states rights" has been one of the longest standing examples of one. Any time you hear the phrase "states rights" from anyone, pay close attention to the subtext - it's been used as a sword to attack the disenfranchised longer than any of us have been alive.
posted by MysticMCJ at 6:32 AM on August 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

Jordan Fabian: Obama to call for Voting Rights Act restoration on law's anniversary
Obama will hold a teleconference to commemorate the landmark legislation and call for its renewal, following a 2013 Supreme Court ruling that voided one of its central provisions.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), who rose to prominence in the 1960s as a civil rights leader, will participate.

The event will allow Obama to draw a sharp contrast with Republicans, many of whom argue some provisions of the 1965 law went too far. It will take place on the same day as the first GOP presidential primary debate.

Asked about the timing of the event, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said that “one person’s irony is another person’s serendipity.”

“Maybe there will be an opportunity for Republican candidates to discuss the right for every American to cast a vote,” he added.
Loving the WH trolling of the GOP, especially since Trump's the favorite going into the debate.
posted by zombieflanders at 6:44 AM on August 5, 2015 [5 favorites]

Any time you hear the phrase "states rights" from anyone, pay close attention to the subtext - it's been used as a sword to attack the disenfranchised longer than any of us have been alive.

Reagan's Neshoba County Fair speech is one of the more famous examples.
posted by reclusive_thousandaire at 7:17 AM on August 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Roberts was appointed to the Court in large part specifically because of his decades long crusade against the VRA. Rove knew that a Republican Court was essential for rubber stamping the voter suppression efforts that the "permanent Republican majority" would need to rely upon, and the VRA was preventing states with growing Democratic demographics from disenfranchising them all as fast as they could turn 18.
posted by T.D. Strange at 7:26 AM on August 5, 2015 [3 favorites]

Von Spakovsky first became active in politics as a particularly assertive chairman of his local homeowners’ association.

This explains everything. Seriously.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:13 PM on August 5, 2015 [5 favorites]

Fayette County, Georgia, which I've mentioned before, is still at it.

Pota Coston, who died on on 03 July, took office in January of this year. She was the first black county commissioner ever elected in Fayette County. The squabbling over how to hold the special election to replace her on the commission started almost immediately. Fayette is suing to go back to at-large elections. A federal judge had ruled the county was in violation of the Voting Rights Act but that ruling was later overturned. A judge did grant an injunction yesterday to stop the county from using at-large voting and the 2012 election map in the special election. Likely because district voting is "racist" and to keep "demoncrats" out of office through the power of Jesus.

All of which is to say, please do go on Chief Justice Roberts about how we've reached the Day of Jubilee.
posted by ob1quixote at 4:19 PM on August 5, 2015

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