Posted by: Donna
AZ Attorney General Tom Horne says that Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (requiring Dept. of Justice pre-clearance of election law changes in certain jurisdictions) is “now irrational”.
This amendment was reverse-engineered to take in Arizona, which adopted bilingual ballots in 1974, not 1972. Now, more than a third of a century later, we are still being punished for having adopted bilingual ballots in 1974, rather than in 1972.
The definition of language minorities was completely irrational. Less than 2 percent of our citizens can truly be considered to belong to a language minority. They got the figure of over 5percent by including everyone with a Hispanic last name.
Many people with Hispanic last names have a perfect command of English. To consider them (with most of the 5percent) as part of a “language minority” needing special protection against voting discrimination is absurd.
A change as trivial as moving a precinct across the street must be precleared by the Justice Department. Because voter registration is offered on driver’s license applications, every voting change to driver’s license applications must be precleared, which is, a huge administrative burden.
About 40 to 50 Arizona laws must be precleared each year, and the Justice Department form is detailed.
Two lawyers and a paralegal in my office spend their full time on these applications during part of the year, when their time can be much better spent fighting crime.
If, as Alabama and Arizona have urged, Section 5 is declared unconstitutional, people can still bring lawsuits under Section 2 for any alleged discrimination. But the huge and expensive administrative burden of preclearance, which humiliates Arizona by making it say, “Mother may I?” to the federal government every time it wants to change some remarkably minor laws, will have been eliminated.
Boy, that “Mother may I” bit of rhetoric has the definite stink of Frank Luntz focus-grouping all over it, doesn’t it? Horne is casting the federal government in the role of your nagging Mommy “humiliating” you in front of your pals. Horne doesn’t seem concerned about the real humiliation experienced by voters showing up on election day only to be told they’re not on the roster and having to cast a provisional one. He doesn’t show any empathy for voting activists being accused of voter fraud by a state legislator on no basis other than seeing boxes of ballots. I can’t think of a bigger indignity than a Supreme Court Justice calling your right to vote a “racial entitlement”. To Horne’s gripe about Spanish-speaking voters not needing special protection from description, let me just remind everyone how Spanish language instructions in Maricopa County gave the wrong election day on two different occasions shortly before the 2012 general election.
As I pointed out in an earlier post, being able to bring federal lawsuits after you’ve already been denied the right to vote is incredibly onerous and only encourages more unjust voting restrictions because the people passing them know they are likely to get away with it. And it turns out, Arizona had no problem with pre-clearance as recently as 4 years ago. Per NPR:
The Supreme Court in 2009 dodged the preclearance question, but the issue is back this year in a challenge brought by Shelby County, Ala. And this time seven states — Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, South Carolina, South Dakota and Texas — are asking the court to strike down the law.
Of the seven, Arizona has made the most noticeable switch between 2009 and 2013. In 2009, Arizona joined a brief supporting the law, along with North Carolina, California, Louisiana, Mississippi and New York.
Back then, Arizona and the other states said that the preclearance section of the law was “not onerous,” and that indeed, preclearance had offered “some benefits,” for example, protecting them from expensive litigation. The states supporting the law said that although some of them had expressed initial resistance to the preclearance process when the Voting Rights Act was originally adopted, “by 2006 the process for seeking preclearance had become painless and routine.”
Today, however, Arizona is on the other side of the debate, saying something very different. The preclearance requirement, it now argues, is “arbitrary and burdensome,” and unconstitutional.
So this is a sharp move to the right in a fairly short time. Looks like some folks see a looming demographic threat to the GOP’s dominance in states like Arizona and want to stave it off as much as possible. All the more reason to fight to keep Section 5.
Leave a comment