Guest editorial by Ernest A. Canning
Last September's hearings before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights established that polling place photo ID restriction laws have nothing to do with eliminating "voter fraud."
They are, instead, part of what Judith Browne Dianis, a civil rights litigator at The Advancement Project, described at the time as the "largest legislative effort to roll back voting rights since the post-Reconstruction era" --- part of the partisan, multi-state effort by the billionaire Koch brothers-funded, Paul Weyrich co-founded American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)-fueled GOP exercise in voter suppression. Her testimony established, yet again, that such laws have a disparate impact upon minorities, the poor, the elderly and students (all of whom happen to have the unfortunate tendency of voting Democratic).
Despite the national nature of this coordinated, well-documented and well-funded assault on minority voting rights, so far the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) has confined its legal response to such newly-enacted laws to only the small number of "covered" jurisdictions, for example, South Carolina, that are subject to Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). That section of the law requires federal preclearance for new election-related laws in those "covered" jurisdictions, since they each have demonstrated a long history of racial discrimination.
The narrow action taken by the DoJ to date, as based only on Section 5 of the VRA, could all change if they took the time to study the content of the new complaint, Jones v. Deininger [PDF], as filed last week in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin. The complaint alleges that Wisconsin's new polling place photo ID law ("Act 23") "is a voter suppression law that burdens African-American and Latino voters most heavily [which]...results in them having 'less opportunity than other members of the electorate to participate in the political process and to elect representatives of their choice,' and, thereby, constitutes a denial and abridgment of their right to vote in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act."
The complaint in Jones, which was signed by attorney Charles T. Curtis, Jr. of Arnold & Porter, LLP, seeks to enjoin the implementation of Wisconsin's Act 23 and a declaration that it violates Section 2 of the VRA. When asked whether he contemplates seeking a preliminary injunction on the new law prior to the next election, Curtis was only able to tell The BRAD BLOG at this time that they "want to move the case as quickly as the Court will allow, and plan to request a pretrial conference to discuss motion and briefing schedules."
The additional question remains, however, will the U.S. DoJ defend federal law by opting to join this lawsuit as a plaintiff?...