Project Wonderful

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Today In Voter Suppression (and Gerrymandering and Racism)

Benjamin Jealous speaking at SIPA

I am going to quote heavily from this article, in part because it is thorough and well written but moreover because I am so angry after reading it that I am having trouble forming coherent sentences. The deliberate and systematic racial discrimination described in the article is exactly what NAACP President, Benjamin Jealous, was talking about when I heard him speak about voting rights and discrimination last spring. This is from his speech:
“Historically, efforts at voter suppression have always been about suppressing issues of equality and social justice...Protecting the vote and ending racial profiling are actually the same thing. The disproportionate incarceration of the black community and voter suppression are exactly the same thing.
I've already posted a little about his speech (which moved me to tears, not an easy feat), but just now found the video, which should be required watching for anyone interested in voting rights. Jealous mostly focuses on incarceration as it pertains to voting rights, but the points he makes about the link between racism and voter suppression are extremely relevant to the Salon article, which chronicles five ways that the Texas Legislature is targeting Latino and African American voters. Excerpts from the article:
1. Lawmakers drew some districts that looked like Latino majority districts on paper — but removed Latinos who voted regularly and replaced them with Latinos who were unlikely to vote.

In the redistricting case, a panel of three federal judges found that Texas lawmakers had intentionally created districts that would weaken the influence of Latino voters, while appearing to satisfy the requirements of the Voting Rights Act. [Nancy note: Consider the level of cunning that had to be involved here. It actually offends my sensibilities.]

2. Lawmakers widened the gap between the proportion of the population that is Latino and African-Americans and the proportion of districts that are minority-controlled.

In the years leading up to the 2010 census, Texas’ population increased by 4.3 million people, 65 percent of them Latino. As a result, Texas gained four seats in Congress.

In their decision, the federal judges in the redistricting case noted that minority voters have no constitutional right to proportional representation. But the Voting Rights Act says states can’t weaken the electoral power of minorities. So, the judges reasoned, if there is already a gap between the minority population of a state and its political representation, states can’t let that gap grow wider.

3. Texas removed economic centers and district offices from African-American and Latino districts, while giving white Republicans perks.

In defending its new maps, Texas argued that the districts had been shaped to help Republicans and hurt Democrats — a perfectly legal tactic — and that race had been irrelevant to its choices. [Nancy note: WHAT? As if that's fine but keep going]

[Three protesting members of Congress] and African-American Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, all Democrats, also testified that their district offices were drawn out of their districts — a detriment because constituents want easily accessible district offices.

“No such surgery was performed on the districts of Anglo incumbents,” the judges found. “In fact, every Anglo member of Congress retained his or her district office.”

4. Divide and conquer: Texas “cracked” minority voters out of one district into three.

Lawmakers reshaped the district in a way that “cracked the politically cohesive and geographically concentrated Latino and African American communities,” and placed those voters “in districts in which they have no opportunity to elect their candidates of choice.”

5. Texas passed a voter-ID law with requirements that would make it disproportionately difficult for African-Americans and Latinos to vote.

It's important to note that the Texas voter ID law will not be in effect for the November election.

I know about and understand greed and the desire to keep your party in power. I'm not saying that's good, but it is what it is. This seems to be to surpass partisan politics and fall into the categories of racist and unAmerican.

I don't like to use the word "evil" when it comes to political issues. It implies a link between government and religion that I am not quite comfortable with. Besides, I want to believe that our leaders are motivated by good intentions no matter how misguided their choices are. But, it's really hard for me to come up with another word that fits this situation.

Of course I knew about all these phenomenon. I'd just never looked at them collectively while listening to Benjamin Jealous speak.

Reeling from this,


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