|Man Without Qualities|
Monday, June 20, 2005
One recurring aspect of many liberal policies is "unintended effects:" effects that the proponents of those policies claim not to have intended or even expected. It seems likely that the post Bush v. Gore Democratic policy of imputing illegalities, irregularities and/or intolerable strong arm tactics to essentially every electoral development that does not favor Democratic interests may have the "unintended effect" of causing parts of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that expire in 2007 to be renewed on terms seriously unfavorable to Democratic interests simply by inducing Congress to extend those renewed terms to the entire country and to amend those terms to make them consistent with such much broader application.
The Democratic call for uniform federal intervention in local election processes has been loud and broad since Al Gore's defeat in 2000 - and the call often comes with imputation of nationwide racism. For example, Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. has proclaimed:
Congress needs to pass legislation to federalize and nationalize future elections to the extent that there is one, fair, inclusive national standard and mechanism for conducting our federal elections.Although some provisions of the Voting Rights Act are generally applicable, the most serious provisions of the Act - those in its Section 5, sometimes called the "temporary" or "special" provisions - apply only to "covered" jurisdictions. For example, Section 5 requires covered jurisdictions to obtain preclearance from federal authorities prior to implementing any changes in their voting laws or procedures. But the definition of jurisdictions subject to, or "covered" by, special "remedial" provisions of the Act is absurdly out of date - especially given the nearly continuous post-2000 complaints from the left: Jurisdictions are now "covered" if they used a "test or device" for voting and less than half of voting age residents were registered or voted in the 1964, 1968, or 1972 presidential elections. "Coverage" will expire in August 2007 unless renewed - and it is a major goal of the civil rights establishment that it be renewed.
Post-2000 Democratic complaints go way beyond activities occurring in "covered jurisdictions" as currently defined in Section 5. For example, all of Ohio, and all but a few counties in each of California and Florida, are not "covered" jurisdictions under the Voting Rights Act. But the 2004 Presidential election brought reports like this from Ohio concerning Congressman Jackson's father:
The Rev. Jesse Jackson says Ohioans should not stand for the way elections were run in Ohio ... Jackson, president of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition said in a telephone interview Sunday[that] "The Ohio race has not yet been (decided) because of so many irregularities 26 days after the election." ... Jackson and others are complaining about uncounted punch-card votes, disqualified provisional ballots, discrepancies between exit polling and results, and too many votes counted for President Bush in Ohio. ... Jackson also said that there was a disparity in voting machinery used in suburban and urban neighborhoods. "The suburban communities had ample machines," he said. "In inner cities, we had people (waiting) five or six hours in line. That was no doubt targeted."... The counting of provisional ballots and wide gaps in vote totals for Kerry and other Democrats on the ballots in certain counties have raised too many questions to let the vote stand without further examination, Jackson said. "We can live with winning and losing. We cannot live with fraud and stealing," Jackson said.[UPDATE: More evidence that the existing definition of "covered" jurisdictions does not reflect current voting rights problems, in the form of Democratic complaints about the entire non-"covered" state of Ohio:
More than a quarter of voters, and more than half of black voters, experienced problems at Ohio polling places during the 2004 presidential vote, a Democratic Party report said on Wednesday. .... The report cited long lines that discouraged voting, poorly trained election officials and difficulties with registration status, polling locations and absentee ballots..... "The data clearly indicates that the system failed far too many Ohio voters," said Donna Brazile, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee's Voting Rights Institute and the project's leader.]In California, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals sought to enjoin the recent gubernatorial recall election on the basis of a variety of state-wide voting problems that supposedly violated the federal Constitution and the portions of the generally applicable provisions of the Voting Rights Act. The decision of the three judge panel was endorsed by much of the liberal Democratic establishment, including the American Civil Liberties Union, Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and the National Association for the Advancement Of Colored People (whose local chapters were all plaintiffs), but was famously overturned by an eleven judge panel of the same court. And, of course, Republican partisan redistricting efforts in several states have provoked cries of outrage from Democratic partisans who had little objection to prior Democratic partisan districting, cries sometimes pertaining to covered jurisdictions (such as Texas) and sometimes attracting occassional Supreme Court sympathy.
Some academic commentators seriously question the need for the renewal of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act - arguing largely that it has achieved its stated purpose. Previous renewals of the expiring provisions of the Voting Rights Act have come close to stalling over exactly the definition of "covered" jurisdictions - with the traditional civil rights establishment and the Democrats determined that the definition not be extended to the country as a whole. Yet, more recently, the upcoming 2007 renewal of the "temporary" provisions already seem to accept that redefining "coverage" is appropriate, as in this pro-renewal article:
Will the VRA’s special provisions be extended in 2007? An article in Richmond Times Dispatch from February of 2004 points to an optimistic future. The author claims that the two top Senate Republican leaders have supported the permanent reauthorization of the Act. Republican senator Bill Frist of Tennessee, the majority leader, and Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority whip, made public statements in favor of permanent reauthorization of the key sections of the Act. Another Republican Senator, George Allen from Virginia, stated that he supported VRA’s application to extend nation-wide. These public statements indicate a positive future for the extension of the special provisions.The Supreme Court has also weighed into the matter through its decisions signaling that provisions of the Voting Rights Act that call for race conscious actions by federal officials must be carefully documented as actually "remedial" - which means that out-of-date provisions predicated on log-past practices and patterns of discrimination will not survive judicial scrutiny without serious updating.
The link between the continuous post-2000 Democratic cries of electoral unfairness and the renewal of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act has been noticed by others:
Democratic Representative Betty McCollum [said] “The Voting Rights Act is one of the most important civil rights laws passed by Congress and it has my full support...” However, “Making ‘preclearance’ permanent may be premature,” said McCollum. “This provision hasn’t been fully examined and analyzed carefully to reflect the current status of our laws, court decisions, enforcement actions and society. In addition, the Supreme Court has made clear in recent years that it will require Congress to establish a detailed record, through hearings and legislative findings, in order to ensure that the ‘preclearance’ provision (section 5) can survive Constitutional scrutiny. ... The 2000 presidential election in Florida is a terrible example of our democracy not serving the needs of all Americans. Even in Minnesota, minorities, low-income communities, and new Americans are encountering obstacles when exercising their right to register to vote as a result of recent policy changes by Minnesota’s Secretary of State." .... And from Democratic Senator Mark Dayton: “Section 5 definitely needs to be updated and improved. We do not want to do this during a political year, and definitely not during this administration and this Congress.But renewal of Section 5 is going to come up during this administration and probably during a Congress very much like this Congress. And its renewal will come on the tail of many years of Democratic cries for nationally applicable federal elections legislation, Supreme Court demands for current and explicit justification of Section 5 and Republican desires that Section 5 (as amended in 2007) apply to the whole nation - just as the Democrats have been implicitly demanding for years, without intending such a result.
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