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Vol. 78/No. 40      November 10, 2014

Supreme Court ruling restricts voting rights
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Oct. 18 that officials in Texas can implement the state’s onerous voting regulations for the 2014 election, which will effectively disenfranchise more than half a million working people. The court’s decision puts on hold an Oct. 9 federal ruling that said the Texas law “creates an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote, has an impermissible discriminatory effect against Hispanics and African-Americans, and was imposed with an unconstitutional discriminatory purpose.”

“This is a very bad decision,” Kenneth Davidson, president of the Palestine, Texas, NAACP, told the Militant. “Many elderly, disabled or just plain poor African-Americans and Hispanics can’t afford the trip or the costs of getting a state ID.

“For over 100 years the Texas government has a history of official racial discrimination in voting, education, employment and housing,” he continued. “The Supreme Court decision will keep a lot of Blacks and Hispanics from being able to vote.”

The Texas law is one of a number of state attacks on voting rights adopted on the heels of the June 2013 Supreme Court ruling that struck down a key section of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The act, a conquest of the mighty working-class fight for Black rights in the 1950s and ’60s, struck down literacy tests, poll taxes and other tools used by Jim Crow officials to prevent Blacks from voting or running for office.

Based on the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments to the Constitution — gains codified during the Radical Reconstruction era following the Civil War — the Voting Rights Act forced nine states, including Texas, and parts of six more, to get approval from the Justice Department before changing any voting laws. This was called “preclearance.”

When the Supreme Court gutted preclearance last year, Texas state officials immediately began to implement the most restrictive ID requirement in the country on the pretext of preventing voter fraud.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote a sharp dissent from the decision, joined by Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor. She said putting the law into effect would prevent more than 600,000 registered Texas voters from voting this November. “A sharply disproportionate percentage of these voters are African-American or Hispanic,” she wrote.

In Houston alone some 103,000 registered voters lack the mandated IDs, the Houston Chronicle reported Oct. 21.

Before 2006 no one was prevented from voting for lack of identification. Today 31 states currently require some form of identification to vote. Among those, 21 states allow alternatives, such as signing an affidavit, while 10 do not. Other discriminatory measures include requiring proof of citizenship, limiting the time polls are open and shortening the period when people can register or vote. One special target is weekend voting, which hits especially hard at Black voters who often caravan from church to vote on Sunday before election day.

Voter ID laws also disproportionately disenfranchise women. Only 66 percent of women have their current name on citizenship documents due to changes from marriage or divorce, Time magazine reported Oct. 24.

Lawsuits challenging voter ID laws and other efforts to roll back the right to vote have been filed in North Carolina, Wisconsin, Ohio, Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Kansas and Louisiana, as well as Texas. The Arkansas Supreme Court struck down the state’s photo ID requirement Oct. 15.
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