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2016 Is Proof We Needed The Voting Rights Act

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2016 Is Proof We Needed The Voting Rights Act

Daniel Stefanski waits to vote in the U.S. presidential primary election at a polling site in Glendale, Arizona March 22, 2016. REUTERS/Nancy Wiechec

Most political watchers awoke yesterday morning to the news that Eric and Ivanka Trump would be unable to vote for their father in the upcoming New York state primary because they didn’t file as members of the Republican Party by October. This little-known New York rule could have a huge impact on the candidacies of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, both of whom are drawing voters from outside the traditional party structure, since 27 percent of the state’s voters are registered outside the Republican and Democratic parties. If they didn’t declare a party affiliation by October 9, they won’t be voting in the state’s primary.

Much of the reaction to the plight of Trump’s children was reflections on the Trump campaign’s disastrous ground game, but that misses the point: vast numbers of voters will be forced to navigate purposefully arcane rules this election season, everything from restrictive voter ID laws to altered voting schedules to decreased numbers of polling places.

Why? The 2016 presidential elections will be the first since the 2013 decision by the Supreme Court to weaken Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.

Section 5 mandated that states and localities with a history of racial discrimination receive permission from the federal government before enacting any changes to their voting laws; states like Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia, and a variety of other townships and counties around the country.

While Section 5 initially applied to states that imposed restrictive measures such as literacy tests, Congress later expanded the law to jurisdictions with sizable minority populations that used English-only election materials. States were only removed from the pre-approval list after 10 years of by-the-book elections.

Today, the ghost of Section 5 haunts our elections.

In North Carolina, which has been under fire for a variety of issues over the past few years, Republican-backed legislation has “included a reduction in early-voting days and ended same-day registration and preregistration that added teenagers to voting rolls on their 18th birthday.”

Recently in North Carolina, an attempt to gerrymander black voters into large congressional districts (to minimize their overall influence) backfired when it was found in federal court to be discriminatory — five weeks before primary elections for the illegal districts took place. While a separate congressional primary will be held June 7, the mix-up will have a tangible impact on voter turnout, given that people sometimes have to take time off, wait in long lines, and meet registration deadlines to vote.

Another recent example can be found in Arizona, whose presidential primary was a complete disaster, with some voters waiting in line for over five hours. Some didn’t wait around long, leaving without casting a vote at all. In a measure to allegedly cut costs, “election officials in Phoenix’s Maricopa County, the largest in the state, reduced the number of polling places by 70 percent from 2012 to 2016, from 200 to just 60—one polling place per every 21,000 voters,” according to The Nation.

The situation was so dire in other parts of Arizona that people passed out out from sunstroke, had their party affiliation allegedly changed from Democrat to Independent, and never received mail-in ballots. Maricopa County was previously one of the counties identified under Section 5 as requiring pre-approval, due to a history of discrimination. Minorities make up 40 percent of the county’s population. Before 2013, Arizona would have had to submit the closing of polling places for review, and likely would have been denied, given Section 5 had previously blocked 22 voting changes from taking effect in Arizona.

Finally, we can also look at the state of Texas, where the state legislature passed a stringent voter ID law following the invalidation of Section 5 that the federal government had previously blocked using the same law. As a result, over 600,000 voters in the state will likely have to go through a more onerous voting registration procedure because they lack one of the forms of ID eligible under that law, if they are able to vote at all. While a federal appeals court ruled in August that the voter ID law had a discriminatory impact, Texas is currently appealing its case to a full appeals court, in the hopes it will not need to change the implementation of the law, which will remain in place as-is while the appeals process continues.

It’s clear that we are missing key protections from Section 5 that would have ensured more reasonable and less discriminatory voting processes at the state and local level. Now that states and localities with a history of discriminatory voting practices don’t need pre-approval to enact changes in their laws, many of them have simply passed the very same laws they were prevented from enacting for decades, and more still have enacted new laws meant to suppress the vote. In 2016, we need the full force of the Voting Rights Act more than ever. In its absence, the integrity the democratic process is in question.



  1. FireBaron April 12, 2016

    Once again, the Republican Controlled states are showing they do not want people to vote. As voting is a right guaranteed under the Constitution and Amendments, there should be one single federal standard for voter eligibility, not standards allowed in 50 States, the District of Columbia, and the respective Territories. What allows you to vote in Albany, NY, should be the same that allows you to vote in Ashville, NC. What allows you to vote in Tacoma, Wa, should be the same that allows you to vote in Tupelo, MS.

    1. Elizabethtwilliams April 13, 2016

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  2. Dominick Vila April 12, 2016

    What a sad state of affairs. It is hard to believe that in this day and age the United States remains among a handful of countries determined to deny a segment of its population to exercise their right to vote. Instead of making it as easy and effective as possible, our government officials, with the help of a large segment of our population, and a pathetic media, are doing everything they can to lower our dismal voting records…and they pretend to do it in the name of freedom and democracy! Funny that it took Trump’s children to bring attention to a problem that has been festering, and getting worse, for several years.

    1. itsfun April 12, 2016

      How many countries deny any or all of its population the freedom to vote?

      1. johninPCFL April 12, 2016

        Two out of a few dozen DEVELOPED countries.
        Most of the 150-odd undeveloped countries.
        Sad that we have CHOSEN to go with the backward third-worlders with regards to voting.

      2. Dominick Vila April 12, 2016

        Countries under totalitarian rule (dictatorships). The best people in those countries can hope for is a rigged plebiscite the dictator always wins by an overwhelming percentage.

  3. bluetah April 12, 2016

    A good reason to vote for party as well as candidate. Let GOP control the levers of power and this is what we get. This story could link up easily to the story about the Sanders voters in Wisconsin that only voted for Bernie- and left the rest of the ballot blank. The result was another conservative elected to the Wisconsin State Supreme Court (where they are elected- not appointed). If the Senator’s fans were politically mature- perhaps this would not happen nationally either. We all know about Democratic voters that “stay home” in off years.

  4. FT66 April 12, 2016

    Voting rule/law must be uniform all round the entire country. It doesn’t make sense at all for some treating voting as a privilege and not the right of everybody. In fact, it has to go as far as making voting as a COMPULSORY because decisions made by leaders are affecting all of us and each and everyone of us needs to participate in choosing them.

    1. johninPCFL April 12, 2016

      Voting rules should be uniform with regard to early voting, registration, ID requirements, etc. to eliminate confusion. That they’re not after 250 years is pretty sloppy.
      As to the rules by which delegates are awarded in the PRIMARIES, that’s up to the party chieftains.

  5. itsfun April 12, 2016

    Watching the news this morning I saw a retired Judge talking about voting in primaries. He said the Supreme Court has ruled the political parties are private clubs and can make any rules they want for their primaries. Sooo there are and can be different rules in every state. The parties in each state have 100 percent control over their primary voting rules.

    1. johninPCFL April 12, 2016

      No argument there. But since the election is carried out by a government entity, it has to be non-discriminatory in action. Picking the county with the largest non-white population to eliminate voting booths (to make the wait times onerously long) seems discriminatory…

  6. charleo1 April 12, 2016

    It’s outrageous, it’s lying, cheating, it’s undemocratic. Plus, Republicans have openly confessed to all of it. So, where’s the march? And how many 100s of thousands of protestors may we expect this Saturday? The incredible thing, the more troubling thing, is the growing number of us that don’t bother ourselves to be informed, to know who our representatives are, our State Senators names, or even who the President of the Country is nowadays. Is Ronald Reagan still in? Clinton, he was impeached, right? So who’s in now? The thing is, millions of Americans could entirely lose their Right to vote, and wouldn’t even notice! So, they’re requiring IDs now? What’s that about? I thought they always did. I need one to board a plane. Closing polls? And this effects me exactly how? Politics, follitics! I can’t stand politics! I haven’t bothered with choosing one side or the other of the same coin in years. Haven’t we got bigger problems in this rotten to the core government than worrying about a few idiots that can’t figure out how or where to vote? All things considered, there is one thing I know is still true, At the end of the day, for better or worse, we get the government we deserve.

    1. 788eddie April 12, 2016

      Ooooh! You scored a bullseye with that one, charlieo!

      1. charleo1 April 12, 2016

        They used to say, if you don’t vote, you can’t complain. Lately I only wish there was half the voting, as complaining. I get it. But who’s job do we suppose it is to clean up this mess anyway? We don’t often think about it, but there really are those who quit their jobs, and spend their savings, in order to travel, and work with the candidates they believe in. Strictly because of their faith in the idea that they live in a country where they can make a difference. And if not them, then who? We all can’t do that, of curse. But we all need to feel some sense of civic duty. And I believe we would all be amazed at the results if we did.

        1. 788eddie April 12, 2016

          I am in full agreement!

          And not to state the obvious, but we ALL need to vote. I count it as a valuable asset, as well as a responsibility. I have never missed an opportunity to cast my ballot.

          I hope we can convince the younger generation to do the same.

    2. Rob H April 17, 2016

      I think that true, but hopefully this year the people are starting to realize how disenfranchised they are. When they find their grassroots movements like Bernie and Trump are squashed by the establishment system, maybe they will realize how bad things have gotten, and start to force change with their vote.

      1. charleo1 April 17, 2016

        Hopefully things will always be bad as they have been historically for, “grassroots movements,” such as Trump represents. Fundamentally, the primary function of any political organization is to win elections. So as to encourage, or promote a philosophy, or “platform.” And to do this by a process fashioned to select the most electable, persuasive candidate to carry that thinking forward to the largest possible percentage of the people. In this, Trump represents an epic failure of that process. To which the GOP politic apparatus is apparently considering remedying thru the wholesale disenfranchisement of most their gerrymandered base to fulfill their primary obligation to first win. If their constituents now feel betrayed, they should. The betrayal however, would not involve Trump. The betrayal was perpetrated back in 2010, when the Party decided to create the most radical out of the mainstream base, and somehow expected it would magically produce electable mainstream candidates.

  7. rogerclegg April 12, 2016

    No new legislation is needed. The Supreme Court struck down only one provision in the
    Voting Rights Act — which was indeed unconstitutional, and which was never a
    permanent part of the Act anyway — and there are plenty of other voting-rights
    laws available to ensure that the right to vote is not violated. What’s more,
    the principal bill that has been drafted is bad legislation. For example, it does not protect all races
    equally from discrimination; it contains much that has nothing to do with the
    Supreme Court’s decision; and it itself violates the Constitution by
    prohibiting practices that are not actually racially discriminatory but only
    have racially disproportionate effects. The bill is also not really bipartisan;
    at Senate hearings, it was clear that no Republican there would favor it,
    because it is designed to give a partisan advantage to the Left.

    1. 788eddie April 12, 2016

      Funny how most of the people who feel that way are white.

      1. dpaano April 15, 2016

        What the hell does that have to do with anything?

    2. charleo1 April 12, 2016

      A lot of things give partisan advantage to the Left. Putting a good sharp pencil to trickle down economics, gives ‘partisan,’ and mathematical advantage to the Left. Calling for strengthening Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, instead of leaving them to the tender mercies of Wall Street bankers, gives great partisan advantage to the Left. Calling for reforming a broken immigration system, instead of building a useless wall, scapegoating poor people, and deporting millions, also gives tremendous partisan advantage to the Left. The facts themselves, very often tend to create advantages strongly favoring the Left. Discouraging voting with long lines, requiring special IDs, moving polling places away from inner city areas, and college campuses, cutting early voting, and providing fewer voting machines, provide advantages to the Right.

    3. Buford2k11 April 12, 2016

      It was not struck down as unconstitutional…I was struck down as “not needed any longer”….the Day of Jubilee, where the Fab Five declared there is no more bigotry and discrimination in our nation…

      1. Rob H April 17, 2016

        No, it was stuck down because the VRA did not address the current voting problems. The Court wrote “Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks to current conditions”. Specifically, the majority of States in this country were, for all practical purposes, excluded from VRA oversight because the law was based on voting data from over half a century ago. Congress could fix the formula, but of course they won’t do that, because today’s voting issues are no longer just in the South.

    4. Independent1 April 12, 2016

      Please explain how ensuring that there are ample voting locations to accommodate all voters, and not putting unnecessary obstacles in the path of all voters’ constitutional rights to vote is in any way related to ‘giving a partisan advantage to the left”???? Rather than when the reverse of those actions when implemented with the specific intent of making it hard for certain classes of voters to vote isn’t clearing giving a partisan advantage to the right!!!

      1. rogerclegg April 12, 2016

        Putting aside the fact that there are differences of opinion between left and right on the need for better ballot security measures, there’s also the political and racial gerrymandering that Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act facilitated.

  8. latebloomingrandma April 12, 2016

    One polling place for 21000 voters? That’s insane. I work at the polls and we have about 900 registered voters at our precinct. Only a third of them show up on a good day, and we are still busy. No one stands in line longer than ten minutes, and that’s even rare.
    Looks like the SCOTUS did it again. I can’t imagine the country with more conservatives on the bench.

    1. bobnstuff April 12, 2016

      In 2004 my voting place had a 87% turn out, a record. The longest wait was 45 min. We had no voter ID rules but I’m very sure that there was no illegal voting. I was a poll watcher and our poll workers have been there so long and know everyone by name for the most part. We have a little over 1,000 voters. My district is very gerrymandered and a democrat will never win a state or national office. We don’t need ID laws, we need smaller voting districts. If we know our neighbors a ID is not needed. It seems to be the very people who defend the 2nd amendment to the death that want to violate the 15th 19th 23rd 24th and 26th amendments. The right to vote is every bit a important as the right to bare arms.

      1. ralphkr April 12, 2016

        Well, bobnstuff, “the right to bare arms” may be important but it is also important to realize when one is too old for sleeveless blouses. (Sorry, bobnstuff, but I’ve been seeing “Bare Arms” so often that I finally just could no longer resist commenting)

        1. bobnstuff April 12, 2016

          I think we should arm bears myself.

  9. yabbed April 12, 2016

    Donald Trump’s children are NYers. We know what the voting registration rules are. I think it reasonable that we not have Republicans or Independents changing their registrations for the Democratic primaries to vote for Bernie Sanders in order to get the easily defeated nominee in the general election against the Republican nominee.

    1. johninPCFL April 12, 2016

      Yeah but the whole Trump clan has always been Democrat or Independent. This whole run inside the GOP is a completely new experience for them. It may also be that they’ve just never voted before…

  10. RED April 12, 2016

    I’m a progressive liberal and sometimes I think perhaps disenfranchising voters and preventing some from voting isn’t such a bad idea. It’s just that we aren’t disenfranchising the correct people. We should scrub people from both voting and holding any elected office if they meet these criteria: 1) Believe than Ayn Rand is some kind of intellectual and “objectivism” or any other whacky Randian ideas have any place or purpose in the world of reality, 2) Anyone who believes in “trickle down economics” or that those nutball theories have ever worked, clearly they are morons, 3) Anyone who thinks that god has spoken top them or chosen them for some purpose. Personally I think just the mere fact that you believe in sky fairies and old Jewish mythology ought to be a disqualification for voting or holding office and a definite qualification for admittance to a mental hospital but sadly there are still too many hanging on to these mass hoaxes.

  11. SouthOhioGipper April 13, 2016

    Even if voting fraud doesn’t exist, even if progressives are right. I don’t care. The fact is that as a Republican, I simply don’t trust you not to cheat. I don’t trust progressives not to be so desperate in their activism that they won’t consider registering dead people, undocumented immigrants, felons and other legally disenfranchised persons.

    I don’t trust you and I want stronger verifications and controls over the act of voting in America. Not becuase I don’t want poor black people to vote, but simply because I don’t trust progressive activists not to cheat.

    There is nothing in the Constitution that says I have to give political enemies I distrust “the benefit of the doubt”.

  12. archimedes April 13, 2016

    Powers conflates equal opportunity with equal results. But then again, this is standard operating procedure for progressives.

    Trying to resurrect racial discrimination in today’s voting rules is nothing short of a joke.

  13. thesafesurfer April 14, 2016

    Who doesn’t get to vote in this instance, some of the most powerful and connected Whites in the nation. Proof positive that these voting regulations DO NOT discriminate.

    Nope, you have deadlines, you have required documents, and if you don’t meet those conditions you don’t vote.

    There isn’t a “Mississippi Plan” involved here Mr. Powers.

  14. Rob H April 16, 2016

    You miss the point completely: The Supreme court simply said the formula used in the Voting Rights Act was outdated, and hence the formula was no longer valid. Proof in point: Your article pointed out the voters in New York are now being disenfranchised. EXACTLY, as New York was not globally called out in the old formula. You criticize that North Carolina decreased its early voting period. True, and that’s bad, but you fail to point out that New York does not allow ANY early voting at all. The supreme court hoped congress would update the law, where then States like New York would then be held responsible, not just the South. But of course we all know that’s never going to happen. The Northern States were just fine with the Voting Rights Act, as long as it was globally applied to the South and not to them.


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