Those Racist Republicans

08.12.14

Hey, Eric Holder: Voter ID Isn't Stuck in 1965

The AG and his allies have claimed that voter ID laws suppress black votes. But finally, a North Carolina judge speaks the truth.

The middle of August is supposed to usher in the dog days of summer. But not this year: the Middle East is ablaze in conflict, the Russians are busy destabilizing Ukraine. But all the news isn’t global: In North Carolina, the Obama Justice Department just suffered an embarrassing defeat in Federal District Court last Friday in its attempt to block that state from implementing a voter ID requirement for the 2016 election.

It’s a case that should have Americans wondering about the competence and integrity of their government officials under this administration. Given the media’s propensity for ignoring stories that cast President Obama in a negative light, I suspect most Americans have no idea that a federal court sharply rebuked the administration’s contention that voter ID laws and curbs to same-day registration amount to voter suppression or overt discrimination against blacks.

Eric Holder’s Justice Department, along with the North Carolina NAACP among other plaintiffs, continue their efforts to block voter ID laws and bans on same-day voter registration as they believe such efforts would unfairly target blacks and suppress their ability to vote. Holder’s DOJ pointed to Section 2 of the original Voting Rights Act as the basis of his legal challenge: “[N]o voting qualification or prerequisite to voting…shall be imposed or applied by any State or political subdivision to deny…the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color.”

Facts have a terrible way of getting in the way of a political narrative. The Obama administration persists in the fiction that a voter ID requirement and a ban on same-day registration in the Tar Heel State will suppress black turnout. But the facts clearly demonstrate otherwise. For one, Federal District Court Judge Thomas D. Schroeder wrote that much of the harm alleged by the DOJ on future voter suppression of blacks due to voter ID laws relied “largely on racial discrimination that occurred between a quarter of a century to over a century ago. However, as the Supreme Court recently stated, ‘History did not end in 1965.’”

To wit, black voter registration in North Carolina exceeds that of whites—data from 2012 indicates black registration at 95.3 percent and white registration at 87.8 percent. Given that black registration in North Carolina is 7.5 percent greater than among whites, the court was less than convinced that a voter ID requirement would suddenly lead to an unequal access to the polls. Moreover, Holder and the NAACP asserted that the elimination of same-day registration would lead to a decrease in black voter participation—another claim swatted away by the court.

Their expert witness testified in court that without same-day registration the number of blacks would have declined by 3 percent in 2012 and that one could predict similar results in future elections. This claim, too, was batted away when Schroeder, a George W. Bush appointee, noted: “Plaintiffs have not shown that African-American voters in 2012 lacked—or more importantly, that they currently lack—an equal opportunity to easily register to vote otherwise.

For example, under current law, every state resident can register to vote by mail. While there was no concrete evidence through which Holder and his allies could demonstrate that blacks would be harmed by the end of same-day registration, evidence was instead presented showing that such registration meant that “a thousand voters have had their votes counted would being properly verified by [country boards of election]”—a result that led to a tainted municipal election in the city of Pembroke in November 2013, which required a new election to overcome the illegal ballots cast.

After North Carolina’s voter ID bill was signed into law in 2013, black turnout expanded by 29.5 percent compared to 13.7 percent for whites.

Former Justice Department voting rights lawyer J. Christian Adams succinctly captures the most preposterous notion put forth by the government when he analyzed the folly of Holder’s discrimination claim. Adams notes: “The Justice Department had actually argued that even if black voters turned out at higher rates under voter ID (which they do), because blacks have to take the bus more and their life is generally harder, then the voter ID and curtailing early voting violates the Voting Rights Act.” Really, is the best our first black president and attorney general can do—allege that since blacks lives are harder, voter ID laws are against the law when the facts prove otherwise?

Moreover, do they really believe this cynical strategy? It is clearly aimed at scaring black voters to support Democrats in November because those racist Republicans are seeking to roll back the clock to suppress blacks, when in fact evidence across the country indicates blacks are voting in higher numbers than whites in states from the old Confederacy.

Finally, black voter participation surged after North Carolina’s voter ID bill was signed into law in 2013—looking at data from the May 2010 primary election to the May 2014 primary election, not only did the number of blacks registered to vote increase, but black turnout expanded by 29.5 percent compared to 13.7 percent for whites. 

America lives in the 21st century, Mr. Holder. We’re not permanently stuck in 1965. But you, the president, and your Democratic supporters will do all you can to cynically divide the country for electoral gain and power at the expense of exploiting racism that doesn’t exist.