GOP has tough choices on Voting Rights Act

Supreme Court says Congress can rewrite Voting Rights Act, but GOP path isn't clear
Associated Press
Jul 5, 2013

When the U.S. Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights act last week, it handed Republicans tough questions with no easy answers over how, and where, to attract voters even GOP leaders say the party needs to stay nationally competitive.

The decision caught Republicans between newfound state autonomy that conservatives covet and the law's popularity among minority, young and poor voters who tend to align with Democrats. It's those voters that Republicans are eyeing to expand and invigorate the GOP's core of older, white Americans.

National GOP Chairman Reince Priebus began that effort well before the court's decision by promising, among other initiatives, to hire non-white party activists to engage directly with black and Latino voters. Yet state and national Republicans reacted to the Voting Rights Act decision with a flurry of activity and comments that may not fit neatly into the national party's vision.

Congressional leaders must decide whether to try to rewrite the provision the court struck, but it's not clear how such an effort would fare in the Democratic-led Senate and the GOP-controlled House. And at the state level, elected Republicans are enacting tighter voting restrictions that Democrats blast as harmful to their traditional base of supporters and groups the Republicans say they want to attract.

States like North Carolina and Virginia provide apt examples of the potential fallout. An influx of non-whites have turned those Republican strongholds into battlegrounds in the last two presidential elections, and minority voters helped President Barack Obama win both states in 2008 and Virginia again in 2012. Nationally, Republican Mitt Romney lost among African-Americans by about 85 percentage points and Latinos by about 44 percentage points, margins that virtually ensure a Democratic victory.

Yet presidential math doesn't necessarily motivate Republicans who control statehouses and congressional districts in states most affected by the Voting Rights Act. Core GOP supporters in the region react favorably to voter identification laws and broad-based critiques of federal authority.

Against that backdrop, Southern Republicans celebrated Chief Justice John Roberts' opinion that effectively frees all or parts of 15 states with a history of racial discrimination from having to get advanced federal approval for any election procedure.

The so-called "preclearance" provision anchored the law that Congress renewed four times since its 1965 passage as the crowning achievement of the civil rights movement for black Americans. The law contains an "opt-out" provision that allowed a jurisdiction to ask a federal court for release from preclearance if it has established a record of non-discrimination. Roberts said that process — never used successfully by an entire state — wasn't enough.

"The court recognized that states can fairly design our own (district) maps and run our own elections without the federal government," Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said in a statement.

Citizens can still sue to overturn state laws, but they'll likely have to prove discrimination after the fact, rather than local authorities having to convince federal officials in advance that a law wouldn't discriminate.

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, a Republican running for governor, said: "I do not believe we have the institutional bigotry like we had before."

GOP officials in Texas and Mississippi promised within hours of the decision to enforce new laws requiring voters to show identification at polls. The U.S. Justice Department's civil rights lawyers had frozen the Mississippi law while they considered effects on minority voters, while a panel of federal judges in Washington blocked the Texas law because of its potential to harm low-income and minority voters. North Carolina Republicans said they'd enact their own voter identification law. Texas Gov. Rick Perry signed new congressional district maps — tilted to Republican advantage — that federal authorities would have had to review.

But in Washington, Republicans like House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia embraced the nuances of Roberts' ruling. The court didn't actually strike down preclearance, instead tossing rules that determined which jurisdictions got oversight. Congress is free to rewrite those parameters and revive advance review, Roberts wrote.

"I'm hopeful Congress will put politics aside," Cantor said, "and find a responsible path forward that ensures that the sacred obligation of voting in this country remains protected."

The white Republican recalled his recent trip to Alabama with black Democratic Rep. John Lewis on the 50th anniversary of the Selma-to-Montgomery voting rights march. Lewis, an Atlanta Democrat, was beaten repeatedly as a young civil rights advocate during the 1960s. The commemoration, Cantor said, was "a profound experience."

Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., who helped lead the law's latest reauthorization when the GOP ran Congress in 2006, said the court "disappointed" him. Lingering discrimination, he said, compels Congress to update the act, "especially for minorities."

"There's no easy answer" for the GOP, said Henry Barbour, a high-profile member of the Republican National Committee. The Mississippi native conceded his personal views demonstrate the complications.

Barbour helped write the national party's post-election analysis calling for better outreach to minorities and urged fellow Republicans that "our tone is important, on this and any other issue." But he's clear in his support for the decision and what it means in Mississippi.

Blatantly racist laws like poll taxes and literacy tests once made preclearance necessary, Barbour said. "But when you have to go hat-in-hand to Washington every time you want to move a polling place," then it's evolved into "federal harassment that's gone on way too long," he added.

Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia said Congress is capable of writing a new national formula based on the latest voter registration and turnout data "if everyone will sit back and take a deep breath."

Barbour disputed that forecast, but not because of opposition from Southerners. Rather, he said, "People in these other states don't want this scrutiny coming to them."

That frustration reflects part of the 2006 renewal debate in Congress. Despite fewer than three dozen dissenting votes, some Southern members said the extra scrutiny should apply nationwide or not at all.

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who supported ending preclearance, said Republicans should emphasize parts of the act still in use. Besides a general discrimination ban, the feds can invoke preclearance for jurisdictions with new patterns of mistreating minorities. That "opt-in" rule has affected Arkansas, New Mexico and some cities and counties.

Others in the GOP say election results form a defense. Katon Dawson, a former South Carolina party chairman, noted that Gov. Nikki Haley, of Indian descent, appointed then-Rep. Tim Scott as the modern South's first black U.S. senator. He'll seek a full term next year.

"We're walking the walk," Dawson said.

Of course, Southern states also produced the widest margins among white voters in favor of Mitt Romney and John McCain in their losses to Obama.

Chris LaCivita, a Republican consultant in Virginia, offered one more potential comfort for Republicans: The relationship between Democrats and whites. Republicans need more minority votes in presidential years, but Democrats need more white Southerners if they want to regain control of Congress or many statehouses.

"Democrats might want to think long and hard about making a racially based argument," LaCivita said, "considering voters they need don't like having to pay for the sins of their fathers."



The Big Dog's back

Anyone with common sense would know it would cost more to do things on a local or state basis. Keywords, common sense.


Why would it cost more when local or state govern? Fewer people involved, lower cost for administration, since everything in DC costs more, including administration costs. There is a reason that 4 of the wealthiest counties in the USA surround DC. Hint, it is not because everything there is cheaper. But then common sense seems to not be very common in this thread.

The Big Dog's back

What's the reason? Who lives in those counties? Hedge fund managers? Who?


I would say the majority are politicians and bureaucrats since the federal gov't is the main employer of the counties around DC. Most hedge funds on the East coast of the US are based in New York, not DC. If you want more information on it I suggest you look up the census from 2010, and limit it to the counties surrounding DC They have that kind of info for those who wish to look. Also Forbes magazine also recently had an article on the subject as well. But don't let that restrict your research. Look where you wish.

The Big Dog's back

So in other words you don't know.


`Sorry I answered your question. The federal gov't is by far the largest employer in the counties around DC. Hedge fund operators live more around NYC. They don't live in DC as crime rate is too high and the schools suck. Don't believe it go to the 2010 census and check the numbers.

The Big Dog's back

I'll help you.
"More than a generation of heavy federal spending, it turns out, has provided the seed money for a Washington economy that now operates globally — less tied to the vicissitudes of the capital's political rhythms," reporter Elizabeth Williamson wrote. "The new moneyed brain trust is being led by professionals in defense, intelligence and data — many of whom excelled initially due to government ties. They've propelled the D.C. region as a leader in the cybersecurity and data sectors, as well as in more specialized areas including educational products and heath care data management."


Federal gov't employees and those who sell their services to the highest bidder, the federal gov't. Either way they are getting paid for by getting a check from the federal gov't or in gov't related services to the federal gov't. How does that make them cheaper to govern than States and local governments? it would show that it is more expensive to deal there wouldn't it? You help prove my point about how expensive it is for the federal gov't to govern. Thank you.

The Big Dog's back

They are employed by private companies. They're not politicians. Don't let facts get in the way of your thinking. And, thank you.


Who do the private defense, and intelligence companies hire out to? Who did Snowden work for? A private contractor who is contracted to the federal gov't. If they weren't working for, and paid by the federal gov't why would they headquarter there?


Re: "it would cost more to do things on a local or state basis."

A dollar IS a dollar - no difference in "cost."

DERPY is an fiscal moron.

The Big Dog's back

Kessler's? Is it cheaper to insure 10 people or a group of 200?


Let me see if I understand your reasoning. The feds have around a million employees, the State of Ohio has around ten thousand. The feds get insurance for less per employee, I can agree to that... The insurance expense per employee in round numbers in total compensation would be maybe 10% of the employees total compensation give or take a little. The amount the feds discount on insurance wold be 10%-15% max. so it is a savings in insurance of 15% of 10% or a savings of 1.5% of an employees total compensation to do the same work. But since it is in DC, with that in the middle of some of the wealthyest counties in the country, the wages of that employee would have to be 5%-10% more for it to be a fair wage compared to an employee in Columbus where the cost of living is less.. Which more than kills any savings on insurance. Then all services, building maintianence , and any other services needed in DC will be more than in Columbus as every employee would also need a higher wage just to live there. Sorry the math just doesn't add up for the federal gov't costing less.... it adds up to federal gov't costing more than State or local government. But keep grasping at straws, it IS entertaining.


Re: "Is it cheaper to insure 10 people or a group of 200?"

Depends on the insured liablity DERPY.

The Big Dog's back

Goes for you too pooh so you don't have to ask anymore why the counties surrounding DC are some of the richest. To bad your forbes reporter didn't explain that to you.


Re: "why the counties surrounding DC are some of the richest."

The Iron Triangle.

How many millions in Wall St. campaign money did Pres. Obama take DERPY? :)

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

Expense isn't as important as representation. As it stands now, our own U.S. Representative Kaptur is one voice in D.C. representing ~750,000 people. It won't be much longer before every Rep has a million voices to speak to him/her. The Federal government should only focus on several, smaller issues such as interstate commerce and defense.

Do you know how much I would love to get extremely aggravated at my state and local government over my Federal where I am effectively voice/powerless? Do you know how much I would rather pay higher local and state taxes knowing it goes to the people, projects, and causes that need it most here where I live? To see the direct result of my investment of time, money, and thought?

I would love Ohio to have to be more receptive to ideas, competitive for talents/residents, and less reliant on begging a small pool of politicians for money they don't even have. This is why I also support a return of the Senate to state-elected officials representing the state in the Congress, but that is a side note.

Would you rather have your ideas compete against three-quarters of a million other people or only tens of thousands in state representation? Would you rather it takes people or corporations millions and millions of dollars to reach Washington to lobby or implant ideas - or much less than that to serve Ohio directly? Knowing I can make a huge difference only two hours away is much more supportive and unifying than having not just an eight hour drive but then knowing that nobody cares.

Our Federal government is so backlogged with minutiae they should have no business tending to that it is lowering the quality of life for everyone in our nation. When every little issue becomes a political p*ssing match it is WE who suffer regardless of party affiliation or any other artificial divide we seem to place between each other.

I want our Ohio House and Senate to squabble, moan, and fight over the best way to take care of Ohioans given our unique geography, culture, and assets rather than let someone who may be thrice removed from a Representative or Senator offer suggestions. If a program fails, I only want Ohio to fail and not drag the rest of the country down the tubes with it. When it succeeds, I want to welcome other states to witness what works for us and have them adapt it for themselves.


Re "support a return of the Senate to state-elected officials representing the state in the Congress,"

Repeal the 17th Amend. - I like it. But, it ain't gonna happen.


Good points that I never even saw or considered before. The peoples voice is diluted when the federal gov't governs, compared to when the state governs, and even more so when the local community governs. Thanks for pointing that out.

The Big Dog's back

pooh meet pooh.


I've always wondered why kool aid drinking liberal Democrats are so adamantly against having to show an ID when you vote. I just don't see the problem. What is the big deal about showing an ID identifying who you are? Some crybaby liberals will spin this thing to death. Enough of the liberal excuses.


Relax -- Drink Up -- No Worries


Actually eriemom there would be no way to draw lines for voting districts that isn't without biased representation. The party in power has more votes to redraw the voting districts. The people of the state vote for their representation. This time the dems didn't have enough votes to stop the repubes. Both parties had representatives vote on the districts. Repubes just had more representatives, thus they had more votes. The voting districts are voted on by the entire State legislature.


The Big Dog's back writes:

"Repubs would be fine with Jim Crow laws."

Unlike the Democrats who "would be fine with" implimenting the Communist Manifesto in order to make EVERYONE slaves to the STATE.

The Big Dog's back

Well, we are already slaves to the Corporations.


Re: "we are already slaves to the Corporations."

You have a J-O-B DERPY?

The Big Dog's back

I do. Do you derpy?


Re: "I do."

If you hate being a "slave to the corps." why don't you quit and become a "slave to the State" DERPY?

The Big Dog's back

Why do you feel the need to use other screen names pooh?


Re: "Why do you feel the need to use other screen names pooh?"