Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Making Sure Less Affluent Minorities and Urbanites without Cars Don’t Vote

The tsunami of demographic change is sweeping this country. White Protestant rural traditionalists are a distinct minority, a fading percentage of the overall population, clinging to the dying vestiges of political power from an increasingly distant past. But since they cannot shove the country back into the 1950s, they still have lots of ways to assert political power that gives them effectively 80% more voting power per person than their urban and more liberal counterparts.
First, our very system of government was constructed to insure rural states could not be overpowered by urban states. It’s called the New Jersey Compromise, and it’s why Montana, with about one million residents, has the same two U.S. senators that California, with 38 million residents, does. It’s the House that hives up representatives based on population, but there’s a catch…
Second, it’s also why states are broken up into voting districts that accord rural voters with more than their fair share of representatives, favoring sparsely-populated land over urban clusters… and why “states” are the administrators of regional power and not the places where over 80% of Americans live: cities.
Third, by giving too many of those already-rural-biased states control of non-federal power, letting the states establish the voting districts for state and federal elections, our system of government also supports the practice of gerrymandering – states artificially configuring voting districts to marginalize voters the incumbents wish to render powerless (often tortured redrawings as pictured above). And while Democrats shamelessly used this system to wrest control of the South after the Civil War, today virtually all of the gerrymandering is the GOP way of controlling its fading constituency in the South and Southwest at the expense of Democrats.
Fourth, the rurally-biased states that once had the specter of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 hovering over them – to prevent the replacement for the old outlawed poll tax with government issued IDs as a condition to voting – found solace in a 2013 Supreme Court decision that simply lifted sanctions against those states simply based on the passage of time. They were again free to re-impose voter ID requirements, which each did under the guise of a highly unsubstantiated assert of “preventing election fraud.” That less affluent voters, college students or those on campuses or in larger cities (where mass transportation replaces the need to have a car… and hence a driver’s license) – vastly more likely to be Democrats – were unlikely to have government-issued IDs (with photographs) was not lost on the fading GOP incumbents.
The upcoming election will be the first to feel the brunt of those renewed voter ID laws, and many of the states that reinstituted those old laws decided to make them even more exclusionary just to be sure that those nasty Democrat-leaning citizens will simply not be able to vote. “As the general election nears — in which new or strengthened voter ID laws will be in place in Texas and 14 other states for the first time in a presidential election — recent academic research indicates that the requirements restrict turnout and disproportionately affect voting by minorities. The laws are also… reshaping how many campaigns are run — with candidates not only spending time to secure votes, but also time to ensure those votes can be cast.
Thirty-three states now have ID laws, at least 17 of them — including Texas — requiring not just written proof of identity, but requiring or requesting a photograph as well… Most research suggests that the laws result in few people being turned away at the polls. But a study of the Texas ID requirement by Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy released in August found that many more qualified voters, confused or intimidated by the new rules, have not tried to vote at all… ‘What voters hear is that you need to have an ID,’ said Mark P. Jones of the Baker Institute, an author of the study. ‘But they don’t get the second part that says if you have one of these types of IDs, you’re O.K.’
A second study, by the University of California, San Diego, concluded in February that the strictest voter ID laws — those that require an identity card with a photograph — disproportionately affect minority voters…
“While the numbers vary, studies consistently indicate that a modest but significant share of adult Americans — up to 13.6 percent — lack government-issued photo ID cards, like driver’s licenses and university IDs [the latter often not accepted as government-issued IDs]. And the studies consistently show that, compared with whites, the share of minorities without photo IDs is far higher.
“In Texas, more than 600,000 people are eligible to vote or are already registered but have no acceptable photo ID, according to an analysis admitted as evidence in 2014 in a federal lawsuit seeking to overturn the state’s law.
“Most of the strict photo ID laws have been enacted in the past decade by Republican-dominated legislatures over Democratic objections. Many are in Southern states whose election procedures had been under federal supervision for compliance with the 1965 Voting Rights Act until the Supreme Court invalidated key provisions of the act in 2013.” New York Times, May 1st.
Any constituency that can clearly be identified and prevented from casting a Democrat-laden ballot is a GOP target. Convicts, for example, are substantially comprised of minorities who have a proclivity to vote Democratic.  So, in Virginia, where the Democrat governor exercised his absolute right (by reason of the legal authority that accompanies his clemency powers) to restore voting rights to former convicts – Virginia was one of only four states that banned ex-felons who have completed their sentences from voting – the Republican legislature is filing a lawsuit to prevent approximately 200,000 such ex-felons from voting. But the flood of non-traditionalists will eventually overwhelm them as well, no matter the result of that litigation.
These exclusionary efforts effectively reduce voter turnout and marginalize Democrats, practices we can expect to continue into the near-term spate of elections. Aside from the impact on the November vote, the big question is whether these exclusionary methods can sustain incumbent traditionalists in power after the 2020 Census (the legal basis for congressional districts) that will affirm what demographers have been telling us for years: America has become a majority of minorities. And what will marginalized – and very well-armed – rural traditionalists do when that reality actually shifts political power to urban-value voters?
I’m Peter Dekom, and it is truly astounding how terrifying the notion of a true representative democracy is to so many Americans.

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