Monday, March 12, 2012

Reason #151: Preclearance

Laws requiring voters to show proper photo ID are fairly well-known at this point as a major civil-rights wedge issue. While proponents of the laws, like SB 14 in Texas, claim to be fighting voter fraud, it is far easier to demonstrate a statistical lack of standard photo identification among minority populations (46.5 to 120% more likely, according to Texas' own data) than to demonstrate occurrences of serious voter fraud (recently measured as being as low as .0004%).

I thought I had a pretty good understanding of this matter, but in preparing to discuss today's blocking of SB 14 by the DOJ (love them), I came upon something I hadn't heard before. It seems that the only reason the DOJ was involved in SB 14 in the first place is because of something called preclearance.

Essentially, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 includes a provision that certain districts which have demonstrated problems with voter suppression or discrimination in the past are required to submit all their proposed changes to election law for Justice Department approval. In other words: civil rights probation.

Out of sixteen states with some sort of preclearance requirements, Texas is one of only seven whose requirements apply to the entire state. Also note that an eighth state, Georgia, is subject to preclearance everywhere except the ninety-thousand-or-so folks living in the town of Sandy Springs, who presumably are just plum crazy about them Mexicans.

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