Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Supreme Court's Move to Reveal Voting Rights Intent

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Supreme Court's Move to Reveal Voting Rights Intent

Article excerpt

The Obama White House won't name a new attorney general or issue an executive order on immigration until after the Nov. 4 midterm elections. But other federal government branches are also delaying politically explosive decisions.

Before going home to campaign, Congress sidetracked a number of divisive measures. So, too, has the Supreme Court. Recently, it allowed restrictive new voter laws requiring photo IDs to be used this year, including the controversial Texas measure a lower court just ruled unconstitutional and North Carolina and Ohio laws limiting early voting. But those rulings were short-term; its ultimate verdict on their legality is some months off.

Reaching that decision should force the justices to confront increasing evidence their 2013 decision invalidating a key section of the Voting Rights Act opened the way for Republican governors and legislatures to pass laws making voting more difficult for minorities in the name of curbing non-existing voter fraud.

Two recent opinions make a powerful argument these laws are designed less to minimize fraud than to achieve political ends. Especially compelling is the fact they were written by two judges with dissimilar backgrounds who reached quite similar conclusions.

One was the 147-page ruling by U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos of Corpus Christi, an appointee of President Barack Obama, declaring the Texas voter ID law is "an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote," discriminates against Hispanics and African- Americans, and is, in effect, "an unconstitutional poll tax."

The other was a 43-page dissent in a Wisconsin case by U.S. Appeals Judge Richard Posner, the judge who had written the 2007 opinion in an Indiana case the Supreme Court adopted in legalizing state voter ID laws.

Both judges concluded such measures would do little to limit fraudulent efforts to vote, noting evidence showing it is a minimal problem. Both cited political motivations behind such laws, passed primarily by conservative Republican governors and legislatures to limit voting by minorities.

Voter ID advocates who continue to cite the Indiana case ignore last year's remarkable reversal by Judge Posner, a highly regarded conservative appointee of President Ronald Reagan. He concluded his 2007 opinion had been wrong, noting such laws are "now widely regarded as a means of voter suppression, rather than of fraud prevention. …

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