Project 21 New Visions

Hughey Newsome

How Liberals Use the False Myth of Voter Suppression to Rally Support – But at the Expense of Better Race Relations


by Hughey Newsome (bio)

 

In interviews before the midterm elections, NAACP President Cornell William Brooks appeared on news programs to warn, as he did on MSNBC, "this is the first election in a generation where the American electorate is unprotected by the Voting Rights Act."

Brooks is not accurate: the Voting Rights Act remains powerful and in effect; only a small portion of the Act, Section 4(b), was struck down last year.

What's more, when he asserts that the Act was "gutted," his words imply there is a conspiracy to neuter African-American voters by requiring IDs to vote and rolling back conveniences African-Americans disproportionately use, such as Sunday voting.

To meaningfully discuss such claims, mistruths must be resolved.

Liberals vociferously oppose ballot protection laws recently passed in several states, saying valid identification requirements and more stringent voting rules disfranchise voters — particularly minorities. They dismiss vote fraud as a rare occurrence, yet people have been convicted and investigations have proven that fraud can easily occur in the absence of common sense safeguards.

They also support President Obama in his opposition to voting safeguards. Yet they ignore the irony that Obama won his first election in 1996 by challenging and invalidating the candidate petitions of all his primary opponents, including the incumbent, so he ran unopposed in the primary and cruised to victory in the general election.

Where are the howls of voter suppression? Obama clearly disfranchised South Side Chicago voters.

Brooks's complaint is with the 2013 U.S. Supreme Court decision Shelby County, Alabama v. Eric Holder. It struck down the Voting Rights Act's "preclearance" formula. Preclearance requires certain states and localities to obtain federal permission before changing how elections are held. The old formula punished areas for behavior prior to 1964. The Court ruled Congress must update the formula to include events since 1964 before preclearance can be required. Brooks and others may bemoan the Court's actions, but they only have themselves to blame. They ignored the justices' warning in 2009's Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District No. 1 v. Holder, which advised Congress the preclearance formula was outdated. Liberals controlled both Houses of Congress and the White House, yet they failed to update the formula.

In Shelby County, four years later, Chief Justice John Roberts reminded Congress that it "could have updated the coverage formula…, but did not do so. Its failure to act leaves us today with no choice but to declare [preclearance standards] unconstitutional. The formula in that section can no longer be used as a basis for subjecting jurisdictions to preclearance."

How is it that those who now demand a full restoration, and even strengthening, of the Voting Rights Act failed to protect their priority when they had the chance, and after being warned by no less a body than the U.S. Supreme Court in a widely-publicized decision?

Updating the Voting Rights Act's preclearance formula likely would have been an easy and bipartisan proposition. After all, the latest Voting Rights Act reauthorization was passed 390-33 and 98-0 respectively when Republicans controlled both the House and Senate and George W. Bush was in the White House. Republicans could be expected to support it. Furthermore, as demonstrated by the passage of President Obama's stimulus bill in 2009 and ObamaCare in 2010, both without GOP support, the Democrats in 2009 and 2010 didn't need Republican votes to get legislation passed.

So, is there really a racial conspiracy or was there intentional inaction to create false controversy over voting rights for political gain?

President Obama said recently on Al Sharpton's radio show: "Apathy, not voter ID, keeps minorities from the polls."

The President is correct. On TVOne, the NAACP's Brooks agreed, saying, "if you believe that your right to vote should be unfettered and unrestricted, then you need to show up to the polls and vote." Unscripted, his apparent fear of a change in the Voting Rights Act suppressing black voters disappeared.

Besides such outbursts, liberals are using convenient mistruths to create a false anti-voting rights conspiracy to energize their base, especially when they need it. Spreading such falsehoods is harmful, especially to the cause of better race relations.

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Hughey Newsome, a business consultant in the D.C. area, is a member of the national advisory council of the black leadership network Project 21. Comments may be sent to [email protected].

Published by the National Center for Public Policy Research. Reprints permitted provided source is credited. New Visions Commentaries reflect the views of their author, and not necessarily those of Project 21, other Project 21 members, or the National Center for Public Policy Research, its board or staff.


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