Black Activists Blast Congressional Attack on Ballot Protections
New Bill Provides Fraudsters with Opportunity to Steal, Nullify Votes of Law-Abiding Americans
Washington, D.C. - Legal experts with the Project 21 black leadership network are highly critical of new legislation introduced in Congress meant to overturn and pervert reforms to the Voting Rights Act that were instituted by the U.S. Supreme Court just a few months ago.
"This proposal is fundamentally flawed. Instead of explicitly acknowledging the rights of states to engage in lawful voter integrity measures, it only does so begrudgingly. And it fails to reset the clock before allowing the federal officials to micro-manage the voter laws of sovereign states," said Project 21 Co-Chairman Horace Cooper, a former professor of constitutional law and former congressional leadership staff member. "This so-called reform permanently lowers the standard of review for allowing the federal government to intervene in the election law decisions of states in a way that conflicts with the federalist system that our nation's founders created."
This past June, a majority of justices on the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Voting Rights Act of 1965 effectively discriminated against certain states and localities by holding them to different enforcement standards than the rest of America and was predicated on behavior from nearly 50 years ago. In its decision, the justices threw out the outdated formula used to determine which jurisdictions were forced to obtain "preclearance" on any voting and election-related change -- no matter how small -- with the federal government.
Now the "Voting Rights Amendments Act of 2014," introduced late last week, would create a new formula and with it new criteria that could force even more states and localities to have to report to federal overseers on all matters related to the electoral process. This proposed bill absolutely endangers polling place protections such as photo and government-issued ID requirements recently instituted in many states through democratic means and with strong popular support.
"Specific states were targeted under the old formula, but the proposed legislation makes it clear that any state or municipality could be subject to stiffer scrutiny if it is found to have a recent history of voting problems," said Project 21 Co-Chairman Cherylyn Harley LeBon, a former senior counsel on the Senate Judiciary Committee. "This 'subjective' criteria is the most troubling and will result in a highly-politicized Department of Justice essentially declaring war on voter ID and other voter integrity measures passed in the various states. This simply does not give me confidence that we can and will be able to reduce voter fraud."
Project 21 members submitted a legal brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Shelby County v. Holder, the case that brought about the Voting Rights Act of 1965 reform last year. That brief pointed out that evolving attitudes and decreased racial animosity created "new circumstances now place even covered jurisdictions well ahead of where non-covered jurisdictions were in 1965, and provide an ongoing political check against backsliding... The urgent necessity for extreme measures such as preclearance is thus well past, and such legislation is no longer appropriate."
Previously, Project 21 joined with the Pacific Legal Foundation and other organizations on a similar brief urging the Court to take up the Shelby County case.
Activists affiliated with the Project 21 black leadership network are longtime and strong supporters of the various safeguards against identity theft in the electoral process found at the state level. In additional to the legal briefs in the Shelby County case and support of those state-level protections, a delegation of Project 21 members also met with United Nations officials at the world body's New York City headquarters in 2012 to provide a commonsense rebuttal to efforts at that time on the part of the NAACP to turn the issue of polling place security into an international human rights concern. The U.N. never intervened.
In 2012 and 2013, Project 21 members earned approximately 800 known interviews and media citations with regard to the issue of ballot security. It was the only conservative organization to actively speak out for the concerns of the plaintiffs in the Shelby County case at the Supreme Court plaza on the day the justices heard oral arguments in the case.
Project 21, a leading voice of black conservatives for over two decades, is sponsored by the National Center for Public Policy Research (http://www.nationalcenter.org).