Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Corrupt, Criminal, Cronyism II: The Return of Jim Crow

The other day, I outlined the role of the Department of Justice in Tom DeLay's Texas Re-Districting Plan. How independant, career lawyers at the DoJ determined that the Texas plan was illegal, but they were overruled by Bush political appointees, and the plan was allowed.

Well, they are doing it again:
Criticism of Voting Law Was Overruled
Justice Dept. Backed Georgia Measure Despite Fears of Discrimination

Washington Post -- A team of Justice Department lawyers and analysts who reviewed a Georgia voter-identification law recommended rejecting it because it was likely to discriminate against black voters, but they were overruled the next day by higher-ranking officials at Justice, according to department documents.


This Aug. 25 Department of Justice memo shows that a review team decided 4-1 that Georgia's voter identification program should be halted. The next day Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and his aides granted pre-clearance to the program, allowing the initiative to go forward before it was blocked by the courts (PDFs).

But an Aug. 25 staff memo obtained by The Washington Post recommended blocking the program because Georgia failed to show that the measure would not dilute the votes of minority residents, as required under the Voting Rights Act.

The memo, endorsed by four of the team's five members, also said the state had provided flawed and incomplete data. The team found significant evidence that the plan would be "retrogressive," meaning that it would reduce blacks' access to the polls.


State Rep. Tyrone L. Brooks Sr., a Democrat and president of the Georgia Association of Black Elected Officials, said he was not surprised by the Justice Department's position in the case.

"Some of my colleagues told me early on that, because of politics in the Bush administration, no matter what the staff recommendation was, this would be approved by the attorney general," Brooks said. "It's disappointing that the staff recommendation was not accepted, because that has been the norm since 1965."

The Texas plan's rejection was unanimous, but 4-1 isn't even close. Despite that, there seemed to be little doubt for all involved that the Bushies up the ladder would put a smiley sticker on this thing and send it out the door.

If you aren't familiar with this case, it goes like this:
The program requires voters to obtain one of six forms of photo identification before going to the polls, as opposed to 17 types of identification currently allowed. Those without a driver's license or other photo identification are required to obtain a special digital identification card, which would cost $20 for five years and could be obtained from motor vehicle offices in only 59 of the state's 159 counties.

Republicans are using the specter of election fraud to pass a law to make it more difficult to vote. So what's unconstitutional or discriminatory about that? Who do you suppose is most likely not to have one of these newly required IDs? Blacks and urban poor.

The fact that they have to buy an ID amounts to a poll tax. The fact that it will disproportionally effect minorities makes in unconstitutional. Incredibly, if you live in Atlanta, there is no place in the entire metro area for you to get this new ID!

The intent of this law to deny the poor and minorities (read: Democrat voters) the ability to vote without incredible hardship is so patently obvious it is ridiculous.
The plan was blocked on constitutional grounds in October by a U.S. District Court judge, who compared the measure to a Jim Crow-era poll tax. A three-judge appellate panel, made up of one Democratic and two Republican appointees, upheld the lower court's injunction.

Thank God for small favors... The article doesn't make clear (to me amyway) if the plan will take effect or not. I wouldn't put it past the Republicans to proceed despite the court's ruling. The DoJ gave them "pre-clearance" and they can just continue to appeal until the election is over. Then, who cares if it gets overturned? Like the re-districting in Texas, the damage is already done.

[h/t Norbizness]

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