ON June 25, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a portion of the federal Voting Rights Act requiring certain states to get “pre-clearance” from the Justice Department before implementing election-law changes. Obama administration officials must have been out of town that day.
Attorney General Eric Holder has announced that his Justice Department will ask a federal court to force Texas to continue obtaining preapproval from the federal government before making redistricting changes, citing other provisions of the Voting Rights Act. The announcement suggests that the administration has little respect for either the Supreme Court or lower courts — including courts that have sided with minority groups in election law disputes. That's certainly the case in Texas.
In 2011, a three-judge panel in San Antonio threw out a redistricting plan drawn by the Republican-controlled legislature. The court ultimately issued its own temporary maps to allow elections to be conducted in 2012. The Texas Legislature has since ratified the court-drawn maps to make them permanent.
In other words, Holder is now asking the courts to rule that court-drawn maps could be so tainted by racism that they should first be reviewed by his agency.
He's expected to pursue similar actions against other Southern states that are implementing voter ID laws, even though multiple studies have found these laws don't discriminate based on race; they discriminate against those not registered to vote.
Texas has a history of “pervasive voting-related discrimination against racial minorities,” Holder proclaimed. This was decades ago. The Supreme Court's decision made clear that pre-clearance requirements must be based on current evidence of racial discrimination.
That's problematic for the Obama administration. Greater racial disparities in current voting participation rates are found in Massachusetts than in many states with a Confederate history. But Massachusetts is a blue state. It gets a free pass. Texas is a Republican state and, therefore, must be subjected to endless federal harassment, even if no real evidence of minority voter suppression exists.
As we've noted before, racism may have been most notable in Southern states, but it was hardly confined to those states. The worst race riots in U.S. history include the 1965 riots in Watts, Calif.; the 1967 riots in Newark, N.J., and the 1992 Rodney King riots in Los Angeles. Cincinnati experienced a race riot as recently as 2001.
A review of 2010 Census data found the nation's most racially segregated cities included locations in California, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Ohio, Illinois and Wisconsin.
In the 1920s, the Ku Klux Klan was dominant in Indiana and active in every state. At the time, the Klan was particularly powerful not only in Southern states, but also in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, Kansas, Colorado and Oregon, according to University of Florida history professor David Chalmers. He notes the Klan helped elect at least 20 governors and U.S. senators from Maine to California.
Holder treats the distant history of those states as irrelevant, but not the distant history of states like Texas. This effectively means the nation's first black president and first black attorney general are deeming some minorities' voting rights as more worthy of protection than the rights of minorities living in states whose citizens voted for Obama.
That's not quite a “separate but equal” doctrine. But it's awfully close.