Editorial Boards Laud Federal Rulings Against "Discriminatory" Voter ID Laws

Editorial Boards Laud Federal Rulings Against "Discriminatory" Voter ID Laws

››› ››› NINA MAST

Editorial boards across the nation celebrated the striking down of “malicious” and “discriminatory” voter ID laws in numerous states as a victory against Republican-controlled legislatures’ “thinly veiled attempts at voter suppression.”

Voter ID Laws Have Been Struck Down In Several States

Courts Strike Down Voting Restrictions In Five States In Two Weeks. “Five courts in five states” in recent weeks “ruled against voter ID and proof-of-citizenship laws,” according to NPR. In those rulings in Texas, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Kansas, and North Dakota, “judges consistently highlighted the rarity of voter fraud — particularly through in-person voting.” From the August 2 article:

And the past two weeks, in particular, have been eventful: Five courts in five states ruled against voter ID and proof-of-citizenship laws.

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Supporters of voter ID laws have argued they are necessary to prevent voter fraud. But in their responses, judges consistently highlighted the rarity of voter fraud — particularly through in-person voting.

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On July 20, a federal appeals court ruled that Texas' voter ID law had a discriminatory impact on voters, and ordered a lower court to come up with a fix before elections in November.

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On July 29, a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned North Carolina's sweeping voter ID law (which included a host of other voting restrictions, including shortening the early voting period and banning same-day registration).

And — unlike in Texas — the appeals court ruled that North Carolina legislators had actually passed the law with discriminatory intent.

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But on Friday, a U.S. district judge struck down several parts of [Wisconsin’s] strict voter ID law — as well as other election laws passed by Republican state lawmakers, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.

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On Friday, a judge ruled that Kansas citizens must be allowed to vote in state and local elections, even if they didn't show proof of citizenship when they registered.

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On Monday, a federal judge blocked a law requiring photo ID to vote in North Dakota, ruling that the law unfairly burdens Native Americans in the state. [NPR, 8/2/16]

Editorial Boards Laud The Decisions “Turning Back The Tide Of Voter Suppression”

NY Times Editorial Board: These “Recent Court Decisions Help ‘Un-Rig’ The Election.” The New York Times' editorial board wrote that a federal judge’s decision in North Dakota to “halt voter identification restrictions” is the sixth time in recent months that “federal courts rejected unfair voter restrictions enacted by Republican-controlled legislatures in thinly veiled attempts at voter suppression.” The board called voter ID laws a “malicious” and “scurrilous campaign” by Republican legislators in several states “to disenfranchise qualified voters,” and noted that a North Dakota federal judge wrote that voter fraud, “Republican politicians’ widely disproven rationale for tougher ID requirements,” was “‘virtually nonexistent’“ in that state. The board concluded that the recent decisions “help ‘un-rig’ the election by rejecting shamefully partisan strictures.” From the August 4 editorial:

The scurrilous campaign by Republican lawmakers in a number of states to disenfranchise qualified voters suffered another setback this week, when a federal judge ordered North Dakota to halt voter identification restrictions he said were blocking thousands of Native Americans from exercising their right to vote.

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The ruling was the sixth time in recent months that federal courts rejected unfair voter restrictions enacted by Republican-controlled legislatures in thinly veiled attempts at voter suppression timed for the presidential election.

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As the courts remove these crude hurdles one after another, Donald Trump has begun complaining that his presidential campaign may be facing a “rigged” outcome. Studies have established that fraud is a minuscule factor in American elections. But Mr. Trump told The Washington Post this week, “If you don’t have voter ID, you can just keep voting and voting and voting.”

In truth, the recent court decisions help “un-rig” the election by rejecting shamefully partisan strictures. In the North Dakota ruling, the judge found that more than 3,800 Native Americans could have been denied the vote in November in part because the Legislature’s new restrictions required specific residential addresses on ID documents — an obvious rebuff to the Indian reservation culture of using postal boxes for mail. This is the level of malicious voter suppression to which Republican statehouses have been stooping. [The New York Times, 8/4/16]

Wash. Post Editorial Board: Courts Are “Turning Back The Tide Of Voter Suppression” Efforts By Republican “Party Of Exclusion.” The Washington Post's editorial board wrote that federal courts are “turning back the tide of voter suppression” by halting “measures enacted by Republican-controlled state legislatures with the all-too-transparent intent of discouraging minority and other Democratic-leaning” voters. The board explained that “there’s no evidence” that in-person voter fraud exists, and asserted that the “GOP[‘s] crusade of disenfranchisement … cements [its] … image as the party of exclusion and racial bias.” From the August 2 editorial:

BETTER LATE than never, federal courts are turning back the tide of voter suppression measures enacted by Republican-controlled state legislatures with the all-too-transparent intent of discouraging minority and other Democratic-leaning citizens from exercising their clout at the polls.

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For years, Republican state lawmakers have been devising an array of voting measures whose burdens fall disproportionately on black, Hispanic and young voters, who tend to vote for Democrats. Their project amounts to a legislative strategy of playing to the whistle — testing the boundaries of constitutional tolerance before federal judges gag and call foul.

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The effect of the GOP crusade of disenfranchisement will be to reinforce the alliance between minority voters and Democrats for years or decades to come. It subverts efforts by so-called moderates to burnish Republicans’ appeal to minorities and cements the GOP’s image as the party of exclusion and racial bias. [The Washington Post, 8/2/16]

USA Today Editorial Board: “Ample Reason To Applaud” Rulings Because Candidates Should Not Be Putting “Obstacles On [Americans’] Way To The Polls.” The USA Today's editorial board wrote that “there is ample reason to applaud” federal courts’ striking down voter ID laws “that could deny hundreds of thousands of potential voters — mostly minorities, often poor or elderly — their most basic right under the Constitution.” The board called the rulings “further confirmation that these laws were more about suppressing turnout than about preventing fraud” and called for state lawmakers “to drop further court appeals.” From the August 2 editorial:

Yet there is ample reason to applaud rulings from four federal courts in the past two weeks striking down laws in Texas, North Carolina, Wisconsin and North Dakota that could deny hundreds of thousands of potential voters — mostly minorities, often poor or elderly — their most basic right under the Constitution. Taken together, the rulings provide further confirmation that these laws were more about suppressing turnout than about preventing fraud[.]

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The upshot of these rulings is clear. Once further appeals are exhausted, more people likely will be able to vote. Because those burdened by the laws tend to be minorities or low-income, that should help Democrats from Hillary Clinton on down this November. Eventually, the Supreme Court, once it's back to full strength, could weigh in for the first time since 2008, when it upheld Indiana's photo ID requirement.

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In the wake of these latest rulings, it's time for state officials to drop further court appeals. Candidates should spend their time on appealing for the votes of as many Americans as possible, not on looking for ways to put obstacles on their way to the polls. [USA Today, 8/2/16]

Kansas City Star Editorial Board: Court Decisions Are “Powerful Rulings Designed To Protect The Voting Rights Of Americans.” The Kansas City Star's editorial board called the striking down of voter ID laws in several states “powerful rulings designed to protect the voting rights of Americans” and described the move as a rebuke of “Republican elected officials [who] have been trying to chip away at” the right to vote, which is a “cornerstone of American democracy.” The board noted that “there is no evidence at all” that strict voter ID laws are needed to “keep illegal immigrants from voting,” as Kansas Republican lawmakers have claimed, and asserted that halting part of Kansas’ “overly restrictive 2013 state voter ID law” is an “extremely positive outcome.” From the July 29 editorial:

From Kansas to North Carolina to Wisconsin, judges on Friday issued powerful rulings designed to protect the voting rights of Americans.

The most crucial decision locally came in a last-minute victory for 17,500 Kansans, when Shawnee County District Judge Larry Hendricks essentially slapped down part of an overly restrictive 2013 state voter ID law.

The upshot: The votes of those Kansans will count in all races in Tuesday’s primaries in Johnson and Wyandotte counties, and across the Sunflower State as well.

Hendricks’ ruling was a sharp rebuke for Gov. Sam Brownback and the Legislature that approved the questionable law but especially for Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who has stubbornly fought to enforce it.

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The right to vote is a cornerstone of American democracy, one that Kobach and too many other Republican elected officials have been trying to chip away at the last few years.

In most cases, the attacks end up imposing new requirements that are harder for older people and the poor to meet, such as getting access to birth certificates and acquiring state-approved identification forms for those who don’t own cars.

Fortunately, courts have been striking down some of these restrictive measures, and that happened regarding two other GOP-passed laws on Friday.

[...]

However, the judge’s order should allow the 17,500 Kansans who followed federal voting registration rules to take part in all elections on Tuesday and have their votes counted as well. That’s an extremely positive outcome. [The Kansas City Star, 7/29/16]

News & Observer Editorial Board: North Carolina “Will Go Back To A State That Encourages Rather Than Obstructs Voting.” The News & Observer's editorial board applauded the federal court decision that found that North Carolina’s voter ID law was “targeted at illegally suppressing the votes of certain minorities,” writing it ” “explodes [state Republican leadership’s] fictions.” From the July 29 editorial:

North Carolina’s 2013 election law was advertised as preventing voter fraud. Instead, it has been exposed as fraudulent lawmaking – voter suppression in the guise of voting protections.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit delivered that stinging ruling Friday. A three-judge panel unanimously found that the requirement of a valid photo ID to vote and other election law changes made by the Republican-controlled General Assembly were targeted at illegally suppressing the votes of certain minorities, especially African-Americans.

North Carolinians heading to the polls this November can put away their photo IDs. The full early voting period will be restored. Out-of-precinct votes will count again. People will once more be able to register and vote on the same day. And North Carolina will go back to being a state that encourages rather than obstructs voting.

These will all be good restorations for North Carolina, but their return is a stain on the state’s Republican leadership. Not only did the Republicans deny many voters – the primary election saw thousands of votes thrown out under the new law – they claimed they were protecting voter integrity even as they failed to apply a photo ID to absentee ballots, which tend to support Republicans.

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The legislature wasn’t careful. The state’s Republican leadership – Senate Leader Phil Berger, House Speaker Tim Moore and Gov. Pat McCrory – should be chastened by the federal courts repeated rejection of their laws as discriminatory. But there will be no contrition or change of heart. They will complain about political judges and “the left” and “the elite” and continue in their abusive lawmaking and the diminishing of North Carolina’s reputation.

But Friday’s ruling explodes their fictions and makes it easier for all North Carolina voters to be heard and the state’s true values upheld. [The News & Observer, 7/29/16]

Dallas Morning News Editorial Board: “We Applaud Judicial Smackdowns Of Jim Crow-Era Hurdles For Voters.” The Dallas Morning News' editorial board wrote that the recent rulings “rang out a strong message across the nation: Enough with the cruel tricks that attempt to restrict Americans' constitutional right to vote.” The board explained that “the evidence shows that the problem the laws were designed to fix -- identity fraud in the voting booth -- was virtually nonexistent,” and hoped “the courts will continue to tip in favor of protecting the voting rights of Americans, not unfairly limiting them.” From the August 2 editorial:

A trio of court rulings Friday rang out a strong message across the nation: Enough with the cruel tricks that attempt to restrict Americans' constitutional right to vote.

The decisions came just nine days after an appeals court cut out the heart of Texas' voter ID law, ruling July 20 that it violates federal statutes prohibiting electoral discrimination and must be amended before the November election.

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In all four states, the evidence shows that the problem the laws were designed to fix -- identity fraud in the voting booth -- was virtually nonexistent.

Yet in each statehouse, lawmakers wrongheadedly continue to claim they are on the right side of a fight to root out fraud and tamper-proof the system. What they actually are on the side of is disenfranchising the poor and minorities at the ballot box -- as well as suppressing the votes of college students and the elderly.

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We have no crystal ball. But we do have hope that, with the presidential election less than 100 days away, the courts will continue to tip in favor of protecting the voting rights of Americans, not unfairly limiting them. [The Dallas Morning News, 8/2/16]

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Editorial Board: “Wisconsin’s Voter ID Law Was A Mistake From The Start.” The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's editorial board celebrated the federal ruling against Wisconsin’s voter ID law, calling the law “a mistake from the start” and “a political talking point dressed up as policy” aimed at fixing “a problem that doesn't exist” -- identity fraud in the voting booth. The board concluded that “disenfranchising eligible voters is something government should never do.” From the July 21 editorial:

Wisconsin's voter ID law was a mistake from the start; a political talking point dressed up as policy, aiming to fix a problem that doesn't exist. And although the law isn't particularly onerous for most people, there are some for whom obtaining the necessary ID is substantially difficult. So difficult that some won't — or won't be able to — go through the hassle of getting one.

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman threw those people a lifeline, or 'safety net,' as he called it. Adelman issued a preliminary ruling allowing Wisconsin voters without photo identification to cast ballots by swearing to their identity. Good for Adelman; allowing people to use affidavits to vote opens the ballot door to those who otherwise might not cast a ballot.

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The judge provided several examples of cases in which getting the documents necessary to get an ID was onerous: 'One person was directed by DMV officials to track down adoption papers and court papers from Tennessee. Another was told to request a name change through the federal Social Security Administration. A third voter over three months had to speak with a DMV investigator nine times, make two trips to a DMV center and call other agencies to locate documents,' the Journal Sentinel reported.

The state did create a new system in spring that provides temporary documents to people who have the most difficulty in getting the proper ID. But Adelman said the system did not go far enough, arguing that bureaucratic mistakes were inevitable and that they would disenfranchise some eligible voters.

And disenfranchising eligible voters is something government should never do. Thanks to Adelman for providing that safety net. [Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, 7/21/16]

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