Election integrity advocates must always remember that even progressive contingency plans have contingency plans. President Obama’s reported statement in Senegal regarding the Supreme Court decision to strike down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act as outdated and unconstitutional was a dog whistle to election law agitators that deserves interpretation.
The President made headlines criticizing the decision as “a mistake,” that the Court failed to recognize the degree of undocumented voter suppression still in America. However, the mainstream media left out critical information that explains the decision.
Obama raised eyebrows by stating election integrity measures being introduced like voter ID were not a problem: “[W]e’re not seeing mechanisms put in place to make it harder for people to vote.” Further, he does not believe that some magic formula to target states or jurisdictions will be necessary when Congress considers reforms. This is key.
The Obama Administration and clued-in congressional allies are playing past the Voting Rights Act – and it is not surprising. We already know the Holder DOJ has failed to prosecute voter intimidation when militant, minority criminals are to blame; Holder spiked the New Black Panther Case, a potential violation of Section 11(b) of the VRA. Today the president decreed that legal protections and means to combat discrimination in Section 2 of the VRA are too slow. So what will change?
One must understand what the ideal election system for a progressive would entail. Attorney General Eric Holder summed up in a speech at the University of Texas in 2011 that all Americans should face mandatory voter registration by matching voter rolls to federal benefit databases. States would not be able to verify information on voter registration applications and would face daunting challenges to maintain voter rolls.
Simply put, if your name exists on a federal list for any reason (save a manifest of federal felons, for now), you would automatically be registered to vote without your permission. That may sound convenient, but remember this the next time you get to deal with the IRS, OSHA, EPA, or even the Postal Service.
With Washington having absolute control in elections, your state administrators will be hamstrung, if not completely powerless, to perform even the most basic maintenance duties. It is ironic that even though voter rolls would be forcefully populated using federal benefit databases, states better not dare to use the same information to check if voters have moved, died, or are illegal immigrants. The Holder DOJ sued Florida in 2012 to keep the state from trying to remove federally documented non-citizens from voter rolls. Holder lost, but you picked up the tab for legal fees.
While many see the Supreme Court delivering a one-two punch to the Obama Administration and allied Democracy Alliance’s designs for a federal takeover of elections this past month, do not be fooled. DC-centric progressives lost the fight for elections from the voter registration application to the ballot box and beyond – under current election law. A new war begins today.
The left has few but radical ideas for reform. They face an uphill battle in the realm of public opinion and confidence. Not only did state-specific voter ID popularity rise to nearly 80 percent in every poll before the election, but preparation for voter ID compliance set records. Pew Hispanic Center found that 97 percent of Latinos polled prior to the 2012 Election were confident they were ready for any requirements. Further, general trust in the federal government has hit record lows this month after an assortment of bureaucratic scandals and privacy revelations.
The Court signaled to the voters that local officials – not Washington bureaucrats – are in charge of protecting your rights. It is the citizen’s responsibility to hold officials accountable. If citizens and local governments continue to protect voters’ rights at home, DC will be without any authority – moral, legal or otherwise – to enact radical, fundamental transformations. Will you stand up in your community?
Catherine Engelbrecht is the Founder and President of True the Vote, America’s leading voters’ rights and election integrity organization.