Saturday, December 31, 2011

Accepting Bigoted Stereotypes at DOJ

It's hard to believe that our Justice Department, oblivious, or so it claims, to the Fast and Furious debacle which violated both U.S. and Mexican law, is now so on top of things that it espies a violation of the 1965 Civil Rights law in South Carolina.

South Carolina has passed a bill that would require photo ID at the voting booth, but this, Attorney General Holder argues, works a disproportionate hardship on black voters.

The Wall Street Journal provides the details:
In a letter to South Carolina's government, Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Thomas Perez called the state law—which would require voters to present one of five forms of photo ID at the polls—a violation of Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Overall, he noted, 8.4% of the state's registered white voters lack photo ID, compared to 10% of nonwhite voters.

This is the yawning chasm the Justice Department is now using to justify the unprecedented federal intrusion into state election law, and the first denial of a "pre-clearance" Voting Rights request since 1994.

The 1965 Voting Rights Act was created to combat the systematic disenfranchisement of minorities, especially in Southern states with a history of discrimination. But the Justice position is a lead zeppelin, contradicting both the Supreme Court and the Department's own precedent. In 2005, Justice approved a Georgia law with the same provisions and protections of the one Mr. Holder nixed for South Carolina. In 2008, the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board that an Indiana law requiring photo ID did not present an undue burden on voters.

Civil-rights groups claim this Justice offensive is needed to counteract a voting environment in which little has changed since Jim Crow. But South Carolina's law, like Indiana's and Georgia's, explicitly addresses potential disenfranchisement by offering state-issued IDs free of charge. When civil-rights groups fretted about the ability of minority voters to get to the local Department of Motor Vehicles to pick up a free state-issued ID card, Governor Haley created an 800 number to offer free rides to anyone who couldn't afford the transportation. About 30 people called.

In October, the South Carolina Department of Elections reported that some 240,000 state voters lacked ID cards. The DMV now says more than 200,000 of those had allowed their IDs to expire, lived in other states or were dead.

The Voting Rights Act was once needed to counteract the gap between black and white voter registration. By 2009 the gap had narrowed to a few percentage points in some covered states while blacks out-registered whites in others. Yet Justice retains a federal veto on election-law changes no matter how innocuous or racially neutral. Section 5 has become a vehicle not to pursue equal access to the polls but to play the grossest kind of racial politics.
It's almost unfathomable that anyone involved enough in our social life to be a responsible voter would not already have a photo ID.

Mr. Holder evidently fails to see how insulting his stance is to blacks. Playing into the worst racial stereotypes, he's tacitly insisting that blacks are either too stupid to know how to get an ID or too lazy to get one.

What other plausible reason could he have for arguing that photo ID requirements are unfair to African Americans other than that he thinks those stereotypes are accurate?