House Republicans are diving into the battle over renewing the Voting Rights Act, scheduling their first hearing on the issue for this Thursday.
The hearing, confirmed by a GOP source and the House Judiciary Committee, marks the GOP’s first tangible legislative attempt to respond to the Supreme Court’s Shelby decision in June, which invalidated part of the VRA.
The move suggests that Republican leaders, who mostly offered evasive statements after the Shelby decision, have decided they should engage some kind of legislative process to discuss the ruling. In fact, the hearing will come just one day after the Senate Democrats’ first hearing on the VRA. The Senate Judiciary Committee will hear testimony on the VRA’s history from strong backers of the legislation, Rep. John Lewis and Rep. James Sensenbrenner.
The move also shows, however, that some House Republicans are aiming to kill any voting rights reform. That’s because Republicans handed the hearing to Trent Franks, one of just 33 Republicans who voted against the last VRA re-authorization in 2006. (A total of 390 House members voted for it.)
Franks chairs the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice, which is holding the hearing. (By contrast, the Senate hearing is before the full committee.)
Recently, Franks acknowledged that Republican leaders have been circumspect about the Supreme Court decision in Shelby, saying that while John Roberts’ decision “said what many of us have believed,” it was risky to openly oppose the Voting Rights Act. Holding back was probably “a wise decision” for Republicans,
In 2006, Republicans and former President Bush made a “wise” political decision to publicly back the VRA, although they opposed it. Now that the Supreme Court has gutted the VRA, Republicans have made another political decision to publicly back federal voter protections, while actually intending to kill any federal voter protections that may come up.
Meanwhile, outside of whatever “wise” political machinations are going on in the GOP Ohio voters won one and got a permanent order to correct “right church/wrong pew”:
Yesterday, a federal judge in Ohio issued a permanent injunction in the ongoing dispute over how to handle so-called “right church, wrong pew” provisional ballots; i.e., ones that are cast in the correct polling place but in the wrong precinct because of polling place error.
The ruling by U.S. District Judge Algenon L. Marbley last week addresses voting errors at polling locations where more than one precinct conducts voting and a poll worker directed the voter to the wrong precinct. It makes permanent rules used in the 2012 election.
The decision drew praise from voting advocates who said to do otherwise would punish voters when poll workers mistakenly sent them to the wrong place to vote.
Misdirected voters could cast provisional ballots, but prior to the injunction their ballots could be rejected for being cast at the wrong precinct.
With this permanent injunction, provisional ballots cast in the wrong precinct will be counted unless a poll worker has determined the voter’s correct precinct and directed the voter there, but the voter disregards that information and votes in the wrong precinct anyway, according to the ruling.
“If the county board of elections cannot verify that the poll worker directed the voter to the correct precinct, the votes cast on the provisional ballot must be counted in all races and for all issues for which the voter would have been eligible to vote if he/she had cast the ballot in the correct precinct,” Marbley wrote in his ruling.
I maintain that it is unusual for a modern political party to adopt a platform that is based on targeting individual voters not for their vote, but to take away their vote. We’ll have to see how it plays out for them, but I continue to be surprised that this is treated as a legitimate political position. Can politicians really say “You know what I want? FEWER VOTERS. There are too many of you!”
I get Democratic politicians battling Republican politicians. I would submit we’ve entered a whole different realm when Republican politicians go after individual voters. I can’t help but think that isn’t wise at all.