Supreme Court Strikes Down Part Of Voting Rights Act


These areas with historic patterns of disenfranchisement had been required to obtain pre-approval of certain changes to their voting laws. (Google map by the Washington Post.)

The White House released today the following statement by President Barack Obama on the Supreme Court Ruling on Shelby County v. Holder:

I am deeply disappointed with the Supreme Court’s decision today. For nearly 50 years, the Voting Rights Act — enacted and repeatedly renewed by wide bipartisan majorities in Congress — has helped secure the right to vote for millions of Americans. Today’s decision invalidating one of its core provisions upsets decades of well-established practices that help make sure voting is fair, especially in places where voting discrimination has been historically prevalent.

As a nation, we have made a great deal of progress toward guaranteeing every American the right to vote. But, as the Supreme Court recognized, voting discrimination still exists. And while today’s decision is a setback, it doesn’t represent the end of our efforts to end voting discrimination. I am calling on Congress to pass legislation to ensure every American has equal access to the polls. My Administration will continue to do everything in its power to ensure a fair and equal voting process.

Reaction from the Jewish Council for Public Affairs follows the jump.


Martin Luther King, Jr., Rabbi Maurice Eisendrath and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel marching in Montgomery, Alabama in 1965 at the conclusion of the famous march for voting rights from Selma to Montgomery.

JCPA President Rabbi Steve Gutow:

The fundamental premise of our democracy is that every citizen can cast a meaningful vote and together those votes will create a republic that is representative of the people. Today’s ruling is distressing because it makes it more difficult to ensure the integrity of our voting systems. The Voting Rights Act is one of the most effective civil rights laws in our nation’s history and is still needed. There are great disparities in how Americans vote. Long waiting times, identification requirements, and widely varying registration and voting technologies all affect the way Americans experience their right to vote and tend to have an onerous and disproportionate affect on minority populations. Preservation of the VRA remains essential to our national progress toward a more perfect union. Unfortunately, the decision handed down today undermines the Federal government’s best tool to ensure this progress. We are up to the challenge implicit in this ruling. Congress needs to act to remove the obstacles to the ballot so that no American is denied the right to vote.

JCPA Chair Larry Gold:

Equal participation for all is at the heart of our work as an agency and part of the American Jewish community’s legacy. Our gains have been won through hard work and dedication, and that same spirit will continue to carry us in the work that lies ahead. A federal role in ensuring a fully participatory democracy is still necessary and a strong VRA remains a vital interest. The JCPA has a long history of advocating for voting rights. Today we recommit ourselves to the principles of the VRA we first advocated for decades ago. We find the same resolve today to work with Congress and the President to repair the Voting Rights Act that we had in the 1960’s when we worked with Congress and Presidents Kennedy and Johnson on this very bill. We stand committed to ensuring all American citizens a meaningful vote and the systems are in place to root out discrimination from our political process.

Obama Discusses Gun Violence With Law Enforcement Leaders

President Barack Obama met this morning with Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey and a dozen of his fellow police chiefs and sheriffs:

  • Police Chief Daniel Oates, Aurora, CO (scene of 2012 movie theatre shooting) seated two to Obama’s right,  
  • Police Chief Michael Kehoe, Newtown, CT (scene of 2012 Elementary School shooting) seated next to Biden,
  • Police Chief J. Thomas Manger, Montgomery County, MD (scene of many of the 2002 Beltway sniper attacks),
  • Police Chief Robert VillaseƱor, Tucson, AZ (scene of 2011 attack on Rep. Gabby Giffords),
  • Police Chief Chris Burbank, Salt Lake City, UT (scene of the 2007 Trolley Square shooting),
  • Police Chief JaneĆ© Harteau, Minneapolis, MN (scene of the 2012 Accent Signage Systems shooting),
  • Sheriff Douglas Gillespie, Las Vegas, NV (scene of the 2010 Federal Courthouse shooting),
  • Police Chief John Edwards, Oak Creek, WI (scene of the 2012 Sikh Temple shooting),
  • Sheriff Richard Stanek, Hennepin County, MN (scene of the 2003 Court Tower shooting),
  • Superintendent Garry McCarthy, Chicago, IL,
  • Sheriff Paul Fitzgerald from Story County, IA, and
  • Sheriff Larry Amerson from Calhoun County, AL

They discussed gun violence prevention in the White House’s Roosevelt Room, along with Vice President Joe Biden, Attorney General Eric Holder, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Biden’s chief of staff Bruce Reed.

Obama spoke for roughly three minutes about the importance of hearing from law enforcement leaders on the issue of gun violence and what communities across the country need from the federal government in order to curb the number of mass shootings throughout the the country.

Mr. Obama thanked the police chiefs and sheriffs for coming to the White House today and recalled the executive actions he took earlier this month, as well as his legislative goals, and called on Congress to work with the administration to pass them.

Transcript follows the jump.

Vice President Biden and I just want to thank the police chiefs and sheriffs who are here today representing law enforcement officials all across the country who obviously share our deep concern about issues of gun safety and how we can protect our communities and keep our kids safe.

A couple of weeks ago, I appeared along with Joe to present the administration’s ideas in terms of steps that we have to take. And I issued a number of executive actions that should be taken unilaterally in order to improve our collection of data to make sure that we’re coordinating more effectively with state and local governments, and to do everything that we could to improve the issue of gun safety and to make our communities safer.

But, as we’ve indicated before, the only way that we’re going to be able to do everything that needs to be done is with the cooperation of Congress. And that means passing serious laws that restrict the access and availability of assault weapons and magazine clips that aren’t necessary for hunters and sportsmen and those responsible gun owners who are out there. It means that we are serious about universal background checks. It means that we take seriously issues mental health and school safety.

We recognize that this is an issue that elicits a lot of passion all across the country. And Joe and my Cabinet members who have been involved in this have been on a listening session over the last several months. No group is more important for us to listen to than our law enforcement officials. They are where the rubber hits the road.

And so I welcome this opportunity to work with them; to hear their views in terms of what will make the biggest difference to prevent something like Newtown or Oak Creek from happening again. But many of them also recognize that it’s not only the high-profile mass shootings that are of concern here, it’s also what happens on a day-in-day-out basis in places like Chicago or Philadelphia, where young people are victims of gun violence every single day. That’s why part of the conversation that we’re going to be having today relates not only to the issue of new laws or better enforcement of our gun laws, it also means what are we doing to make sure that we’ve got the strongest possible law enforcement teams on the ground? What are we doing to hire more cops? What are we doing to make sure that they’re getting the training that they need? What are we doing to make sure our sheriff’s offices in rural counties have access to some of the resources that some of the big cities do in order to deal with some of these emergencies?

So I’m looking forward to a robust conversation. I know that this is not a shy group, mainly because they’re dealing with life-and-death situations every single day. But I’m very grateful to them for their participation. This is a representative group. It comes from a wide cross-section of communities across the country. And hopefully, if law enforcement officials who are dealing with this stuff every single day can come to some basic consensus in terms of steps that we need to take, Congress is going to be paying attention to them and we’ll be able to make progress.

Double Billing: Paying For What Someone’s Already Paid To Do

Israel

Yesterday, Israel’s former Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, was acquitted on double billing charges as not proven:

On trial for the last two years, Olmert was accused of allegedly paying for family vacations by double billing Jewish organizations through the Rishon Tours travel agency; allegedly accepting envelopes full of cash from American businessman Morris Talansky; and allegedly granting personal favors to attorney Uri Messer when he served as trade minister in the Investment Center case. The charges were filed after he became prime minister in 2006, but covered his time as mayor of Jerusalem and later as a government minister.

According to DEBKA, “The verdict read out by Presiding Judge Moussia Arad said there was insufficient evidence to prove beyond reasonable doubt that he accepted illegal moneys systematically and deliberately, only that he acted in an improper manner.”

Pennsylvania

However, at the same time, Pennsylvania Corbett has decided to award a $249,660 contract to the Republican lobbying group, Bravo Group, to “educate” Pennsylvanians about the Commonwealth controversial, restrictive, new voter ID law. The Bravo Group is the work of Republican lobbyist Chris Bravacos who used to be the Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Republican party. Bravacos has personally donated $27,400 to the Romney campaign.

This taxpayer-funded money was intended for actual voter education, but will instead be used to create advertisements that will attempt to gloss over how many legal voters will be disenfranchised by this law. Indeed, two weeks ago Republican House Majority Leader Mike Turzai said that his Voter ID bill would “allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania.”


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Corbett defends the Voter ID law on the hollow pretense that it prevents voter fraud, but when Corbett was Pennsylvania Attorney General he did not pursue a single case of voter fraud.

Imagine what the conservative uproar would be if President Obama were to award a federal grant to MoveOn.org to advocate for the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”).

As US Attorney General Eric Holder said today before the NAACP,

Under the proposed law, concealed handgun licenses would be acceptable forms of photo ID, but student IDs would not. Many of those without IDs would have to travel great distances to get them, and some would struggle to pay for the documents they might need to obtain them. We call those poll taxes.

Isn’t paying a conservative lobbyist to advocate for a Republican voter supression effort the very definition of double billing?

Sample ads pulled from the Bravo Group’s vimeo channel follow the jump.
Video 1:
Dramatic music over pictures, including one of three suffragettes.

Video 2:
Video of overly happy people showing a card that is supposed to resemble an ID.  Also confuses the issue by saying “other kind of photo id” will be accepted, without explaining what that means.