In an inflammatory editorial, the conservative Wall Street Journal is claiming that Attorney General Eric Holder is using fear and accusations of racism to incite black voters in an election year with his allegations that new laws enacted by Republican legislatures across the country to add more stringent rules to the voting process are race-based.
The Journal, a paper owned by right-wing ideologue Rupert Murdoch, was referring to a speech that Holder gave to the Council of Black Churches on Wednesday about the efforts of these Republican-led legislatures to lower turnout in black and Hispanic communities in the November election by passing a spate of new voter ID and voter registration laws across the country over the last several years.
According to published reports, at least 15 states have passed laws that could make voting more difficult for blacks and up to 38 states are weighing legislation that would require people to show government-approved photo identification or provide proof of citizenship before registering or casting ballots. In addition, laws have also been enacted or are being considered that would make it harder for third-party groups such as the League of Women Voters and the NAACP to register voters. New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice released a study last year that said the new laws “may sharply tilt the political terrain for the 2012 election” by restricting voting access for up to 5 million people, mostly people of color, the poor and the elderly. States that have adopted such laws account for 171 electoral votes this year, 63 percent of the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency, according to the Brennan Center.
“In my travels across this country, I’ve heard a consistent drumbeat of concern from citizens, who—often for the first time in their lives—now have reason to believe that we are failing to live up to one of our nation’s most noble ideals,” Mr. Holder said, adding that “some of the achievements that defined the civil rights movement now hang in the balance.”
But the Journal—which helpfully pointed out in the editorial that both Holder and Obama are black—has managed to be outraged by the attorney general’s claim, even comparing it to Donald Trump’s birther movement.
“And liberals think Donald Trump’s birther fantasies are offensive?” the Journal wrote.
For most of the past century, it has been a regular exercise when conservatives come to power in state legislatures to pass laws making it harder for people of color to exercise the franchise—from the poll tax to more recent efforts requiring government IDs—but to then feign bewilderment when it is suggested that their efforts are racially motivated. They usually claim they are merely trying to stop voter fraud—but are then unable to find any real evidence of any voter fraud that could have motivated the new laws.
The editorial in the Wall Street Journal is just the latest effort by right wingers to fake innocence about the true intent of voter ID laws. After all, in a country where the voter participation rate has embarrassingly been hovering barely above HALF for the past 40 years (and even dropped below half of all registered voters in the 1996 presidential election), why in the world would anyone be trying to make it harder for people to vote? We go around the globe sticking our noses in other countries, claiming their elections are not democratic, and then we institute laws across our country intended to turn people away from the polls? It makes no sense—unless you are trying to suppress black and Hispanic turnout, for obvious reasons.
But as evidence that there are no conspiracies afoot, the Journal produces statistics showing that in Georgia, for instance, black and Hispanic turnout increased after the ID laws were put in place in 2007. They do acknowledge that Obama on the ballot might have had something to do with that! But such a comparison is specious anyway because the black and Hispanic populations in states such as Georgia have been steadily increasing—meaning a count of the number of voters from year to year would not capture how many voters were turned away or discouraged from voting by new laws.