Democrats are using Republican efforts to roll-back voting rights as an issue that they hope will energize their base in the upcoming midterm elections, holding training sessions around the country and even posting a new online video by Vice President Joe Biden blasting the GOP for making voting more difficult.
“If someone had said to me 10 years ago I had to make a pitch for protecting voting rights today, I would have said ‘you got to be kidding,’” Biden says in the video, which was unveiled today by the Democratic National Committee (DNC), according to MSNBC.
Back in June 2013, in a devastating ruling for voting rights in America, the Supreme Court struck down a key part of the historic Voting Rights Act by ruling that Southern states may no longer be forced to seek federal approval before making changes in their election laws.
In a bitterly divided 5-4 vote, the court realized the gravest fears of voting rights activists, who worried that the court would invalidate the famous Section 5 of the 1965 law. The law had been extended in 2006 by a near-unanimous vote in Congress, which is a rare event in overwhelmingly partisan Washington.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., speaking for the majority, said the 1965 law had been a “resounding success,” ensuring that African-Americans now register and vote at the same rate as whites. But Roberts said it was no longer fair or rational to subject these states and municipalities to special scrutiny based on a formula that is more than 40 years old.
In the online video, Biden said the Supreme Court’s decision last year “opened the floodgates to voter suppression efforts nationwide.” The vice president pointed to the strict voter ID law in Texas, North Carolina’s sweeping and restrictive voting law, and recent cuts to early and weekend voting in Ohio and Wisconsin.
Just as Democrats played up Republican efforts to restrict voting in 2012 as a way to get more African-Americans and others to the polls to vote for President Obama—Blacks in 2012 voted at a higher rate than whites for the first time ever—they are similarly trying to use it as a get-out-the-vote tactic in the midterms, when Blacks and young people typically vote in lower numbers than whites.
DNC spokesman Mo Elleithee last week told reporters the Republican campaign to limit access to the ballot was “crass, it is purely political, it is undemocratic.”
In Southern states like Georgia, legal groups are training a new generation of activists to sue states that attempt to restrict voting rights.
“I was invited by the president of the NAACP,” Robert Adams, Jr. told NPR at a recent training session in Atlanta. “I’m one of the district coordinators for Georgia. And we always in the struggle and the fight. I’m here to get some more training. Training is always good.”
According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, African-Americans are underrepresented in local governments across Georgia.
“At the local level, those are where decisions really get made that affect people’s lives in a very fundamental way,” said Gerald Hebert of the Campaign Legal Center. “They’re the things they talk about around the kitchen table. Not so much what’s going on in the state legislature but the city councils and school boards and the education of their children and where they go to school and the conditions.”
Hebert accused the Justice Department of failing to follow up with lawsuits against many of those cities and counties.
“They have a responsibility to go out and do something about the fact that they previously found laws to be discriminatory that are now being implemented at the local level… but I haven’t seen actions by DOJ, so I’ve been disappointed,” he said, adding that victims of discrimination will now have to shoulder the burden of suing.