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Trayvon, Texas, and Voter ID

Attorney General Eric Holder never uttered the words “Trayvon Martin” or “George Zimmerman” in his remarks today at the convention of the Urban League in Philadelphia. But his address, in which he vowed to impose “preclearance” procedures on the state of Texas in order to prevent it from making any changes in voting procedures without the express permission of the Department of Justice, must be viewed in the context of a liberal drive to take advantage of the “conversation” on race that so many on the left have urged upon the country in the aftermath of the verdict in the Zimmerman trial. Holder’s actions are primarily a response to the Supreme Court’s decision to reaffirm the Voting Rights Act while mandating that Congress redraw the map that determines which jurisdictions must get advance permission from the DOJ without the latter having to go to court first, rather than merely going by the outdated one drawn up in 1965. But there’s little doubt that Holder and the left are hoping the hysteria that race merchants like Al Sharpton have helped stir up in the last two weeks will help them turn public opinion on the question of voter ID laws that are at the heart of the federal attack on Texas.

The Martin case has been cited by many liberals who have sought to argue that the Court’s majority was somehow wrong to rule that the America of 2013 is nothing like the one that existed in 1965. The tone of much of the commentary from the left, including that of President Obama on the Zimmerman case, has been to insist that for all of the obvious progress made, the death of Martin proves we are essentially no better off in terms of racism that we were in the pre-Voting Rights Act era. But like the post-trial discussion that ignored the actual facts of the trial, Holder’s assertion that voter ID laws are, by definition, proof of discrimination is not only disingenuous; it’s flat out false.

The attorney general’s decision to go to court against Texas gives the lie to much of the fulminations from the administration about the decision in Shelby v. Holder. Far from easing the way toward a new era of Jim Crow, the court reaffirmed the Voting Rights Act’s safeguards against discrimination but merely said that the DOJ could not preempt the judicial process without a necessary re-write of the act based on the realities of contemporary America rather than one based on the situation in 1965. Thus, Holder is perfectly free to sue in federal court to stop Texas from doing anything he deems discriminatory.

But, like the incendiary rhetoric that sought to indict “Stand Your Ground” laws after Zimmerman’s acquittal as being a license for shooting down innocent young black men, Holder’s claim that Texas’s drawing of voter districts discriminates against Hispanics is unfounded. But the big prize here is his bid to prevent any state from requiring voters to identify themselves at the polls.

In an era when it has become easier to register, including at the polls on election days and where mail-in and absentee ballots have become commonplace, voter fraud has become easier, necessitating measures to ensure the integrity of results. The vast majority of Americans, including African-Americans, believe there is nothing wrong, let alone discriminatory, about asking voters to identify themselves in the same manner that they must to conduct virtually any other transaction with the government or business. Voter ID laws are a commonsense measure that are as easy to comply with as it is to register to vote. But liberals and race baiters have sought to make them the lever by which they can convince the country that racism is alive and well.

Like the Martin case, the discussion about voting rights is about assumptions about race that have little to do with facts. Trayvon Martin has been transformed from a troubled youth who died in a confusing fight to a martyr because civil rights groups and others that seek to profit from the focus on race need him to symbolize their effort to persuade America that nothing has changed since 1965. The same is true of Holder’s rant about Texas and voter ID. The courts should dismiss this claim just as decisively as the Zimmerman jury rejected a murder charge.


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