Yes, abolishing preclearance invited racialized voter suppression. Does any “conservative” or “libertarian” object?

Gut-check time, Red team: are you for the Constitution, or against it?

So North Carolina has used the freedom given it by the Supreme Court to change its voting rules in ways designed to disenfranchise black people, students, and other unreliable types. (For example, the law eliminates Sunday voting before election day, heavily used by African-Americans.) North Carolina localities have moved as well, in the same direction. None of this has anything to do with stopping voter fraud, unless voting on Sunday is more likely to be fraudulent than voting on Tuesday.

None of this should come as any surprise to anyone with eyes to see and ears to hear. But now that the facts are staring us all in the face, the semi-respectable conservatives and libertarians who have been defending the Supreme Court’s abolition of pre-clearance and talking up “voter fraud” have a choice. They can frankly side with what is, after all, the traditional conservative view going back to William F. Buckley: that black people are inferiors and that white people in the South are justified in preventing them from voting in order to maintain the dominance of the superior race. Or they can call “foul” on their own team, for grossly undemocratic, illegal, and unconstitutional behavior. (Notice that the Republican caucus on the Supreme Court didn’t repeal the Voting Rights Act and couldn’t repeal the Fifteenth Amendment: they just made them virtually unenforceable.)

Or, of course, they can ignore the whole thing and talk about something else. (Or, like Rand Paul, just announce that there’s no evidence that what’s happening is actually happening.) So far, it’s mostly option 3. If anyone finds an honorable exception to this rule, please let me know.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

58 thoughts on “Yes, abolishing preclearance invited racialized voter suppression. Does any “conservative” or “libertarian” object?”

  1. The right to vote should be limited to property owners. The very second someone mooches off of taxpayers, stealing their money through welfare, EBT, and other govt. programs is the second they should be absolutely banned from voting.

    Those who take welfare are thieves, and they should be treated as such. They should be stripped of their rights as citizens, and shunned by society. White, black, Hispanic, Asian, no matter what color, or ethnicity. They are committing theft against the taxpayers.

    Eric Dondero, Publisher
    LibertarianRepublican.net

    1. So, everyone who owns land receives no government money, and everyone who rents does? I am unfamiliar with this board game, but it sounds really, really stupid.

    2. Naturally, you refuse to take the mortgage-interest deduction as a matter of principle. Can’t go accepting government subsidy, after all.

      1. The right to vote should be limited to property owners.

        I am tempted to ask whether this includes slaves, who would be property again in a freedom-lovin’ libtaran sciety with no meddling guvmint maniseepachion proclammashun.

    3. The right to vote should be limited to property owners. The very second someone mooches off of taxpayers, stealing their money through welfare, EBT, and other govt. programs is the second they should be absolutely banned from voting.

      I’m a libertarian since the age of 16 and while I disagree with (what I think is) this sentiment, I think that there’s a bigger problem: These two sentences, taken together, are literally incoherent.

      First of all, the second sentence is a completely separate argument from the first and it does not follow from the first.

      In the first sentence, Mr. Dondero argues that one ought to be a property owner in order to vote. This is coherent but troubling. Does this mean that if I rent my home (and pay promptly, in-full and on-time, every month) that I should not be allowed to vote? If so, why not?

      The second sentence, unlike the first, does not rise to the level of the first (which was at least coherent). Mr. Dondero, did you know that virtually every homeowner in the country (aside from those who buy their homes in cash, without a mortgage) benefits from the mortgage-interest tax-deduction? In other words, people who do NOT have mortgages subsidize those people who DO have mortgages? So you’re saying that people who subsidize mortgage-holders (but do not benefit from this subsidy themselves) are not allowed to vote?

      Aside from the logical question, I don’t think that Mr. Dondero has thought out the implications of the second sentence: Do persons on Social Security, Medicare, Veterans’ benefits, Unemployment Insurance, also not get a vote? Do you realize that persons have paid into those programs

      In summary, the first sentence and the second sentence of your comment are mutually exclusive. The second sentence is very possibly incoherent but I cannot say for sure since it is too vague to operationalize.

      As a former college instructor in Informal Logic, I would fail you on this “comment” and ask you to re-do your work if you want a non-failing grade on the assignment.

    4. Since I’ll do almost anything for our readers, I googled “Eric Dondero,” half suspecting that some satirist had decided to help make my point for me. No such luck. There really is a person – or, at least, there is an on-line persona – designated “Eric Dondero,” and this is really representative of line that persona spouts. Of course, that just drives the question one layer deeper: is the whole “Eric Dondero” shtick just some low-brow Colbert Report material, or there an actual person, actually capable of using a keyboard, who actually believes this? Since the RBC “play nice” rules forbid insulting commenters, I’m going to have to give ol’ Eric the benefit of he doubt and assume this is supposed to be comedy. If so, just a word of advice. Too broad, bro. Way too broad.

      1. I’m with you on this one, Mark. My first thought was ‘this has to be a poe’ until I clicked the link to his website and had a look around. If he’s poe-ing it is indeed elaborate on a Colbert scale. But experience would suggest a likelihood that he is actually sincere — very little does anything uttered by self-described ‘Conservative Christians’ surprise me any more, nor do the rantings of self-described ‘Libertarian Republicans’, despite how utterly and self-evidently wrong they may be from a Christian or Libertarian viewpoint.

      2. Mark, have you seen *anything* which is too right-wing crazy for some libertarians to support?

        The movement has been contaminated by neo-Confederates, anti-Christian reconstructionist fascists, Pinochetian fascists, Hayekians (but I repeat myself), and other assorted scum for a long time now.

      1. And I say that because Mark’s post strikes me as exactly correct. None of the initiatives the Reeps are pushing is about stopping voter fraud. They are either themselves proposals to disenfranchise minorities or students, or else promoting a solution to a problem that is not related to the solution they express they are after. For example, voter ID laws. The fraud is more in absentee voting, not people showing up at the voting booth who are not who they say they are.

    1. Welcome back, Brett! Awaiting your comment with bated breath, and I can’t bate my breath forever.

      1. True, something might bite. 😉

        “Racialized voter suppression.” I’m afraid I don’t see that. Would this be directed against the “Don’t have appropriate ID” race? Maybe the “Can’t vote except on Sundays” race? I didn’t even know those were genetically heritable characteristics, let alone rising to the level of a racial classification.

        “Racial discrimination”, by definition, involves discriminating, on the basis of race. Are you suggesting that whites will be permitted to vote on Sundays? Vote without ID? That these laws in any way depend in their application on the race of the individual in question?

        Of course not. These are laws which operate utterly without reference to race, which treat all similarly situated people identically. You’re relying on “disparate impact”. But disparate impact is an inevitable consequence of equal treatment under the law, when people are disparately situated.

        For instance, blacks are, on average, poorer than whites. You do realize, don’t you, that this implies that charging a uniform price for hamburger, (Or, indeed, any other product.) will have “disparate impact”? Are grocery stores engaged in “racialized eating suppression” by charging everybody the same price?

        No, I must utterly reject your contention that these laws are racially motivated, let alone qualify as racist.

        Now, I have no doubt at all that you find these laws objectionable. You may even have some genuine basis for objecting to them besides the obvious fact that they marginally harm the electoral prospects of your own party. Maybe you’d like to articulate such a basis, rather than resorting to the usual cries of “racism!”?

        1. You’re right of course. The Republicans in North Carolina only want to keep blacks from voting because they tend to vote Democratic. Does that seem OK to you? Is there some legitimate purpose to be served in shutting down Sunday voting, for example?

          As to your broader point: hamburger is supposed to be for sale, more available to those with more money. But I thought the right to vote was different. Your argument, I take it, would allow the return of the poll tax in its naked form, rather than under the current thin disguise of requiring people to spend time and money to secure identification.

          (For those without either a driver’s license or a current copy of a birth certificate this can be a Catch-22, since most jurisdictions won’t give you a copy of your birth certificate unless you can show a driver’s license or the equivalent to prove that you’re you.)

          1. Back in the day, white Southern Democrats effectively disenfranchised a group that happened to vote Republican. Now, white Southern Republicans are trying to disenfrachise a group that happens to vote Democratic. Happened to be the same group each time. Coincidence, I’m sure.

          2. “The Republicans in North Carolina only want to keep blacks from voting because they tend to vote Democratic.”

            No, no, no, NO. They are not trying, AT ALL, to “keep blacks from voting”. Yes, they are trying to discourage Democrats from voting, and given that many Democrats are black, some of the Democrats they are attempting to discourage from voting are black. But they are NOT attempting to “keep blacks from voting”. They are attempting to “keep people without certain forms of ID from voting”. Attempting to “keep people who can’t be bothered to vote if they have to do it on election day from voting”. That these people may disproportionately be black is utterly irrelevant to both their aim, and their means. Nothing at all that they are doing is contingent on race.

            I realize you’ve got to make this about race. Both because Democrats have come to regard accusations of racism as the most powerful weapon in your rhetorical arsenal, (And so you use it every chance you get.) and because retaining absurdly high percentages of the black vote requires keeping the flames of racial resentment and fear fanned high.

            But the Republicans are not, no matter how much you want to make this be about race, doing anything even the tiniest bit racial. Now, perhaps you’ve got arguments for why people should be permitted to vote without presenting ID that can’t be easily faked. Perhaps you’ve got arguments for why people should be permitted to vote for a month or six months prior to election day, instead of ON election day. If you do, I suggest you relate them. Because, to state the obvious, your race card is overdrawn.

            And then maybe we can have an actual discussion about the merits of the policy, instead of your attempting to shut the discussion down preemptively by yelling “Racist!”. Because there actually are arguments on the other side, and they’ve got nothing at all to do with race.

        2. Thank you, Brett. I completely overlooked the Hamburger Clause of the Fifteenth Amendment.

          And BTW, can you say “poll tax”?

        3. Brett, I’m sorry but this doesn’t pass the straight face test. There’s no significant fraud, and these laws have a disproportionate impact on poor people. It’s called “hassling people so they won’t vote.” It’s not a proud tradition. And for once, I don’t find your (kneejerk) contrarianism even *remotely* valuable here.

          There is no honorable motive for these laws. None. People decide to put their energy into either this law, or some other one. What’s *your* explanation?

          I don’t know why I even bother asking this. Except, sometimes I get learn such weird new facts, like about … what was it? Confederate something or other-ism, the other week?

          This better be good.

          1. Seriously Brett. I don’t pay you that much attention here anyhow, but if you can’t admit what’s happening, then I may be done with you. Not that you don’t have some nice traits as a person, just, you won’t any longer be worth discussion.

            So come on, enlighten me. What’s the completely out of far-right field, utterly ridiculous justification du jour?

          2. Did I say there was an honorable motive behind this? Did I? What I said was that there wasn’t a racist motive behind it, and that the laws in question are not racially discriminatory. Unless you think racism is the one solitary dishonorable motive in the world, what I said does not equate to what you’re attributing to me.

            The motive is that Republicans want to discourage Democrats from voting. They don’t care if the people they discourage from voting are white, black, or fuchsia. They care that they vote Democratic. And that’s all. That’s not a particularly honorable motive, to be sure. But neither is it a motive precluded by the 14th amendment from being the basis of legislation.

        4. For the record, it’s a certainty that the GOP is trying to make sure it’s harder for minorities to vote. How else are they going to reliably try and keep Democrats from voting? Unless the defense is that they are incompetent, then the admission that they are suppressing Democratic votes is indistinguishable from the admission they are suppressing minority votes. You can’t keep Democrats from voting without disproportionally targeting minorities.

          It’s not a bug, it’s a feature.

          1. NCG: “Seriously Brett. I don’t pay you that much attention here anyhow, but if you can’t admit what’s happening, then I may be done with you. Not that you don’t have some nice traits as a person, just, you won’t any longer be worth discussion.”

            The man’s been a liar who makes up shit for years now (sorry, Mark – it’s the truth – but I am glad to see that you can finally recognize scum). As for nice traits, I’d like to see any evidence of them.

  2. What do libertarians have to do with the Republican attempts to decrease Democratic turnout? I know you hate us liberty-types, but we don’t go around trying to suppress the vote or gerrymander safe districts.

    I guarantee you that once Dems win back all these governorships in 2020 when it’s redistricting time, Dems will do the same things as R’s. They’ll set voting rules that favor themselves, and redraw the lines to maximize their own number of congressmen. And R’s will scream bloody murder just like you’re doing now.

    1. What do libertarians have to do with the Republican attempts to decrease Democratic turnout?

      Vote for Republicans?

    2. I guarantee you that once Dems win back all these governorships in 2020 when it’s redistricting time, Dems will do the same things as R’s

      1) Just like they did… not in living memory. Good job with the imaginary projected equivalence.
      2) OK, so you DO identify with the Republicans. That little sham didn’t last long.

      1. Correct. Also note that the Democrats’ ability to win back those governorships and legislatures depends on their actually being able to vote. Vote suppression backfired in 2012 because it wasn’t done thoroughly enough. And the gerrymander means that even a large majority of actual voters might still fail to command a majority in the legislature. It’s not obvious that the North Carolina Republicans will fail in their attempt to cement themselves into power permanently, unless the Republican Caucus on the Supreme Court can be persuaded that there are limits or unless voters – including any remaining Republicans, conservatives, and libertarians who actually believe in a republican form of government – revolt. So, Mr. Mann, question for you: are you prepared to vote Democratic to punish Republicans for their undemocratic and unconstitutional behavior, or are you just going to keep voting Republican in the name of “liberty”?

        1. “Vote suppression backfired in 2012 because it wasn’t done thoroughly enough.”

          Or perhaps because calling such mild measures “vote suppression” was nothing but wild hyperbole?

          1. Considering that (a) there were confessions and (b) many of the measures were clearly not aimed at voter fraud – no, it’s not.

    1. This is off-topic but I would love it if you, Dr. Oglesby, and Professor Kleiman would do a bloggingheads.tv web-isode on the taxing marijuana.

      The complexity of tax design is often an eye-glazing subject for the majority but I suspect it will be better on weed.

    2. I’m curious: Is there any systematic difference between the sorts of ID the law accepts, and the sorts it rejects? Like, maybe, student IDs are easy enough to get that they don’t actually prove who you are, because they can be obtained under fake names? I mean, clearly there ARE relevant differences between different sorts of ID; A passport requires hugely more proof of your actual identity to obtain, than does a library card.

      1. Note that absentee voters – mostly Republicans – don’t have to present any sort of ID at all.

        1. Note that absolutely nothing at all prevents Democrats from using absentee ballots. Rendering the complaint that they are mostly used by Republicans somewhat irrelevant.

          On your other point, that they don’t require the us of ID, quite right, and this is a real problem. I entirely agree with you that this is very solid evidence that, at least at the legislative level, Voter ID laws are not about preventing fraud. They are simply about discouraging marginal Democratic voters from voting.

          Have I at any point denied this?

          All I have been pointing out is that these laws are NOT racially discriminatory, unless you’re going to expand the definition of ‘racially discriminatory’ to automatically include anything which exhibits disparate impact, at which point virtually everything suddenly becomes racial discrimination.

          This is a partisan fight, not a racial one. That’s the only thing I’m asserting.

          Hell, on the other side, motor voter, extra voting days, and so on, are not about enfranchising minorities, but only about getting marginal Democratic voters to the polls. This fight is a partisan one, not racial, on BOTH sides.

          I simply find the reflexive cry of racism on the part of Democrats highly annoying. Not everything is about race.

          1. so motor voter, extra voting days, and a larger number of polling places aren’t used by republican voters? your argument here lacks balance between outcomes. on the one hand we have a set of reforms that make voting easier and allow more people to vote compared to a group of reforms that make voting more difficult. i know you think voting is too easy in this country but even figuring for your preferences the outcomes are unbalanced.

          2. “so motor voter, extra voting days, and a larger number of polling places aren’t used by republican voters?”

            So, Democrats don’t have ID, or sometimes vote on election day?

          3. Barry: “On your other point, that they don’t require the use of ID, quite right, and this is a real problem.”

          4. i still don’t understand why you are so infatuated with incompetent voting administration brett. is there something about deliberately adding delays and confusion to the process that appeals to you? i would have thought that efficiancy and comptenece would appeal to you as an engineer.

        2. Sorry to be an a-hole here, but it’s finally nice to find something which Mark believes in strongly enough to really go after Brett 🙂

      2. Let’s think about the arithmetic of obtaining “student IDs . . . that don’t actually prove who you are”. Wouldn’t that involve, uh, enrolling at a college or university under a false name? Not an inexpensive proposition.

        Hardly an efficient way to vote fraudulently.

        1. I’ll take voter ID laws as a good-faith serious attempt to deal with a problem — we can agree to disagree about whether there’s a problem worth solving — when somneone proposes to provide the ID free of charge instead of cherry-picking various forms of ID that certain types of folks — and we all knmow who they are — are less likely to have.

  3. I note with dejection but not surprise that no one so far has cited an actual conservative, libertarian, or Republican who actually disapproves of stealing elections. But hope springs eternal.

      1. Let’s go with the 2000 election, stolen by the Florida Secretary of State (even before butterfly ballots and hanging chads) when she ordered tens of thousands of “felons” purged from the voter rolls even though the contractor had warned her the method used would mean purging large numbers of eligible voters. Almost nine out of ten purge victims were black. Since only 537 votes gave us the catastrophic Presidency of Bush the Lesser, it’s clear that the deliberately fraudulent purge made the difference.

        Less dramatically, every action – down to the simple step of not providing enough voting machines in black precincts, leading to systematically longer waiting times for voting – designed to selectively suppress voter participation is an attempt to steal elections. Whether the NC law or others like it succeed in actually stealing elections or not, the undemocratic intention is there.

        If conservatives and libertarians are against it, they should say so. If no, we’ll know what we’re dealing with.

        1. “stolen by the Florida Secretary of State (even before butterfly ballots and hanging chads) when she ordered tens of thousands of “felons” purged from the voter rolls even though the contractor had warned her the method used would mean purging large numbers of eligible voters.”

          I recall seeing the cover letter that came with this list, at the time this became a controversy. As I recall, it did not direct that people on the list be purged, but only that they be further investigated, and purged if that investigation so indicated they should. It was a list of names to screen, not purge. Now, I will grant you that many local elections authorities skipped the tiresome investigation phase, and just purged everyone on the list. Just as other precincts skipped the investigation, and didn’t purge anybody, even people who should have been.

          None the less, the Secretary of State did not direct that the people on that list be purged. You should direct your ire at the people who did the actual deed.

          1. The Secretary of State is Florida’s chief elections officer. She was warned by the contractor that the list was faulty, and sent it out anyway. (Having first made sure that Latino surnames – in Florida back then, mostly Cuban and therefore mostly Republican – were treated more cautiously. She wasn’t alone in stealing the election, but she was a significant and deliberate contributor to the effort.

            Oh, and she was also the campaign chair for George W. Bush.

            But do I gather from your note that you disapprove of the practice of false disenfranchisement? That’s somewhat encouraging.

          2. I’ve never said anything to suggest I didn’t. I think there should be, properly, minor inconveniences involved in voting, so that the unmotivated will not bother. (But nothing somebody who actually wants to could not easily surmount.) I think people should have to register to vote in advance of elections, and vote on election day unless they can show real cause why they can’t. But I don’t think fraud should be involved at all. It should all be very straightforward, and simple enough to navigate if you actually WANT to vote.

            And I loathe the system of absentee ballots. Though impersonation fraud at the polling place undoubtedly happens, it is quite rare. Absentee ballots are where the real fraud is happening. Everybody understands that, and the fact that they’re not tackling that does indeed prove that, at least at the legislative level, this has never been about preventing fraud.

  4. I guess the argument is over who should have the privilege to vote since, apparently, voting is privilege and not a right of citizenship.

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