Republicans don’t want to admit it, but their policies just aren’t very popular. Polls consistently find that large majorities of Americans back policies and positions that are identified with liberals. But Republicans manage to hold majorities in state legislatures and in the U.S. House of Representatives, in many cases due to gerrymandering districts to give GOP candidates an advantage. Following the election of President Obama, Republicans decided to take their cheating to the next level, by creating strict “voter ID” laws that were designed to disenfranchise traditional Democratic constituencies. And one by one, courts have smacked them down.
On Friday, Republican plans to cheat to win in the 2016 election were delivered another major defeat by courts as voting restrictions were put on hold in three separate states. In one, reliably red Kansas, the ruling will probably have no effect on the presidential election. But in the two others, Wisconsin and North Carolina, striking down their voter ID laws could mean the difference between a Clinton or Trump victory in those states.
In Wisconsin, federal Judge James D. Peterson ruled that parts of that state’s law were unconstitutional. He was blunt in his criticism:
The evidence in this case casts doubt on the notion that voter ID laws foster integrity and confidence. The Wisconsin experience demonstrates that a preoccupation with mostly phantom election fraud leads to real incidents of disenfranchisement, which undermine rather than enhance confidence in elections, particularly in minority communities. To put it bluntly, Wisconsin’s strict version of voter ID law is a cure worse than the disease.
The judgement against the North Carolina law was even harsher. A three-judge panel of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the law as written is racist on its face. Judge Diana Gribbon Motz wrote in the unanimous decision,
In response to claims that intentional racial discrimination animated its action, the State offered only meager justifications. Although the new provisions target African Americans with almost surgical precision, they constitute inapt remedies for the problems assertedly justifying them and, in fact, impose cures for problems that did not exist. Thus the asserted justifications cannot and do not conceal the State’s true motivation.
Quoting from another court decision, Motz added,
‘The State took away [minority voters’] opportunity because [they] were about to exercise it.’ As in LULAC, ‘[t]his bears the mark of intentional discrimination.’
The ruling was another setback for North Carolina’s Republican governor, Pat McCrory, who had just recently watched the NBA pull their all-star game out of Charlotte over the state’s so-called “bathroom law.” McCrory lashed out in a statement:
Photo IDs are required to purchase sudafed, cash a check, board an airplane or enter a federal court room. Yet, three Democratic judges are undermining the integrity of our elections while also maligning our state. We will immediately appeal and also review other potential options.
The judges in the North Carolina case observed that under the law a driver’s license is an acceptable form of state issued ID. But a public assistance benefit card, used much more by minorities in the state than whites, is not.
McCrory has some personal skin in the game. He is in the middle of a tough re-election fight against the state’s Democratic attorney general, Roy Cooper. It is certainly in McCrory’s interest to see that the law is in place for November.
Predictably, other North Carolina Republicans also accused the judges of being partisan Democrats. Motz and James A. Wynn, Jr. were both appointed to the bench by Democratic presidents, but the third judge, Henry Floyd, was nominated for a federal judgeship by George W. Bush, and later elevated to the appeals court by President Obama.
These cases will both likely wind up at the U.S. Supreme Court, where, given the current composition of that body, the lower court rulings will almost certainly be upheld.
Featured image via Sarah D. Davis/Getty Images