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3 Ways GOP Will Double-Down on Its War On Voters in 2013

The party wants to gut federal voting law while enacting more state-based barriers.

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Moreover, for Adams—a former DOJ Voting Section attorney—to accuse another ex-DOJ Voting Section attorney costing taxpayers money because he lost some cases is hypocritical. Adams also pursued investigations that did not lead to convictions while at DOJ—for reasons that were not his fault. The personal attack is shrill but predictable from someone who has an ax to grind with DOJ.   

The larger charge—that Holder is corrupt—is nothing new in right-wing circles. Writing in National Review Online, von Spakovsky, another ex-Bush DOJ civil rights appointee, said that Holder’s DOJ has allowed New Hampshire towns to get out of VRA oversight without meeting the bail-out criteria. These attacks are meant to show that the DOJ’s oversight of voting is more politicized than a matter of protecting minorities.

“The Justice Department is acting in a highly unusual, and likely unlawful, manner in New Hampshire,” von Spakovsky wrote. “Once again, it’s a Voting Rights Act case.”

These attacks on the VRA resume a fight that was interrupted by the 2012 election. You might think that the GOP’s recent record on voter suppression—including losing almost every related lawsuit it filed in 2012—would show that the federal law was still needed, especially in states with growing minority populations. Ironically, that reality is further underscored by the next post-election trend—a spate of new laws sought by Republicans to again reshape voting rules to their liking.

2. More GOP Power Grabs

This month, a federal appeals court heard arguments over whether a recent Texas law that imposed some of the most stringent requirements in the U.S. on voter registration drives was unconstitutional. Texas is 46th among states when it comes to the share of eligible voters who are registered, but that has not stopped its Republican leadership from trying to shut down registration drives. The law was blocked in August for the rest of the presidential campaign, but this political fight is far from over. 

“The Texas regime is restrictive—and uniquely so,” wrote U.S. District Court Judge Gregg Costa, when suspending it this summer. “[No] other state of which this Court is aware has gone as far as Texas in creating a regulatory web that controls so many aspects of third-party voter registration.”  

Since the fall election, a handful of equally regressive proposals have emerged from powerful GOP state politicians. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach has asked his state legislature to give his office new powers to search and prosecute suspected cases of voter fraud. The Kansas City Star severely criticized that proposal, calling Koback “the secretary of distractions,” saying, “there is so little evidence that it actually takes place. In Kansas, as elsewhere, documented cases of voter fraud are few and far between.”  

In Wisconsin, the state Senate’s incoming Republican majority leader said he would like to gut what arguably is the best state oversight board running elections and campaign finance issues in the country. He would like to replace the retired state judges who sit on the non-partisan Government Accountability Board with political appointees. Meanwhile, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said he wants to end that state’s Election Day registration, which quickly was followed up by proposed legislation to do so.

And in Pennsylvania, that state’s Republican Senate Majority Leader is seeking support for a bill to turn that state’s winner-take-all allocation of presidential Electoral College votes into one that would allocate the state’s 18 votes proportionately. If that were in place this past November, Mitt Romney would have won eight votes rather than zero. That proposal, like the state’s new voter ID law—was suspended by the courts for the November election—but is clearly intended to help the Republican nominee in 2016.