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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.

A curious and contradictory dynamic is unfolding these days on the voting rights front.

On the Left, groups like the NAACP and online news sites are saying that the GOP’s arsenal of voter suppression tactics in 2012 backfired and pushed iffy Obama backers to the polls by repeatedly telling them, "The GOP doesn’t want you to vote."

But on the Right, ideologues who’ve pushed for policing the polls are back promoting a new round of repressive voting measures. And this comes as half of rank-and-file Republicans are literally telling pollsters that leftwing ghosts—i.e., ACORN, the anti-poverty coalition that disbanded in 2010—somehow stole the 2012 election for Obama.

ACORN, of course, is shorthand for black and brown voters. That December poll, as well as recent declarations by leading conservative pundits that Mitt Romney might have won if non-white voters first saw themselves as “Americans” rather than as ethnic minorities, underscores that vast slices of the GOP are still driven by segregationist impulses.

And so Republican politicians in a handful of influential states have resumed their efforts to suppress perceived Democratic votes. They are hoping to gut the federal 1965 Voting Rights Act, which gives the Justice Department power to reject new voting rules in 16 states with histories of disenfranchising minority voters. They’re again beating the “voter fraud” drum, and Republican state leaders are launching new attacks on voting rules and referees—all in an effort to preserve GOP power.

1. Gutting the Voting Rights Act

Some progressives covering the 2012 election concluded that voting rights issues have not received as much attention since 1965, when the Voting Rights Act was passed. But before Election Day, that law was seen as endangered by Republican suits challenging the Justice Department’s power under the VRA to reject state changes in voting laws. Nonetheless, different federal courts cited the Act when rejecting recently enacted voting laws, from tougher voter ID laws in several states to redrawn district lines in Texas. (The U.S. Supreme Court will hear the case in 2013. Three years ago, the Court said the VRA’s key enforcement provisions might be on shaky ground.)

Now some of the Right’s top opponents of the VRA have opened a new and predictably ugly front against the law and its defenders. They’re saying that counties that successfully opted out of the law—after meeting requirements to do so over a decade—not only failed to meet those legal standards, but were allowed to do so by Attorney General Eric Holder for political purposes, citing allegedly leaked DOJ documents.

And they are personally attacking a former DOJ Voting Section lawyer who is defending the VRA and helping counties opt out of the law, again, citing leaked documents. “He is a true believer in federal oversight of voting, and his clients are tools to keep it in place,” wrote J. Christian Adams, on, adding that he “has a slimy history from his days at the Justice Department,” including losing a suit that cost taxpayers $87,000.  

This strategy of using DOJ leaks—which would violate federal privacy rules—to attack liberal civil rights lawyers is nothing new from the GOP’s leading troika of voter fraud agitators: J. Christian Adams, Hans von Spakovsky and John Fund.

Adams’ most recent attack is “misinformed on the facts and the law,” said two attorneys who represented a California county that met the VRA’s bailout standards. “Mr. Adams' implicit characterization of Merced County’s bailout as a sweetheart arrangement bears no relationship to actual facts. The County worked with USDOJ for more than two years on the bailout negotiations, including two in-person meetings in Washington, D.C.”