Trump’s effort to suppress Black votes could be sued as a 15th Amendment violation: legal expert

Trump’s effort to suppress Black votes could be sued as a 15th Amendment violation: legal expert
Screenshot: Twitter/CSpan

It is no coincidence that many of the major cities where President Donald Trump's campaign is making baseless claims of widespread voter fraud have large African-American communities, including Atlanta, Detroit, Philadelphia and Milwaukee. Black voters, for the most part, favored President-elect Joe Biden over Trump. Jay Weiser, an associate professor of law emeritus at Baruch College's Zicklin School of Business in New York City, examines the racial implications of the 2020 Trump campaign's election-related lawsuits in an article published on November 27 by the conservative website The Bulwark — arguing that a strong case for 15th Amendment violations could be made.

"Donald Trump has the right to contest election law violations in court. He is likewise free to peddle whatever conspiracy theories he likes outside of court," Weiser explains. "But Trump and his team may be exposing themselves to liability for a different kind of conspiracy: one to suppress the counting of Black votes in violation of the 15th Amendment."

The 15th Amendment was added to the U.S. Constitution in 1870.

"After the Civil War," Weiser notes, "southern whites launched a campaign of terror to deny newly freed slaves the right to vote. In response, the 15th Amendment barred discrimination against voting rights on the basis of race. To enforce this, Congress passed the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871."

Section 1985(3) of the 15th Amendment allows for lawsuits if the plaintiff can show that racially motivated voting rights violations took place.

According to Weiser, "Trump's post-election barrage of specious lawsuits — 32 losses in 34 cases, so far — is not enough on its own to support a Section 1985(3) claim. But in addition to these lawsuits, the Trump campaign has '(hindered) the constituted authorities' of the states in order to disqualify presidential votes in disproportionately Black jurisdictions such as Philadelphia, 42.3% Black; Detroit, 78.6%; Atlanta, 51.8%; and Milwaukee, 38.8%. Black voters in these jurisdictions can bring lawsuits."

African-American votes heavily favored Biden over Trump in Atlanta, Detroit, Philadelphia and Milwaukee — all of which are the largest cities in battleground states where Trump's campaign has been trying to overturn the election results.

In fact, attorneys for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund are alleging, in a lawsuit, that Trump and his legal team have committed racially motivated violations of the Voting Rights Act, noting how many Black voters there are in the counties and cities where Trump's campaign has been trying to get ballots thrown out.

Weiser argues that unless the Trump campaign's efforts to disenfranchise Black voters are aggressively challenged in court, there will be more attempts at racially motivated voter suppression in the future.

"Donald Trump's post-election strategy has created a roadmap for suppressing votes on the basis of race," Weiser warns. "So, if the Trump campaign faces no liability, future candidates will be held back by nothing but their sacred honor. That's not nothing, of course. But it's a thin reed on which to hang the future of our democracy."

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