House Republican leaders have decided to fast track what they may think is a simple reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act, H.R. 9. In their haste, they may well be writing an obituary for fair elections.
Let’s look to the Left to see the danger. Liberal interest groups almost unanimously support the current legislation. They’ve read the bill, especially the ominous language of section 5 “criteria for declaratory judgment”:
Any voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, or procedure with respect to voting that has the purpose of or will have the effect of diminishing the ability of any citizens of the United States on account of race or color, or in contravention of the guarantees set forth in section 4(f)(2), to elect their preferred candidates of choice denies or abridges the right to vote within the meaning of subsection (a) of this section.
What do groups who have endorsed H.R. 9 believe to be obstacles to the right to vote? Common Cause has a list:
I.D. Requirements: “Once registered, voters need not bring identification with them to vote. Identification can consist of a broad range of documents so as not to discriminate against those without driver’s license or other official ID.”
Bans of Felon Voting: “The right to vote should be automatically restored to people who have been convicted of a felony and have served their time in prison.”
Purging of Voter-Registration Lists: “Voter databases must be accurate and complete. A voter cannot be purged from the list unless there is direct communication from the voter, the registrar of another state, or from the courts (in the case of a voter who has committed a felony).”
Should H.R. 9 be signed into law, there will be a flood of lawsuits challenging every effort, including those opposed by Common Cause, to reduce the possibility of voter fraud as long as someone, somewhere can suggest a “disparate impact” upon a protected minority group.
Those protected minorities would now include all Limited English Proficient (LEP) voters everywhere in the United States.
Section 5 of H.R. 9 specifically cites the “guarantees set forth in section 4(f)(2)” of the Voting Rights Act for a reason. Section 4(f)(2) states:
No voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, or procedure shall be imposed or applied by any State or political subdivision to deny or abridge the right of any citizen of the United States to vote because he is a member of a language minority group.
Those states and localities which have managed to avoid the cost of mandatory multilingual voting should be aware that the other side considers requiring people to vote in English to impose a disparate impact upon (LEP) voters.
To add insult to injury for state and local taxpayers, Section 8 of H.R. 9 replaces “census data” with “American Community Survey data in 5-year increments.” In other words, the discredited idea of “census sampling” would be imposed on the American voting system.
The American Community Survey is a sample, by its own admission:
The sample for the ACS uses a two-stage stratified annual sample of approximately 838,000 housing units designed to measure socioeconomic and demographic characteristics of housing units and their occupants.
The ACS determines an entire household Limited English Proficient if it contains just one speaker of any foreign language in the entire household (American Community Survey 2004 Subject Definitions, page 62). Last names matter to the ACS too: “Spanish and non-Spanish surnames are also used to assist in assigning an origin” (page 41). ACS believes, mistakenly, that every “Lopez” struggles with English.
An LEP individual, such as an illegal-alien farm worker, need reside in a community during just February and March in order to trigger bilingual ballot requirements for years, even if that LEP individual is long gone.
According to the “Advanced Methodology” section on the “Two Month” rule and the ACS:
This rule states that if a person is staying in a sample unit at the time of survey contact, and is staying there for more than two months, he or she is a current resident of that unit whether or not the unit is also the person’s usual residence under census rules. … If a person has no place where he or she usually stays the person is to be considered a current resident of the sample unit regardless of the length of the current stay.
In short, the Voting Rights Act could now also be known as “The Endless Election Litigation Act,” “The Vote Fraud Enabling Act,” and “The Mandatory Multilingual Elections Everywhere Act.”
House Republicans were denied a chance to amend this dreadful bill before the July 4th recess. Now it is back on the House agenda. And Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R., Pa.) can be relied on to push it through the Senate before August recess if the House passes it.
Without amendment, that would be doing rights wrong.
– Jim Boulet Jr. is executive director of English First.