Reacting to Thad Cochran’s surprising victory over Chris McDaniel in the GOP Senate runoff last night, a panel on the June 25 edition of The Reid Report tried to comprehend why Southern states have passed voter ID laws. Host Joy Reid insinuated that there were racial overtones to these laws, believing that Republicans were attempting to “limit minority voter influence,” particularly following the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Voting Rights Act last year.
Conveniently Reid omitted that in the Magnolia State, prominent African-American Democratic politicians like the mayor of Vicksburg are perfectly fine with the law [MP3 audio here; video below].
MSNBC.com reporter Zach Roth explained that–just a few hours after the Supreme Court’s ruling–the state of Texas moved to implement their voter ID law even though the law had “already been found to be discriminatory against blacks and Hispanics by a federal court...they said, we don't care, we're going to move ahead with it.”
Roth continued by pointing out supposed discriminatory measures passed in North Carolina, which were designed simply to crack down on voter fraud:
North Carolina, essentially the same thing. They'd been waiting to pass a voter ID law. It's more than voter ID. It's a very restrictive voting law that cuts early voting and same-day registration. They'd been waiting to pass that until they no longer had to submit to federal pre-clearance. They went ahead and did that.
Reid continued pressing the point that voter ID laws are meant to “restrict African-American voters,” and asked guest Sherillyn Ifill what the objective of such laws would be.
Ifill insisted that political power, presumably by white conservative Republicans, is:
exercised over the lives of African-Americans at the local level. It's the town council, the school board, the water district, the county commission, the judicial district. And that's the level that rarely gets attention in the media but where we've seen most of mischief happen.
The panel seemed to be searching for complicated answers to a question that is rather straightforward. The reason for voter ID laws is not to restrict black voters, or Latino voters, or any voters for that matter. The purpose is to crackdown on widespread instances of fraud from people of all backgrounds in order to ensure the legitimacy of elections.
Indeed, Vicksburg, Mississippi Mayor George Flaggs would agree. The Democratic mayor told CBS News the other day:
At this point in time, I don't think we should spend a lot of time trying to discourage voters from participating in the electoral process by continuing to talk about it. We should be trying to enhance opportunity for people trying to get an ID at a much earlier age[.]
Flaggs, CBS News noted, “voted in favor of the law during his 26 years serving in the Mississippi legislature.”
Of course, perspectives like those of Mayor Flaggs – that it’s time for voter ID mandates coupled with more aggressive efforts by states to get more and more citizens access to obtaining photo Ids – are virtually ignored on the Lean Forward network.
What’s more, recent polling data show 70 percent of Americans favor voter ID requirements. While African-Americans are the demographic group most skeptical of them, there is still a majority of black voters (51 percent) who support voter ID requirements.
The relevant transcript of the segment appears below:
The Reid Report
June 25, 2014
2:30 p.m. Eastern
JOY-ANN REID, host: The unexpected result in Mississippi in which a long-time incumbent held off a strong Tea Party challenger with the help of black Democratic voters illustrated a salient but often overlooked point, the huge untapped pool of black voters in the very region where black votes are typically the least decisive in the outcome of elections, the South. If you want to understand why voter ID laws and other restrictions continue to proliferate, particularly in the South, consider this. The Center for American Progress released a study this month which found that of the 1.5 million people who have moved just to Georgia in the last decade, most counted themselves as minorities in the 2010 census. And of that total, 800,000 eligible voters remain unregistered. That's just in Georgia where the average margin of victory in presidential elections in the last three cycles was 260,000. The CAP study found the same trend across the south, which is home to an estimated 3.7 million unregistered African-Americans and 4 million unregistered Latino and Asian-American potential voters. And while the civil rights movement fought to help black southern voters gain access to a political system dominated by the Democratic Party, now that white southerners have all but abandoned the party and because Republicans absolutely control the South, what does that mean for those who seek to limit minority voter influence in today's elections? Sherrilyn Iffil is the President and director council of the NAACP legal defense and education fund, and Zach Roth is national reporter for MSNBC.com. I'm going to start at the table with you, Zach. You wrote, because today is actually the one-year anniversary of the Shelby v. Holder decision that essentially gutted the Voting Rights Act by declaring section four unconstitutional the formula, and therefore basically making, as you call it, a zombie out of section five. And you write that Shelby's most direct impact was felt in the southern states that were suddenly freed from oversight in their voting changes. And that you note, almost immediate moves took place to pass voter restrictions in the states you isolate and look at are Texas, North Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia. All across the South. They didn't wait very long.
ZACH ROTH, MSNBC.com reporter: No, in fact, the very day, I think a few hours after the Supreme Court made its ruling, Greg Abbott, the Republican attorney general of Texas, said we are going to move ahead with our voter ID law, which had already been found to be discriminatory against blacks and Hispanics by a federal court. Now that section 5 was out of their way, they said, we don't care, we're going to move ahead with it and it’s been in effect since then. North Carolina, essentially the same thing. They'd been waiting to pass a voter ID Law. It's more than a voter ID It's a very restrictive voting law that cuts early voting and same-day registration. Anyway, they'd been waiting to pass that until they no longer had to submit to federal pre-clearance. They went ahead and did that. Similar story in Alabama. All across the south, you've seen them explicitly say, we are taking advantage of this ruling to go ahead with these laws.
REID: Right, and Sherrilyn, I think what's counterintuitive when they look at what's happening in the South is that the South is solidly Republican territory. People ask themselves, why would anybody want to bother to restrict African-American voters? Well, the Mississippi case that we just saw, because it is an open primary state, kind of illustrates maybe one reason why. Can you sort of talk to that counterintuitive notion that people maybe don't understand why a southern state would care to restrict black voters and brown voters at all.
SHERRILYN IFILL, NAACP: Well, we should remember, Joy, to think about two levels of political power. You're absolutely right. There's the power at the state level in which there are real concerns about African-American voter turnout. As that voter turnout increases, you find that these voter suppression efforts increase at the statewide level. Restrictions on early voting, stringent voter ID laws, even redistricting to try and minimize minority voting strength. But we should also remember that political power, particularly in the south, is exercised over the lives of African-Americans at the local level. It's the town council, the school board, the water district, the county commission, the judicial district. And that's the level that rarely gets attention in the media but where we've seen most of mischief happen. We compiled for the Senate Judiciary Committee today, and I testified and submitted written testimony as well, all of the changes that we could find since the Shelby decision. You see these intense changes at the local level, the closing of polling places, the intimidation of black voters in Sopchoppy, Florida in June of 2013. We're seeing a return to the kind of activity that section five was really meant to deal with. And we shouldn't take our eye off the fact that local power is also at stake here.
REID: And Zach, you know, we were talking a little bit in the break. I'm going to give you a chance to talk back to the ‘so what’ answer that you get from people who support voter ID and say look at what just happened in Mississippi. Look how many African-Americans came out. They were decisive in that primary. It doesn't look like any black people are being held back from voting at all. Even saying to you, when are you going to admit you are wrong? Voter ID doesn't have any negative impact. What do you say to that?
ROTH: In the Mississippi case, one of the reasons why we had a relatively smooth election, it sounds like, is because Mississippi itself and the U.S. Justice department came out and said, you are not allowed to do this kind of poll watching you're talking about doing. And we're going to be watching closely to make sure. So that–you know, tough those safeguards in place, that makes a big difference. Broadly, on the voter ID question, how many examples do we need to find of individual voters, black, white, whatever, who are denied from voting? We just had one last week that we publicized in Alabama a couple weeks ago. Larger studies show there are hundreds of thousands of people in each of these states who don't have IDs I don't know where you go from that.