Courts: Texas, Wisconsin Voter-ID Laws Are Racist
States that rushed to enact restrictive, racist voting-rights laws after the Supreme Court's controversial decision last term are being reined in by a new round of rulings.
By Daryl Hannah
Texas voters will not need to present a photo ID in order to cast a ballot this November, thanks to a ruling by U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos, who likened the newly proposed requirement to a poll tax deliberately meant to suppress Black and Latino voter turnout.
In a nearly 150-page decision, Gonzales Ramos struck down the state's three-year-old law, which has been deemed the nation's harshest, citing its disproportionate impact on Black and Latino voters.
"[The law] creates an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote, has an impermissible discriminatory effect against Hispanics and African-Americans, and was imposed with an unconstitutional discriminatory purpose," she wrote in her decision. "Proponents of [the law] within the 82nd Texas Legislature were motivated, at the very least in part, because of and not merely in spite of the voter ID law's detrimental effects on the African-American and Hispanic electorate."
Gonzales Ramos later filed a permanent injunction against enforcement of the law.
Opponents slammed the law because it meant that college-student IDs wouldn't be accepted by poll workers, but concealed handgun licenses would. It also meant that as many as 600,000 mostly Black and Latino voters would not be eligible to vote because they lacked an eligible photo ID. Texas did offer free voter IDs to anyone who presented a Texas birth certificate, but the Justice Department argued that the $3 fee to obtain a birth certificate and the travel to get those documents placed an undue burden on poor voters. As a result, the state has only issued 300 free voter IDs in the three years since the law took effect.
"We are extremely heartened by the court's decision, which affirms our position that the Texas voter-identification law unfairly and unnecessarily restricts access to the franchise," U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement. "Even after the Voting Rights Act was seriously eroded last year, we vowed to continue enforcing the remaining portions of that statute as aggressively as possible. This ruling is an important vindication of those efforts."
Texas was released from federal preclearance requirements after the Supreme Court gutted parts of the Voting Rights Act last summer. Along with 22 other states, Texas quickly enacted restrictive voting-rights laws to limit access to the ballot.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott's office has vowed to appeal, but agreed that the state may hold midterm elections under rules that predate the voter-ID law.
"The court today effectively ruled that racial discrimination simply cannot spread to the ballot box," said Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
The Texas decision wasn't the only recent victory for voting-rights advocates. Just hours before, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals' decision and blocked Wisconsin's photo-ID law from taking effect in the November election, citing similar discrimination concerns.
According to the ACLU of Wisconsin and the Advancement Project, the two lead plaintiffs in the case, Wisconsin's new voting laws would disenfranchise as many as 300,000 voters, most of whom are people of color, elderly or people with disabilities.
Late last week, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a one-page order that vacated the appeals court ruling pending further proceedings. Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented, saying the application should have been denied because there was no indication that the Seventh Circuit had demonstrably erred.
"I believe the voter-ID law is constitutional, and nothing in the Court's order suggests otherwise," Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen said in a statement. "We will be exploring alternatives to address the court's concern and have voter-ID on Election Day."
The Texas and Wisconsin rulings are a shift in the recent court battles over voting-rights laws. Most recently, restrictive voting-rights laws were upheld in Georgia and Indiana. Last week, the Supreme Court ruled that North Carolina could eliminate same-day voting, overturning a lower court's decision. SCOTUS also ruled that Ohio could cut the early-voting window, evening hours and Sunday voting.
Despite these setbacks, the Justice Department remains steadfast in its effort to extend voting rights. Said Holder: "This department will never yield in its commitment to protecting that most sacred of Americans' rights—the right to vote."
"I am the descendant of African slaves. I am the descendant of Indigenous people. I am the descendant of Spanish colonizers," explained Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in an MSNBC interview.
Conversations around race and ethnicity have been prominent in the media because of the onslaught of diverse newly elected public officials. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) is one of them. In an interview on MSNBC, she addressed her heritage with respect to her race.
Oracle's "suppression of pay for its non-white, non-male employees is so extreme that it persists and gets worse over long careers," according to a federal filing.
The U.S. Department of Labor, in a federal filing on Tuesday, accused Oracle of underpaying thousands of people of color and women employees by more than $400 million. Employees with years of experience are paid as much as 25 percent less than their white male peers.
"I prefer the whole freakin' nation to be white," the woman says.
Latino guests were the main targets, and individual checks aren't nearly enough for the "inconvenience."
Free Daily Newsletter
We won't share your email with anyone.
The Children's Place may not be so welcoming if you're Black or Brown.
Miriam and Carlita Alejandro, Latinx sisters, shopping at The Children's Place in Camp Hill, Pa., got harassed by a nosey store clerk when they ask to price match clothes. A sales associate said the women were angry because they're on welfare.
Miriam said she was there to help a family who had lost everything in a fire by purchasing clothes for a child. Ms. Rhonda, the store clerk who was helping the ladies, said they may have to wait for the price check because the store was busy.
Miriam wrote on her Facebook page that she responded to Ms. Rhonda: "'Lancaster never gives us any issues or said such a thing, but okay.' Then Price Match Patty aka Genie who was never in our conversation started getting smart saying that we (my sister & I) 'were mad because we were on welfare.'"
Ms. Rhonda didn't know what to do when the Alejandro sisters reported what the nosey store employee said, but she attempted to chastise her. Miriam started recording to document the experience they had.
Price Match Patty has been fired, according to a company statement provided on Monday. Carlita Alejandro posted on Facebook that the company called and offered gift cards and reward points to continue spending her money at the retailer.
Because that's the way to handle your company's screw up-- buy off the people your employees have offended?
Alejandro wrote, "I will NEVER feel safe nor welcomed shopping their stores again!!"
The Children's Place has a history of discrimination. In 2000, they lost a lawsuit concerning profiling customers and had to provide anti-discrimination training in all stores in Massachusetts and hire a consultant to look at their policies.
Unrelated to the incident, two executives left the company this week (Pamela Wallack and Anurup Pruthi), "to pursue other opportunities" — the only minority and the only female in the C-Suite (other than the female CEO). The Children's Place Inc. has never participated in DiversityInc's Top 50 Companies for Diversity competition.
CEO and president Jane Elfers said, "As we approach the last phase of our major systems implementations, the opportunity exists for significant efficiencies across the organization, and today we are announcing a more streamlined senior leadership structure."
Price Match Patty has not been fully identified yet, but some commenters on social media say she's married to a Black man, like Key Fob Kelly in St. Louis. That wouldn't excuse her behavior anyway.
Others say they have been profiled at that same store by Price Match Patty and others before: