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Recreating the Jim Crow Electorate in Arkansas


John Roberts, writing his decision in Shelby County:

“There is no denying … that the conditions that originally justified these measures no longer characterize voting in the covered jurisdictions.”

Arkansas, 2018:

In 2014, 90-year-old Doris Pendleton and 93-year-old Susie Thomas received notices in the mail that their ballots would not count. The state had recently enacted a voter ID law that required absentee voters like them to include a copy of their photo ID when they mailed in their ballot. The elderly black sisters had voted since the 1940s and remembered paying poll taxes to cast a ballot, but neither was aware of the law or had a copy of their birth certificate easily accessible.

“This happened in a lot of counties that year where you have concentrated numbers of older black voters,” Pendleton’s son, Marion Humphrey, told ThinkProgress. “I know first-hand how annoyed and offended and just bewildered by mother and my aunt were. They were afraid their votes wouldn’t count in the future.”

In October of that year, Arkansas’ highest court struck down the state’s voter ID law. In a unanimous ruling, the court found that the law violated the state constitution by depriving eligible citizens of their right to vote.

But, undeterred, Arkansas’ GOP-controlled legislature tried again.

Last year, the state passed a new version of its voter ID law that is almost exactly the same as the previous version. The only difference between the new bill and the 2013 version, which the courts invalidated, is the language used to describe voter ID: The current version requires “verification of registration” while the last bill used the term “proof of identity.” The acceptable forms of ID are the same.

In a lawsuit filed in state court Wednesday, a plaintiff who challenged the first law claims that this effort is also unconstitutional and seeks an emergency injunction to block it before the upcoming primary.

Like Jim Crow voting laws, Arkansas Republicans don’t care if some white people can’t vote because of this too. The point is to reduce the vote enough that the right people continue to hold power, by which they mean white elites. But hey, Antonin Scalia heard a lot of talk on right-wing talk radio about whites being discriminated against so one can see why Shelby County made sense.

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