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A Christmas Wish for Voters

All I want for Christmas is for the Department of Justice to block South Carolina’s discriminatory voter ID law.

  • Keesha Gaskins
December 22, 2011

I read a blog this morning about the pre-Christmas hysteria suffered by children fueled by unrestrained anticipation, constant media-driven red and green stimulation and naked greed. This year, I can relate. All I want for Christmas is for the Department of Justice to deny preclearance for South Carolina’s discriminatory voter ID law.

Every day I wake I wait for my Google Alert to tell me that the Department of Justice has denied preclearance for the no-photo, no-vote Voter ID law passed by South Carolina. The Brennan Center for Justice, along with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and the League of Women Voters of South Carolina led by the ACLU Voting Rights Project submitted two comment letters urging the Department of Justice to deny preclearance to South Carolina for this blatantly retrogressive law. During his speech at the LBJ Library, Attorney General Eric Holder implied that there might be something good in my proverbial stocking if our letter was very, very good and South Carolina’s law proves to be more naughty than nice. Like every child that wants to believe in Santa but is starting to suspect that the legend is too good to be true, I operate with a level of hopeful cynicism.  anta Holder has not demonstrated a zeal for pushing back on efforts to undermine individual voting rights — will this Christmas be different? 

The good people of Mississippi could represent the Grinch that may steal my Christmas. In November 2011, Mississippi voters passed a no-photo, no-vote constitutional amendment. I worry that this administration, for good reason, may not have the political will to refuse to preclear a state constitutional amendment that was passed by popular vote. But if they deny preclearance to South Carolina and Texas and reject their new laws, there is no clear, principled reason not to deny preclearance to Mississippi’s constitutional amendment — but a strong political talking point in the fact that Mississippi’s amendment was approved by a direct popular vote. Will this political problem make it harder to deny preclearance to these disenfranchising laws in other states and ruin my Christmas?

But I hope that the elves at the Department of Justice can see that there’s a clear political difference between a law passed by popular vote and one passed by a partisan legislature. Even if they are inclined to preclear Mississippi’s no-photo, no-vote voter ID law, it need not affect the determination that both Texas’ and South Carolina’s voter ID laws are retrogressive and discriminatory. 

Every day my fear of proverbial coal in my stocking grows. Please, Santa Holder, make it a very Merry Christmas season.