In the wake of Barack Obama’s election to the presidency in 2008, a panicked GOP, citing illusory ‘voter fraud,’ did what it could wherever it could to restrict voting rights for minorities.
CAROL ANDERSON / 06.24.16 1:00 AM ET / Cross post from the Daily Beast
President Obama’s 2008 election, with an unprecedented turnout and 69 percent of the 15 million new voters casting their ballot for him, rattled the Republicans.
Even more unsettling was the demographic make-up of these new voters; this was not the group—African Americans, Asians, Latinos—who comprised the GOP, which was 92 percent white. Equally troubling was that for the first time, blacks had voted at a rate virtually equal to whites.
Caught between the right-wing hardening of the party’s ideology and the massive influx of new voters, who were repulsed by key planks in the GOP’s platform, the Republicans chose disfranchisement as the only tool to “put the white back in the White House.”
Republican-controlled state legislatures, claiming that there was widespread (but still yet to be documented) voter fraud, crafted a series of laws designed to curtail access to the ballot box. The U.S. Supreme Court, in Shelby County v. Holder (2013), followed up in a 5-4 decision by gutting the Voting Rights Act and removing the ability of the Justice Department to review changes in voting requirements prior to enactment by a state, county, or municipality that had a proven history of discrimination at the polls.
Texas is a case in point. Almost the moment Shelby County v. Holder was announced, that state’s Republican-dominated legislature put through a highly restrictive voter ID law, S.B. 14. A phalanx of civil rights organizations, including the NAACP and the League of United Latin American Citizens, minority voters, and Mexican American legislative and Hispanic judges associations, immediately sued the state of Texas. During the two-week trial in the fall of 2014, the attorney general of Texas, Greg Abbott, argued that the law was necessary to stop and prevent rampant voter-identification fraud. Yet, out of ten million votes, he could produce only two documented cases of voter impersonation. On the other hand, it became clear that nearly 600,000 Texans, mainly poor, black, and Hispanic, didn’t have the newly required IDs and often faced financial and bureaucratic obstacles in obtaining them.
Excerpted from White Rage by Carol Anderson. Copyright © Carol Anderson 2016. Published by Bloomsbury USA. Reprinted with permission.
Carol Anderson is professor of African American studies at Emory University. She is the author of many books and articles, including Bourgeois Radicals: The NAACP and the Struggle for Colonial Liberation, 1941-1960 and Eyes Off the Prize: The United Nations and the African American Struggle for Human Rights: 1944-1955. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia.