Vote-suppressing racist Republicans lose big in swing state

     North Carolina NAACP president, Rev. William Barber, center at podium gestures as he is surrounded by supporters during a news conference at the Third Street Bethel AME Church in Richmond, Va., Tuesday, June 21, 2016. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

    North Carolina NAACP president, Rev. William Barber, center at podium gestures as he is surrounded by supporters during a news conference at the Third Street Bethel AME Church in Richmond, Va., Tuesday, June 21, 2016. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

    Here’s the ’16 campaign in a nutshell: Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine spent the weekend barnstorming by bus in middle-American towns, grinding out the Democratic ground game in Ohio and Pennsylvania; meanwhile, Donald Trump spent the weekend descending to a new low of depravity, picking fights with the Gold Star parents of a dead American hero.

    It’s tempting to dwell exclusively on this latest manifestation of Trump’s twisted psyche, fresh evidence (as if we needed more) that he’s a public menace. But let’s focus instead on the most significant political story of the past few days — the federal appeals court ruling that has foiled the best laid plans of North Carolina’s ruling Republican racists.

    Their mendacious attempt to suppress the votes of African-Americans, and thus rig that critical swing state for the Republican presidential nominee, has been exposed and eviscerated. This court ruling is a major victory for democracy — and a potential game-changer in this election.

    The odds of a reversal, prior to election day, are miniscule. Trump has few routes to victory on the Electoral College map, and North Carolina — which went blue in ’08 and red in ’12 — was essential. I say “was,” because the state GOP’s vote-suppression law, enacted in ’13 as a purported cure to the nonexistent scourge of voter fraud, but which in truth was a scheme to maximize the clout of Republican white people, died on Friday.

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    In recent weeks, three other judges have ruled against Republican vote-suppression efforts in three other states, but the appeals court verdict on North Carolina is by far the most definitive. No other ruling in memory has so thoroughly outed the GOP’s calculated racism. The appeals judges discovered that the Republican legislative majority targeted black voters “with almost surgical precision.”

    Those of us who have tracked the party’s vote-suppression efforts (including its Pennsylvania scheme, nixed by a court in 2012) have long pointed out that the GOP’s stated rationale — its concern about voter fraud — is demonstrably phony. Because there’s virtually no voter fraud. I’ve cited a massive study that found a grand total of 10 voter impersonation cases nationwide in the first 12 years of this century. Another massive study found 31 cases, out of one billion ballots cast, in the first 14 years of this century.

    The appeals judges, citing that evidence, concluded that the Republicans sought to “impose cures for problems that did not exist” by enacting “one of the largest restrictions of the franchise in modern North Carolina history.” The racism was right there in the legislative record. The judges called it out.

    When the law was first being crafted, Republican lawmakers specifically asked its researchers for data on black voting behavior. Turned out, as the judges wrote, “that African Americans disproportionately lacked the most common kind of photo ID, those issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles.” Therefore, “with race data in hand, the legislature amended the bill to exclude many of the alternative photo IDs used by African-Americans. The bill retained only the kinds of IDs that white North Carolinians were more likely to possess.”

    The GOP’s “discriminatory intent” (as the judges call it) was repeatedly blatant. North Carolina allowed people to register and vote on election day, but when the data showed that blacks made disproportionate use of same-day registration, Republican lawmakers erased that option. North Carolina also had a 17-day early voting window, including the final two Sundays before election day. But when Republican lawmakers discovered in the data that blacks voted heavily during the first seven days of that window, and especially on that initial Sunday, they erased the first seven days and that initial Sunday.

    And what truly amazed the appeals judges is that the North Carolina Republicans admitted their true intent in court. The GOP’s lawyers flatly stated that the counties that made the most use of Sunday voting “were disproportionately black.”

    The judges pounced on that admission in their ruling: “Thus, in what comes as close to a smoking gun as we are likely to see in modern times, the state’s very justification for a challenged statute hinges explicitly on race — specifically its concern that African Americans who has overwhelmingly voted for Democrats — had too much access to the franchise.”

    This federal ruling re-enfranchises roughly one million North Carolinians (who don’t have drivers’ licenses, who previously used early voting and same-day registration). They’re not all voters of color, and of course they’re not all guaranteed to favor Clinton over Trump. But clearly the party of white people has been dealt a major blow.

    Gee, that’s too bad. As the judges wrote, the GOP’s clout in the North Carolina legislature “does not empower [it] to engage in purposeful racial discrimination …. The record evidence is clear that this is exactly what was done here.”

    As if any of us are surprised.

    True story: I once had a cat who was flummoxed by the winter. He’d run outside, shiver, run back inside, wait a couple minutes, run back outside, shiver, run back inside, wait, then go again — forever convinced that if he hewed to his old behavior, he’d miraculously find better weather.

    Well, guess what: Donald Trump, early this morning, tweeted this:

    Mr. Khan, who does not know me, viciously attacked me from the stage of the DNC and is now all over T.V. doing the same – Nice!

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 1, 2016

    It’s Day Five! And he’s still fighting with the Gold Star dad!

    Good grief, let it go already. Thank the guy for his son’s heroic service and move on already.

    But no. Trump somehow thinks that if he keeps tweeting on this, he’ll get better weather — even as the backlash to his behavior gets increasingly colder. This guy is as dumb as that cat.

    Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1, and on Facebook.

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