Tuesday, October 20, 2009

So Much for Democracy... DOJ Overrules the Will of the People in Kinston, N.C.

The Washington Times ran a story today that got me all fired up:

Justice concludes black voters need Democratic Party: U.S. blocks N.C. city's nonpartisan vote

I'm pretty much of the opinion that cities, counties and states should be able to self-govern by the vote of their residents and the leadership of their elected officials without too much interference from federal bureaucracy. Therefore, when a city votes nearly 2 to 1 to do away with partisan elections for its city council and mayoral races, I'm inclined to support that outcome. After all, who better to know what will serve voters than the voters themselves?

Apparently, the Department of Justice claims to know better what will serve (black) voters in Kinston, North Carolina.

The Department overruled the city's overwhelming majority vote to adopt nonpartisan elections for city races, stating that "(r)emoving the partisan cue in municipal elections will, in all likelihood, eliminate the single factor that allows black candidates to be elected to office."

What is the "partisan cue?" It's the "D" next to a black candidate's name that prompts white Democrats to vote for that black candidate. Although blacks make up almost two-thirds of the voters in Kinston, the Department of Justice seems to think that they do not have the ability to elect black candidates without white "D" votes.

Does the Department of Justice believe that voters in Kinston are not sophisticated enough to know or learn what a candidate stands for without a party designation?

The Department's ruling goes on to state, "It is the partisan makeup of the general electorate that results in enough white cross-over to allow the black community to elect a candidate of choice."

What is a "candidate of choice" for black voters in Kinston? It's a black candidate, according to the Department.

And why, with black voters comprising nearly two-thirds of the voting rolls, would they have trouble electing a black "candidate of choice?" Maybe they don't show up at the polls. According to the ruling, "black voters have had limited success in electing candidates of choice during recent municipal elections," due to low turnout.

Therefore, the overruling of the city's vote to eliminate partisan elections is a formula: compensate for low minority voter turnout so that minority candidates still get elected.

Is it just me, or does this ruling seem incredibly racist?

To suggest that black voters need an advantage in getting "their" candidates elected when they hold nearly two-thirds of the votes is an insult to those voters. Rather than enabling minority voter apathy, bureaucrats - if they must interfere - should be pushing minorities to show up at the polls, to harness their large numbers, and CREATE the victory.

If you find yourself wondering at this point (as I did) why the Department of Justice has any say over Kinston, North Carolina's voting procedures, look to the Voting Rights Act of 1964, which was enacted to ensure that racism and discrimination did not prohibit blacks from voting. Several areas of the United States were proven to have used screening methods (such as literacy tests) to disqualify otherwise qualified individuals from voter registration, in an effort to prevent blacks from casting a vote. The Voting Rights Act mandated that certain areas, shown to have demonstrated such discrimination, would not be able to change their election or voting procedures without the consent of the Department of Justice. Certain counties in North Carolina fall under the mandate of the Voting Rights Act, and Kinston happens to be in such a county.

Here's where things get fun: The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights isn't exactly cheerleading the Department of Justice's decision. The Commission's Abigail Thernstrom points out, " "The Voting Rights Act is supposed to protect against situations when black voters are locked out because of racism... There is no entitlement to elect a candidate they prefer on the assumption that all black voters prefer Democratic candidates."

What about the Department of Justice's assertion that low minority voter turnout must be compensated by a "partisan cue" for white voters to cast votes for the blacks' "candidate of choice?"

"The Voting Rights Act is not supposed to be compensating for failure of voters to show up on Election Day," says Thernstrom. "The Voting Rights Act doesn't guarantee an opportunity to elect a 'candidate of choice.'"

Well said. Why not give black voters the privilege - and the responsibility - of generating their own victories?

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Opus #6 said...

I saw your tweet on this. How intrusive. Do local people have any rights at all? Is there ANY limit on Federal authority? This is scary.

The Gonzo Mama said...

The real tragedy is that the Voting Rights Act is a fairly outdated law that punishes once-discriminatory areas for past sins, even if racial voting bias is no longer an issue, by denying the citizens' right to define their own local voting procedures.