New Voting Rights Struggle?

Even as the U.S. Supreme Court prepares for what may be a fatal blow aimed at the enforcement provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, there is a-stirring new sentiment for finally moving to make routine voter suppression efforts typically aimed at the intended beneficiaries of the 1965 Act violations of federal law. Sen. Barbara Boxer has introduced legislation requiring states to comply with minimum national election standards:

The LINE Act (or the Lines Interfere with National Elections Act) would require the Attorney General, in consultation with the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC), to issue new national standards by January 1, 2014 regarding the minimum number of voting machines, election workers, and other election resources that are necessary to conduct Federal elections on Election Day and during early voting periods. The bill explicitly states that the goal of minimum standards is to prevent a waiting time of more than one hour at any polling place.

Senator Boxer’s bill also would require states where voters endured long lines to implement remedial plans to fix the problems before the next federal election. Under the legislation, the Attorney General working with the EAC would identify states that had a substantial number of voters who waited more than 90 minutes to vote in the 2012 election. Those states would have to comply with a remedial plan to ensure voters would not face similar delays in the future.

We’ll hear whining from many states that they just can afford to run competent elections, and complaining from Republicans that more voting means more “fraud.” And most of all, we’ll see indifference as this issue once again fades with memories of the latest election.

But there’s some hope insofar as President Obama promised to “fix that” on Election Night, a pledge his Attorney General seemed to be reinforcing, if somewhat vaguely, in a speech last night at the JFK Presidential Library.

Indeed, an assault on old voting rights laws could provide fresh impetus for new ones. At a minimum, such a shock might finally convince the MSM and even progressive media that this isn’t some boring process issue.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.