Brentin Mock

Brentin Mock is lead reporter for Voting Rights Watch, a partnership between and The Nation magazine. Over the past year, he covered the voter-ID law controversy, felony disenfranchisement, voter intimidation and challenges to the Voting Rights Act.

Recent Articles

The War Against Early Voting Heats Up

The ink is barely dry on the report from President Obama’s election administration commission and states are already disregarding its blue-ribbon recommendations, namely around early voting. The endorsement of expanding the voting period before Election Day was one of the strongest components of the bipartisan commission’s report. But yesterday Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted released a new voting schedule that deletes both pre-Election Day Sundays from the early voting formula. Under the new rules, people can vote in the four weeks before Election Day, Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and on the final two Saturdays before Election Day. The Sunday erasures come in conflict with the “souls to the polls” black church-led campaigns to take their congregants to vote after worship services. When Husted dropped Sunday from the early voting period in 2012 it landed him in court, where a federal judge ultimately forced him to reinstate Sunday voting. In 2008, over 77...

The Latest Lie in the Push For Voter ID Restrictions

To the Republican supporters of laws that would treat the poll booth like an exclusive nightclub that asks for photo ID and other qualifications before allowing entry, the answer to why anyone would oppose this is simple: They must not want to vote badly enough. This was the logic for Wisconsin State Senator Glenn Grothman who last week on MSNBC said , "I really don't think they care that much about voting in the first place, right?" in response to a question about how African-American voters might be impacted by voter ID and early voting cuts. This is not anomalous thinking among Republicans. Similar comments have been made by Republican state legislators in Nevada , Pennsylvania , and Florida . In fact, they say these things so often publicly that you have to wonder if it’s some kind of dog-whistle to the more racially polarized portion of their voting base. The idea that people of color don't "care" about voting ignores how expensive it can be to meet the qualifications of voter ID...

Change is Bad. At Least for the VRA

Flickr/Ben Haley
On Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Shelby County v. Holder , the fifth time the Voting Rights Act’s Section 5 has been challenged in the high court since it was passed in 1965. Section 5 requires nine states and portions of six others with a history of racial discrimination to have changes to election law “pre-cleared” by the government before going into effect. Every lower court has upheld the provision as constitutional, and Congress reauthorized it four times—always with overwhelming bipartisan support. But Shelby County, Alabama—the plaintiffs in this case—still wonders why it gets treated differently than Tennessee, which is not covered by Section 5 and which passed a voter-ID law—thought by many experts to be aimed at disenfranchising poor and minority voters—without pre-clearance. A similar law was blocked in Texas, which is covered, after it was deemed discriminatory by the Justice Department. Bert Rein, attorney for Shelby County, suggested before...

Something in the Water

D.C.'s Anacostia neighborhood struggles with the double burden of high unemployment rates and environmental degradation. Can green stimulus efforts offer lasting change?

Trash piles up on the Anacostia River in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Jackie Ward of the Ward 8 Environmental Council in D.C. once did "something crazy" for the Anacostia neighborhood. With the help of colleagues, co-workers, and friends, Ward convinced the District of Columbia Public Schools to release the most troublesome 7- to 9-year-old students from Southeast D.C.'s poor, black community, for a weekend of camping and learning about their outdoor environment. The outing was near Marvin Gaye Park, an area that was once a haven for junkies until community volunteers cleared it of thousands of hypodermic needles. Ward calls it "something crazy" because no one there had thought environmental issues were that important. She suspects that many who endure financial hardship today in Ward 8 may find it difficult to latch onto new "green" economic policies being implemented in their neighborhoods without having had environmental education early in their life. From D.C. Councilmember Marion Barry's community relations office on Martin Luther King Boulevard,...

The Gulf Coast is America's Lower 9th Ward.

Four years after Katrina, government bodies are still shuffling about trying to figure out what is the best future policy for a sustainable, prosperous New Orleans. The challenges facing the Gulf Coast are the same facing the nation: developing housing, improving health care, closing educational achievement gaps, de-concentrating centers of poverty, and achieving security from climate change and its related disasters. Except in the Gulf Coast these problems are much more pronounced. If the federal government were ever to focus on this region, the solutions produced for these social and environmental ills could be applied broadly across the nation. While campaigning in February, 2008, Obama said, "I will make it clear to members of my administration that their responsibilities don't end in places like the 9th Ward; they begin in places like the 9th Ward." Suffice it to say that the Gulf Coast is the Lower 9th Ward of the United States. And yet, for all of Obama's posturing on 9th Ward...