Race & Ethnicity

Voters of No Confidence


If Americans don't believe that elections are conducted fairly, or believe that the person who takes office didn't actually win, the implications for the country are pretty scary. But according to one recent survey, distrust in election outcomes is startlingly widespread—and growing.

Sharia Scare in Tennessee

(Courtesy of the Vanderbilt Alumni Association)

In Murfreesboro, Tennessee, just outside Nashville, the Muslim community won a hard-fought victory Wednesday. After a two-year legal battle that inflamed anti-Islamic sentiment across the state, a federal judge ruled that a new Islamic community center could get the permits necessary to open. Elsewhere in the state, however, Muslim residents got a cold reminder this week of just how much prejudice exists around them.

Don't Like Blacks? You'll Love Voter ID

Wikimedia Commons/Library of Congress

Despite the rhetoric of GOP officials, it’s more than clear that voter ID laws are designed to depress turnout among traditionally Democratic groups. Attorney General Eric Holder has even gone so far as to attack the laws as glorified “poll taxes”—one of the mechanisms used during Jim Crow to keep African Americans from voting.

Fishing for Boos

(Flickr / jim.greenfield)

In early 1990, as the lackluster California governorship of the lackluster George Deukmejian was running down, the two Democratic front-runners to succeed him were Attorney General John Van de Kamp and San Francisco Mayor Dianne Feinstein—in that order. Then, at the state’s annual Democratic Party convention—a body with no nominating power (that was to be decided in a subsequent primary) but nonetheless a yearly gathering for liberal activists—Feinstein included in her speech a ringing, if otherwise gratuitous, endorsement of the death penalty. Predictably, the delegates booed her. Just as predictably, her standing in the polls quickly shot past Van de Kamp’s and she went on to win the Democratic primary (though she lost the general election to Republican Pete Wilson).

Don't Blink

I've talked in the past about how unconscious bias works—and how it's an aspect of some very healthy parts of our brains and bodies. For very good reasons, we all navigate by intuition, habit, and practiced behaviors every single day. Malcolm Gladwell and Jonah Lehrer have written about these neurological facts beautifully and well. Every parent knows how time-consuming it is to have to articulate and teach habits we don't even realize we navigate by. Walk on the right and pass on the left. The fork goes here and the knife and spoon go there. It's not polite to say that in public. You can't take that until you pay. Turn your head this way to breathe while you're swimming. That truck means that person delivers the mail.

Nine Percent of Pennsylvanians May Not Be Able to Vote for Lack of ID

(Flickr/Katri Niemi)

The debate around voter ID laws is generally one about protection versus disenfranchisement. Advocates of the laws, which require photo identification to vote, often say the law won't have an impact anyone who's voting legally. In Pennsylvania, the Secretary of the Commonwealth assured lawmakers that 99 percent of voters in the state had the necessary identification, and promised that "No one entitled to vote will be denied that right by this bill." Her views were echoed by Republican lawmakers throughout the state who pushed for the measure. You need a photo ID for everything these days, the logic seemed to go, so why not voting too? After all, who doesn't have a photo ID? 

If the Tibetan Can't Go to the Homeland...

As some of you know, there is far more to the Tibetan diaspora than the Dalai Lama. More than 200,000 refugees are living, sometimes stateless, in other countries. Tenzin Dorjee, whom I've mentioned here before, is the director of Students for a Free Tibet and one of the next generation of Tibetan leaders in exile. Last week, he wrote at The Huffington Post about an incredibly moving art project, conceived after activist and artist Tenzing Rigdol's father died in exile longing to see his homeland one more time: 

How Should Voter Purges Work?

(Flickr / dailyfortnight)

The mess that is Florida's voter-purge effort keeps growing by the day. Both the ACLU and the Department of Justice are suing the state, which in turn is suing the federal government. After the state's Division of Elections declared it had found around 182,000 noncitizens on voter rolls, the state sent letters to 2,600 people of them asking if they were citizens. Those who failed to respond risk being removed from the lists. The trouble, of course, is that 500 of them proved to be citizens. Less than 100 have so far been proved ineligible to vote. Because the list examines citizenship, Hatians and Latinos are disproportionately targeted.

Wisconsin Recall: A Conservative Case for Election Day Registration

(Flickr/Katri Niemi)

As the nation waited for the Wisconsin recall results to come in, Twitter began to light up with conservative claims of voter fraud. "Please @ me with any stories of #WI #WIrecall voter fraud," tweeted conservative radio host and pundit Dana Loesch around 11 a.m.  She noted stories on busing voters in across state lines and on supposedly suspicious high turn-out rates. "It's not 'fraud' if you didn't cheat enough to rob voters of the lawmakers they choose," she wrote. 

Others joined in. 

Texas GOP Holds Hispanics in Check


Last week Scott offered a great defense of the Voting Rights Act, arguing that Section Five—a clause that requires southern states to receive preclearance before changing any voting procedures—is a necessary correction to the limits of the Fifteenth Amendment. That provision was recently overturned by the D.C. Circuit, setting up a hearing in the Supreme Court that could possibly strike down the landmark civil rights legislation. Given the recent conservative tilt of the Supreme Court, some legal experts are predicting that the circuit court's decision will be upheld, with the majority arguing that the act was crafted during circumstances no longer relevant to the political climate.

Obama Brings Conservatives Out of the Closet


Call it the Obama effect. Since Obama's pitch-perfect announcement about same-sex marriage, supporting marriage equality is becoming practically chic. A cascade of voices has come out of the closet in favor of it, and hardly anyone has noticed.

George Clooney Cares About It

Yesterday I wrote about the new global campaign to end rape in conflict, and why it's a winnable goal. Today, it's time to bring home the reasons why we need to put in the required effort. We’ve all got our lives to live and our own pet issues to look after, and it’s easy for those of us in the U.S. to think of “rape in conflict” as a conceptual "Terrible Thing" that happens to those Other (Poor, Brown) People Far Away. But when we tie it in a tidy little “Over There Issue” bow, we totally erase the ways it’s a "Right Here Issue," both in that we’re complicit in it, and, relatedly, that there are things we in the US can uniquely do about it.

In Voter ID Case, Court Tells Texas to Quit Stalling


In what read like a pretty clear smack-down, the federal court hearing the Texas voter ID case yesterday ordered the state to get its act together and quit stalling—or lose all hope of implementing a voter ID law by the November elections.

Fear of a Black Polity


Once the general election kicked into gear, and it was clear that Barack Obama would have the overwhelming support of African American voters, a meme picked up among some white voters. “They’re only voting for him because he’s black.” This, of course, was at odds with the facts. Black voters were initially ambivalent toward the then-Senator, and only embraced him after the Iowa and South Carolina primaries. Moreover, by that point, African Americans had been loyal Democratic voters for four decades; their positive feelings may have stemmed from racial pride, but their material support everything to do with his political affiliation.

Voter ID's $7 Million Ohio Price Tag

(Flickr/Katri Niemi)

The fight over voter identification laws generally gets debated over two major questions. 1) How important is it to stop in-person fraudulent voting (despite virtually no evidence that this is a problem)? And 2) How important is it to protect access to the ballot, particularly for those who have faced discrimination in the past? Poor and minority citizens are less likely to have photo IDs, meaning the laws may suppress voting among vulnerable communities. Though there are obvious partisan implications, voter ID debates are generally moral debates about the nature of voting and citizenship. 

But in Ohio, where lawmakers are considering a strict photo-ID requirement, one think-tank took a different approach: Just how much will this whole thing cost?