This is an outrage:
Voters in this small city decided overwhelmingly last year to do away with the party affiliation of candidates in local elections, but the Obama administration recently overruled the electorate and decided that equal rights for black voters cannot be achieved without the Democratic Party.
The Justice Department’s ruling, which affects races for City Council and mayor, went so far as to say partisan elections are needed so that black voters can elect their “candidates of choice” – identified by the department as those who are Democrats and almost exclusively black.
The department ruled that white voters in Kinston will vote for blacks only if they are Democrats and that therefore the city cannot get rid of party affiliations for local elections because that would violate black voters’ right to elect the candidates they want.
Take a close look at this. The Justice Department rejected a change to elections because it might change the candidates for whom white voters vote. I thought that the Voting Rights Act was about ensuring, you know, the right to vote, but it seems that I was wrong. In the eyes of our current Justice Department, voting rights are about making sure the right candidate is elected.
Kinston is two-thirds black, but the decision was necessary to compensate for low turnout among blacks:
Ms. King’s letter in the Kinston case states that because of the low turnout black voters must be “viewed as a minority for analytical purposes,” and that “minority turnout is relevant” to determining whether the Justice Department should be allowed a change to election protocol.
Black voters account for 9,702 of the city’s 15,402 registered voters but typically don’t vote at the rates whites do.
As a result of the low turnout, Ms. King wrote, “black voters have had limited success in electing candidates of choice during recent municipal elections.”
“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,” she wrote.
So now the Voting Rights Act isn’t about the right to vote, but about ensuring a particular outcome even when people choose not to vote!
If there’s any question about how political this decision was, note two things: First, the Justice Department is rejecting a neutral change specifically and explicitly because it lessens the importance of the Democratic Party. Second, look who made the decision:
The decision [was] made by the same Justice official who ordered the dismissal of a voting rights case against members of the New Black Panther Party in Philadelphia.
One final observation: Kinston is two-thirds black, and the measure passed in seven of nine black precincts. So, in order supposedly to ensure the voting rights of blacks, the Justice Department is rejecting a decision made by the black voters of Kinston.
I wonder if this decision will usher in the end of Section 5 of the Voting Right Act. Section 5 was always dubious, but now that it is being used in such an indefensible manner, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the courts show it the door.