Tag Archives: Voting Rights Act

Emil Guillermo on Todd Endo, an Asian American activist at Selma, and at the March on Washington.

AALDEF-Podcast-Marching-And-Talking-With-Todd-EndoAsian-American-Activist-50-Years-After-His-First-March-On-Washington-.jpg          I met Todd Endo in 2013 at the 50th anniversary of MLK’s March on Washington. It’s the event which featured King’s “I have a dream” speech. Endo marched in 1963, and he was at King’s other big march, the one two years later in Selma, 1965.

Funny how few people conflate the DC march and Selma. Or how people don’t really understand that Selma was two years after the “Dream” speech, and a year after the Civil Rights Act. Even after that momentous bit of legislation, 1965 required the Voting Rights Act, which Selma helped bring about.

As we approach the 50th anniversary of Selma, we must constantly relearn the history. Or as we’ve found out, society begins to march backwards.

My piece on Todd Endo at Selma is here.

My podcast with Endo at the 1963 March on Washington is here.



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A back-handed slap at the Voting Rights Act that renders it useless

Shelby v. Holder was another good/bad decision by the Supreme Court, an indirect shot at the Voting Rights Act’s key Section 5 provision that allows for states with bad histories (when it comes to voting rights) to submit any changes it makes to the federal government for approval.

This provision has helped expand the voter rolls for the good.

Instead of invalidating this one section as many had feared, the majority by a 5-4 vote  (Roberts, Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, Alito) went after Section 4, which uses a formula to define which state and local governments must comply with section 5.

In a sneaky way, the court allowed Section 5 to survive (maybe in order to avoid be seen as racist). But it said Section 4 was unconstitutional. Thus the court struck down Section 4 with a forehand slap, and on the “innocent” backhand return swing just happened to knock down Section 5.

Now that was sneaky Solomonic style.

The Voting Rights Act now goes back to Congress to decide what happens next with Section 4. And you know how well Congress does with divisive racially charged issues. 

 So what do you think the justices were really thinking about the voting rights act’s viability?

If you read my reaction to the court’s hearing of the case, you know how Scalia viewed it.


Perhaps this was the way, they could get ALL the conservatives on this one, and not look so racist. Knock down Section 4, and well, you take care of Section 5. 

But it’s actually worse. The decision doesn’t just end Section 5 as was the real issue in Shelby. Now it appears the entire Voting Rights Act, one of the most significant parts of civil rights legislation, becomes unworkable.

In terms of black and white, that’s fine. But what about the new America that goes to the polls, or because of this SCOTUS action does not?

Where’s the protection for Asian and Latino immigrants and first time minority voters? Those who need language help?

Section 4 might help us if a new inclusive formula is derived. But until it does there’s no section 5. And that means there’s no help, or federal oversight, at all.


Modern Politics: Democracy’s S&M game of sequester and Scalia’s vision of voting as racial entitlement

It’s hard to like either Congress or the Obama Administration for this sequestration nonsense. The manufactured budget cuts were intended to be so onerous, both sides would be forced to come to their senses and “do the right” thing.

Instead, the small government advocates in Congress love the the poltiical version of “50 shades…” It’s both sadistic and masochistic to do nothing, though more sadistic because the poor are getting hurt more than the wealthy. The only action Congress’ can muster is to finger-point at President Obama.

Meanwhile, the blame game also seems to suit the president just fine for now, though he should be pointing out that there’s a better way toward an improved economy than the forced austerity of sequester (look how that worked in Europe).  Obama should be making the case that more government spending actually propels the middle class and the country toward prosperity. And that government as an employer can be more effective than the private sector in getting us back on track.

But that’s way too logical for the GOP, which holds on to discredited trickle down ideas that justify tax breaks for the rich while making all the rest of us pay.

So far, I don’t’ sense much indignation anywhere. More of a resignation that this is how it works.

That’s too bad. Because that is bad government. Government that is worth hating. But it’s a slow burn. The pain is coming over time as the federal money flow stops. Will we appreciate so-called “big government” then? Or will the “small government” folks win out and force all of us to accept a diminished democracy?


So now that we’re so disgusted with Congress, should we trust it to preserve our basic right in America—the right to vote?

Some members of the Supreme Court apparently don’t think so, and based on the SCOTUS hearing last week in Shelby vs. Holder, it looks like the court may strike down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act.

Justice Antonin Scalia made the case that Congress, which has upheld the Voting Rights Act since 1965, has only done so because politicians are too afraid to vote against it. Afraid to be racist?  Not Scalia, who referred to the Voting Rights Act as a “racial entitlement.”

Entitlement? Since when does voting become like Medicaid and Social Security?

See my piece at www.aaldef.org/blog


The “New Mud”: Ranked Choice voting changes everything in SF Mayoral Election; How Lee’s voter fraud controversy puts everything in a new light with less than two weeks to go

 A big conference on Asian American activism is taking place in San Francisco this week.

Ed Lee used to be one of them, an unabashed non-profit good guy.  But now his life has changed as the lead dog in the San Francisco mayoral race. He just may not be in the lead for long.

Lee, the interim mayor attempting to make it for real, has been tripped up by some overzealous campaigners on his behalf who may have committed voter fraud.

The now infamous “Ed Heads,” blue shirted members of the San Francisco Neighbors Alliance for Ed Lee for Mayor 2011, had been out in Chinatown the last few weeks setting up tents and helping specifically Cantonese speaking voters.

Tents!  Or maybe they were voter cabanas?

How much help the voters got is he issue, and with translated ballots and handbooks, how much help is needed, unless the volunteers really were filling out ballots and telling people how to vote.

Beyond language, there’s the issue of taking a ballots in a plastic bag for delivery to the elections office. These are ballots not pizzas. No delivery allowed.

And then there’s the last big question. How direct is the  connection of the volunteers  to Lee? 

As close as Rose Pak?

The U.S. Department of Justice is looking into this after seven candidates faxed a letter of complaint Sunday to D.C.

I talked to one candidate today who said when he talked with Lee over the weekend, Lee wanted to be on the letter to show a united front.

Makes sense.  All major candidates want a fair and ethical election, right? In the spirit of Ranked Choice Voting, that would take the sting out of any appearance of mudslinging and show consensus. Take the politics out of it.

But apparently there was no strong feeling to provide Lee a fig leaf.

Besides, this is just what the other candidates were looking for: Acceptable campaign “mud.”

Ranked Choice Voting makes things a bit to collegial sometimes. Like a parish council. You’re looking for consensus? Boring.

So this was too good for the other candidates to pass up.

A little local October surprise to stop the front-runner in his tracks and help others make up ground.

Lee’s best response so far: Proclaiming it’s “Hammer time”?

With all the possible investigations emerging, Lee is going to have to do much more to regain any momentum.

Otherwise, the voter fraud scandal has done the real heavy lifting for the candidates. Its isolated Lee. And it’s changed the dynamic of race. The cloud of voter fraud may even be enough to keep Lee off voters’ RCV top-three.

If an “anyone but Ed” campaign emerges, then the seven who sent the DOJ letter (especially  Leland Yee, David Chiu, Jeff Adachi, Dennis Herrera and John Avalos)  have just made this race much tighter than expected.  

The No.2 vote will be very important. That means candidates will be on good behavior from here one. They know who they’re No.1 with. Now their goal is to be everyone’s No.2.

As candidates get eliminated, those No.2 ballots will eventually make someone a winner.

But who?   Chiu?  Yee?  Adachi?  

This historic race in Asian American history is coming up to an exciting finish.

And the winner will be the best No.2 person around.

Whoever gets the majority of Avalos’ or Herrera’s No.2 votes will be the first elected Asian American mayor.

More on the controversy at the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund blog: