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Beam: Justice Department vindictive

Last Modified: Wednesday, December 04, 2013 7:39 PM

By Jim Beam / American Press

Just when you think the petty politics of Washington, D.C., can’t get much worse, they do. President Obama’s Justice Department is suing Texas and North Carolina over changes in their voting laws, but ignoring more blatant discrimination against Latino voters in Los Angeles County.

It’s all because of the political parties involved. Texas and North Carolina happen to be Republican-dominated states, and Los Angeles County is strongly Democratic.

The issues in Texas and North Carolina are minority voting rights and voter ID laws. Southern states won a major U.S. Supreme Court decision when the high court said they don’t have to submit their election proposals to the Justice Department for pre-clearance. Why those two states didn’t sit tight and savor the victory is still a puzzle. Instead, they rushed to make major changes in their election laws. North Carolina voted to cut the time for early voting when Democrats vote in large numbers.

Voter ID laws aren’t a problem, if properly administered. Louisiana has set the standard with its affidavit system. Voters in this state who don’t have an ID can still vote by affidavit when they go to the polls. Once their registration is confirmed, their votes are counted.

Tom Schedler, Louisiana secretary of state, said he has told his counterparts in other states about our affidavit system, but they haven’t followed through.

Whether the Justice Department is successful in its suits against Texas and North Carolina remains to be seen. However, the Los Angeles County issue would appear to be an easy win if the department had to courage to take it on.

The Associated Press reported that Matt Barreto, a political science professor and voting rights expert at the University of Washington, said the evidence against the county is overwhelming and includes a history of racially polarized voting that has hurt Latinos.

Barreto said, “My perspective is that this is one of the easiest cases to be made nationally.”

Nearly half of the 10 million people in Los Angeles County, the nation’s largest, are Latino. Despite that reality, Latinos can only elect one of the county’s five supervisors.

Gloria Molina is the lone Latino on the board. She and Mark Ridley-Thomas, the board’s only African-American member, supported creation of a second Latino district in 2011, but were outvoted by the three white supervisors.

“Today, this board had an opportunity to make history, not repeat it, but all signs indicated that they would repeat history, and unfortunately, they did,” Molina said in 2011.

Cruz Reynoso, a former California Supreme Court justice and member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, said the Obama administration is more interested in the voting rights of African-Americans than Latinos.

That is surprising since Obama won 71 percent of the Latino vote in his 2012 re-election campaign, compared to 27 percent for Republican Mitt Romney. The president got 93 percent of the black vote, compared to only 6 percent for Romney.

“Most of the folk in Los Angeles have been supporters of the president, so why make them unhappy despite the fact that, from my point of view, there is great injustice going on,” Reynoso said.

When asked about its indecision on Los Angeles County, the Justice Department issued a typical evasive answer used in these instances.

“We have received significant amounts of information from the county and others about the issue and the matter is still under review,” a spokeswoman said.

Why is this case more important than the Texas and North Carolina cases?

“... Nowhere is there more power and money at stake than in Los Angeles, where each of the five supervisors represents nearly 2 million people and the county’s annual budget tops $26 billion,” The AP said.

Looking closely at this voting rights issue makes it crystal clear that the White House is more interested in punishing Southern states than it is in rectifying a clear voting rights injustice in the nation’s largest county that is controlled by Democrats. Republicans aren’t immune from petty politics, and that is why Americans have little faith at the moment in their president and members of Congress.

Stirring up dissension and animosity appears to be the order of the day in Washington. The president Wednesday continued his attack on wealthy Americans, saying there is too big of an income gap between the rich and poor. It’s more of his share the wealth philosophy.

Few can argue that there isn’t an income gap in this country, but what’s the solution? A higher minimum wage would help, but the $15 an hour workers want is unrealistic. Unfortunately, the gridlock in the nation’s capital makes it impossible to come to a mutual agreement about something more realistic.

Obama and the Democrats would love to increase taxes and create more government programs to help those on the lower end of the income scale. However, a $17 trillion national debt and a slowly recovering economy are already too much for Americans to swallow.

Rather than talk about and address the slow economic recovery, the White House fell back on its five-year-old excuse. Spokesman Jay Carney said Obama in 2009 inherited the worst recession since the Great Depression. In other words, all of it is still George W. Bush’s fault.

• • •

Jim Beam, the retired editor of the American Press, has covered people and politics for more than five decades. Contact him at 494-4025 or jbeam@americanpress.com

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