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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Voting Rights and Partisan Politics

The Washington Times reports from Kinston, North Carolina:
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.

In an August letter, the Department explained its reasoning:
[The] elimination of party affiliation on the ballot will likely reduce the ability of blacks to elect candidates of choice. Black candidates will likely lose a significant amount of crossover votes due to the high degree of racial polarization present in city elections. Without party loyalty available to counter-balance the consistent trend of racial bloc voting, blacks will face greater difficulty winning general elections. Our analysis of election returns indicates that cross-over voting is greater in partisan general elections than in the closed primaries. Thus, statistical analysis supports the conclusion that given a change to a non-partisan elections, black preferred candidates will receive fewer white cross-over votes.

At the conservative Heritage Foundation, Hans Von Spakovsky writes: "The DOJ is improperly using the Voting Rights Act to guarantee that Democratic candidates win elections, rather than using it as intended to ensure that minority voters have the same opportunity as other voters to get to the polls and elect their candidate of choice."