Two Ways Arizona’s Proof of Citizenship Law Might Get Reinstated

Two Ways Arizona's Proof of Citizenship Law Might Get Reinstated

Republicans have wasted no time striking back against yesterday’s US Supreme Court ruling invalidating Arizona’s “proof of citizenship” voter registration ID law. Under the ruling, Arizona cannot reject federal voter registration forms from people who do not provide documented proof of their citizenship — like a driver’s license, passport or birth certificate — along with it. Arizona created its own state voter registration form that did require citizenship documents, but that form can’t replace the federal form, which is authorized by the National Voter Registration Act (“Motor Voter Act”).

Other states have passed similar proof-of-citizenship laws, including Alabama, Georgia and Kansas, and other states have proposed the same. The SCOTUS ruling has established the NVRA-authorized federal voter registration form as the valid “back stop” for people to register with if they don’t want to use state-created registration forms. 

Wrote Justice Antonin Scalia for the majority opinion:

“States retain the flexibility to design and use their own registration forms, but the Federal Form provides a backstop: No matter what procedural hurdles a State’s own form imposes, the Federal Form guarantees that a simple means of registering to vote in federal elections will be available.”

But not so fast. Texas U.S. Senator Ted Cruz and Louisiana U.S. Senator David Vitter filed an amendment yesterday, tucked into the immigration reform bill, that would amend the Motor Voter Act so that state voter registration forms — including those requesting proof of citizenship documents — would trump the federal form. 

Their amendment states: “Nothing in [the Motor Voter Act] shall be construed to preempt any State law requiring evidence of citizenship in order to complete any requirement to register to vote in elections for Federal office.”

The amendment “sounds like sour grapes and hot air,” said Nina Perales, Vice President of Litigation for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), to Colorlines. “The amendment will likely fail.  Congress considered and rejected a similar amendment when it enacted the NVRA in 1993, concluding that state laws that layer additional documentation requirements onto the federal form would defeat the purpose of the NVRA and uniform postcard registration.”

But perhaps an amendment isn’t needed. In Justice Scalia’s opinion, he agreed that Arizona’s law should be struck, but he also basically gave Arizona — and any other state — a roadmap for passing a proof of citizenship voter ID law despite his ruling. Scalia said that since the federal Election Assistance Commission is the only Motor Voter-authorized body that can request additional information for the federal voter registration form, that Arizona ought to appeal to it to add the requirement. 

Arizona did do that in 2005 but EAC executive director Thomas R. Wilkey rejected their request. Wrote Wilkey: “While Arizona may apply Proposition 200 requirements to the use of its state registration form in Federal elections (if the form meets the minimum requirements of the NVRA), the state may not apply the scheme to registrants using the Federal Registration Form. … Arizona may not refuse to register individuals to vote in a Federal election for failing to provide supplemental proof of citizenship, if they have properly completed and timely submitted the Federal Registration Form.”

That wasn’t good enough, so Arizona requested a second opinion from the EAC commissioners board. The board ended up with a 2-2 vote split (due to vacant board seats, the EAC commission has not had enough members for a full quorum vote), which meant the director’s decision stood. But Scalia reminded the public in his opinion yesterday that “Arizona did not challenge that agency action … by seeking an [Administrative Procedure Act] review in federal court.” Scalia believes a federal court may compel the EAC to grant Arizona’s request since the EAC commission can’t give a full vote. 

Perales said this would be “very difficult” for Arizona, though, because the EAC director already told them “No,” and for the same reasons SCOTUS said “No” yesterday. But also, Arizona “would have to prove that they need to [include proof of citizenship] and that’s where the facts really foil Arizona’s efforts because they can not point to a single non-resident trying to vote or even registering to vote.”  

This Is a Really Helpful List on How Not to be a Good Ally

This Is a Really Helpful List on How Not to be a Good Ally

Writer Mia McKenzie is blowing up my newsfeed. And for good reason: this non-comprehensive list of eight ways not to be an ally is hilariously on point. Check out the snippet below:

1. Assume one act of solidarity makes you an ally forever.

Remember that time your uncle said that fucked-up stuff about “illegal” Mexican immigrants and you were all, “Actually, Uncle, California isMexico, so you need to read your history cuz that’s hella racist!” That shit rocked, bruh. And it totally means that you are an Ally with a capital A for, like, ever! Done and done. Let’s go get a celebratory slurpee. But you know what else? Nope. Being an ally takes waaaay more practice than that. It is a constantly active and evolving thing. I mean, imagine labeling yourself a great lover after you ate pussy once. That would be cray, wouldn’t it? 

2. Make everything about your feelings.

The hurt feelings that resulted when you were called out on racism/transphobia/ableism/etc. are totally more important than the impact of the actions you are being called out for in the first place. Really. I’m not even being facetious. Psych! I mean, I know it feels like your feelings are Consideration #1, but they’re not. I have been guilty of this ridiculousness myself in the past. I think everybody is guilty of it sometimes. But that still doesn’t make it okay. Try to remember that people who have been impacted by your racist/transphobic/ableist/etc. words or actions are the ones whose feelings need attention right then. Not yours.

3.  Date ‘em all.

Some folks seem to think that the quickest way to lifelong allyship status is to just date all the people who resemble those that one claims to exist in solidarity with. Anti-racist? Date all the POC! And be sure to do so exclusively and with no analysis whatsoever about fetishism, exotification, or the ways your white body might be interrupting POC space! Cuz, hey, you’re an ally and stuff. Right? Ew.

4. Don’t see race/gender/disability/etc.

You know what I love? When people don’t see my race. There is nothing more affirming for me as a person than to have essential parts of myself and my experience completely disregarded. I mean, inside we’re all the same. And there’s only one race: the HUMAN race! Amirite??? Ugh. Listen. If your ability to respect someone’s right to exist requires pretending that they are just like you, that’s a problem. We are not all the same. And things like race, gender, disability, etc. are exactly the kinds of things that shape our lives and our experiences and make us different from one another. Being different is not the problem. The idea that being the same as you is what gives us the right to exist is the problem.

Read more at Black Girl Dangerous.

Fall in Love With The Prancing Elites, Ala.’s All-Male Cheerleading Squad

Fall in Love With The Prancing Elites, Ala.'s All-Male Cheerleading Squad

The Prancing Elites are awesome. Don’t believe me? Watch them. Or check them out on Facebook. Made your morning, right? Right.

(H/T Fierth)

Kanye West Went to Bollywood for His ‘Yeezus’ Sample

Kanye West Went to Bollywood for His 'Yeezus' Sample

Yeezus is here. Kanye West’s highly anticipated sixth studio album hits (legal) digital downloads today. A version of the album already leaked late last week, so fans and critics alike have already had time to talk about it. So, is Ye’ really the nucleus? Is this album a testamant to his awesomeness? Will everyone just stop hating on him?

The short answer: no.

But at the very least, the new album shows that, once again, Kanye knows how to sample a wide range of songs from different genres. And this time he went to Bollywood for one of his most narcissistic tracks, “I Am God.”

The Aerogram explains:

The third track on the album, one humbly titled “I Am a God,” is credited as being written by Kanye West, the duo better known as Daft Punk, and — here’s where it gets interesting — Anand Bakshi and Rahul Burman, among others. This is because a sample of “Are Zindagi Hai Khel” is used in the song.

Here’s the thing: people can’t seem to figure out where, exactly.

While I do appreciate the fact that he isn’t wearing a Sherwani and pretending to be something he isn’t like — ahem — some people, it would be nice to, you know, actually be able to recognize the sample being used. Still, Yeezy is known for not only sampling a wide range of songs from different genres, but distorting them in different ways. I must confess, I’ve listened to both songs about a dozen times each at this point and can’t figure out where exactly he hid the R.D. Burman classic.

Want to help solve the mystery? Go see more at the Aerogram.

Did J. Cole Do More Harm Than Good With His Deliberately Homophobic Lyrics?

Did J. Cole Do More Harm Than Good With His Deliberately Homophobic Lyrics?

J. Cole’s new album release is being overshadowed by Kanye’s new “Yeezus”, but that doesn’t mean that the younger rapper’s latest release is without its own controversy. “Born Sinner” is Cole’s second solo album, and its lead single, “Villuminati”, is causing a big stir because of its provocatively homophobic lyrics. The bars in question:

My verbal AK slay faggots/ And I don’t mean no disrespect whenever I say faggot, okay faggot/ Don’t be so sensitive/ If you want to get fucked in the ass/ That’s between you and whoever else’s dick it is/ Pause, maybe that line was too far/ Just a little joke to show how homophobic you are/ And who can blame ya

In an interview last week with the Huffington Post, Cole explained what he was trying to do:

“There will soon come a day when people in general, and rap artists specifically, are going to have to answer for their past usage of the word ‘faggot,’ much like the Grandfathers who are ashamed that they used the word ‘nigger’ as kids. At a time when public acceptance of gay rights is soaring (rightfully), hip-hop culture and general are still battling with homophobia (not excluding myself). Rather than run from it I chose to attack it playfully. Those lyrics are meant to make everyone uncomfortable for the sake of this very conversation.”

But Buzzfeed’s Saeed Jones isn’t buying it. Jones writes that Cole’s song features “perhaps the most homophobic lyrics I’ve heard from a major artist in the last few years.”

Did J. Cole completely miss the mark? Let’s hear your thoughts in the comments. 

‘Motown the Musical’ Had Its Best Week Ever

'Motown the Musical' Had Its Best Week Ever

Data from the Broadway League was released on Monday and showed that the only thing we love more than Motown music is seeing those same records on Broadway. From the Washington Post:

“Motown the Musical” had its best week ever with $1,441,448 and set a new box office record at The Lunt-Fontanne Theatre.

The hit-studded show, which didn’t win a Tony but got valuable screen time with a great Michael Jackson medley, has grossed over $1 million every week since previews began March 11.

That Time Questlove Went Roller-Skating With Prince on Valentine’s Day

That Time Questlove Went Roller-Skating With Prince on Valentine's Day

If there’s one reason you need to add Ahmir ‘Questlove’ Thompson’s new book, ‘Mo Meta Blues’, to your summer reading list, it’s probably to read about the time that he went roller-skating with Prince. And no, this is not a Dave Chappelle skit. It’s the real thing. The longtime Roots drummer recounted the adventure in an excerpt over at Slate’s culture blog:

Jay-Z’s Android Deal Shows How Race Colors Smartphone Market

Jay-Z's Android Deal Shows How Race Colors Smartphone Market

Love him or loathe him, you can’t knock Jay-Z’s hustle.

The rapper turned mogul has stepped up his business game considerably over the past several years, first by owning (and then selling) his stake in his hometown Brooklyn Nets, then starting his own sports agency, and finally this week announcing a new deal with Android that could permanently alter the mobile music market.

Jay-Z is teaming up with Samsung to release his new album, “Magna Carta Holy Grail”, on July 4. The new release will be free for the first one million Android users who download an app for the album. It’s a unique partnership and the first of its kind. TechHive points out that for Samsung, “it’s a chance to be associated with one of the coolest cats in pop culture and to showcase the company’s ability to compete with iTunes radio.”

But there’s obviously a big upside for Jay-Z, too. Mostly, the new Android deal shows what makes him a really savvy businessman: he knows his market. And that market just so happens to be the millions of young people of color who are adopting smartphones at astonishingly high rates. It’s a market in which Google has long reigned supreme, and the fruits are finally showing.


More than half of Americans — 56 percent — are now smartphone owners. And while Android is on its way to taking over the lion’s share of the U.S. smartphone market, smartphone ownership has long been colored by race. Back in 2010, the Pew Internet & American Life Project did a comprehensive study of exactly who owns which kinds of cell phones. Three years later those numbers may seem a bit dated considering how quickly the industry changes, but the overall takeaways are still the same. Here’s more from Pew’s more recent data from this year:

Android and iPhone owners are equally common within the cell owner population as a whole, although this ratio differs across various demographic groups. Cell phone owners from a wide range of educational and household income groupings have similar levels of Android adoption, but those from the upper end of the income and education spectrum are much more likely than those with lower income and educational levels to say they own an iPhone. Indeed, fully half—49%—of cell owners with a household income of $150,000 or more say their phone is an iPhone. And African-American cell owners are more likely than whites or Latinos to say that their phone is an Android device as opposed to an iPhone.

But while people are adopting smartphones at faster rates than ever, the market for them is, like Jay-Z pointed out, the Wild, Wild West: unregulated and often predatory. Here’s a snippet of reporting I did on this a couple of years ago:

mobile wireless is quickly taking shape as a second Internet, one in which people of color and users with little income are entirely dependent upon cell phone companies for access. That Internet is unregulated. Companies are free to do as they please with customers—they can control what users see, do and say online. And as the country grows more dependent on high speed Internet, the handful of companies who own its mobile version are steadily working to consolidate their power. Whether and how policy makers allow that to happen may determine who gets a voice in our 21st century economy, and who’s left as its prey.

Read more about how big telecom used smartphones to create a new digital divide.

House GOP Finds Everything Wrong With Immigration Law And Tries to Make It Worse

House GOP Finds Everything Wrong With Immigration Law And Tries to Make It Worse

After acting for months like the delinquent little cousin of the Senate, the House Judiciary Committee will finally take up immigration reform tomorrow when it considers a bill introduced on Friday by Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-SC.  But unlike the Senate immigration reform package that would legalize millions of undocumented immigrants while also expanding border and workplace enforcement, the Gowdy bill does only the later, and in the worst way. The SAFE Act, as it’s called, would vastly expand immigration enforcement programs, curtail legal rights of non-citizens and authorize state and local law enforcement to act like immigration agents whenever they want to.  

“The SAFE Act is a callous assault on immigrants and will just lead to more detentions and deportations,” says Silky Shah of Detention Watch Network. “It would allow for the prolonged detention of thousands of immigrants and require expansion of detention.”

On it’s face, the bill looks like the kind of grandstanding for which the House GOP has become well known.  While the SAFE Act won’t become law on it’s own—the Senate would never pass the thing—it’s nonetheless positioned to pull the whole immigration reform process drastically to the right.  That’s because if the bill passes the House it could be among the pieces of legislation that get thrown into a House-Senate conference committee assigned to work out the differences between the two chambers’ immigration reform visions and spit out a shared bill for vote. Any process that involves adding the SAFE Act to the already compromised, enforcement heavy Senate bill, is likely to prodice a deeply punishing bill.

Here’s some of what the SAFE Act does:

  • Hands states and localities the power to pass and enforce their own criminal and civil penalties for immigration violations.  The provision is in direct opposition to the Supreme Court’s ruling last year over Arizona’s SB 1070.
  • Authorize all local police to act as immigration agents, essentially nationalizing the 287(g) program, which has been widely criticized for encouraging racial profiling and eroding police-community trust.  
  • Lets local cops detain immigrants in their jails for up to two weeks and then requires ICE to lock up all immigrants that local cops detain.
  • Expands the kinds and categories of crimes that make people mandatorily deportable, without recourse to a judge. This would include people the government “has reason to believe” have ever been a member of a gang, even without a conviction.

In all, the bill is a wish list of far-right immigration enforcement provisions—the very kinds of things that much of the GOP establishment now says the party needs to move away from. The GOP leadership, including House Judiciary Chair Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-VA, have been quick to say that this bill is just one of several that the committee will work on in coming weeks, including a legalization program and a new guest worker bill. The four bills are meant to come together as a sort of piecemeal immigration fix.

If the House fails to pass a single “comprehensive” immigration bill, these laws are likely to get thrown into a House-Senate committee. And here’s the thing: the Senate bill is already brimming with enforcement provisions including nearly $7 billion in new cash for border enforcement and additional funding to prosecute people who cross the border. It won’t be a pretty picture if that framework moves right.

Internet Guru Baratunde Thurston Talks About Life Without the Internet

Internet Guru Baratunde Thurston Talks About Life Without the Internet

Most of us live our lives in public. Whether it’s Twitter, Facebook, email, or Instagram, the vast majority of us are way too attached to our gadgetry, and sometimes that addiction comes at the expense of healthy, in-person social interaction. But there’s hope. Fans of smart race writing will see a familiar face on the cover of the latest issue of Fast Company: Baratunde Thurston. The comedian and New York Times Best Selling author of “How to Be Black” on how he unplugged from the Internet and regained his sanity. 

Here’s a snippet:

Not surprisingly, there is lots of advice online about how to move your existence offline. Some of it was actually useful. For instance, there are plenty of good recipes for hot toddies, so I grabbed a couple. There are a plethora of posts on digital detox, including one called “How to Take an Email Sabbatical,” by Microsoft researcher danah boyd, who goes so far as to auto-delete all inbound emails and send an auto-reply informing senders “to resend their message when I return.” I couldn’t commit to that. The FOMO (fear of missing out) in me is strong. What if Kerry Washington (the Scandalstar, whom I have somehow never met) wrote me confessing her love and I missed it because of some extremist view on vacation emails? To ensure an inbox-free vacation, my chief of staff would log in every few days to check that I didn’t miss anything urgent such as a family emergency, holiday party invite—or that message from Kerry.

It’s a good read, and maybe a model for those of us who could use summer sabattical from the Interwebs. Read the entire thing here.

Dave Chappelle’s New Comedy Tour Coming to a City Near You

Dave Chappelle's New Comedy Tour Coming to a City Near You

After years of waiting, Dave Chappelle fans will finally be able to see their favorite comedian in action this summer. Gawker’s Neetzan Zimmerman has the details

Funny or Die announced this morning that Chappelle, who has been infamously difficult to track down since he abruptly left his widely acclaimed Comedy Central show in 2005, will headline the website’s first (annual?) Oddball Comedy & Curiosity Festival.

Kicking off in Austin, Texas, on August 23rd, the tour will go coast-to-coast over the following five weekends.

Tickets go on sale this Friday, June 21 at Live Nation. 


A Brief Look at Dwyane Wade’s Gender-Bending NBA Playoff Fashion

A Brief Look at Dwyane Wade's Gender-Bending NBA Playoff Fashion

Dwyane Wade is one of the NBA’s best players, playing for what is arguably the NBA’s best team, and he probably has the league’s boldest fashion sense.

The Miami Heat superstar hasn’t been shy about his aspirations to be a fashion icon, but he’s definitely stepped it up to the next level this season. Rod McCullom pointed out at just after Game 4 of this year’s NBA Finals that Wade rocked capri’s (again), a pair of Louboutins, and a cute little red purse. Behold after the jump:

3 Random Things You Probably Didn’t Know About ‘Fruitvale Station’ Director Ryan Coogler

3 Random Things You Probably Didn't Know About 'Fruitvale Station' Director Ryan Coogler

Oakland writer Chinaka Hodge recently caught up with Oakland filmmaker Ryan Coogler and good things happened. In a piece for San Francsico Magazine’s Writers on Writers series, Hodge interviewed Coogler about what it’s like to make art about their hometown. Coogler’s highly anticipated directorial debut, “Fruitvale Station”, is set to be released next month. It’s a really good interview, and you should read it and send it to all of your friends.

But what struck me most about the interview were the types of intimate details that you get when hometown folks get together and talk about their work. Things like:

1. Ryan Coogler brings his own PB&J sandwhiches to fancy places.

So, it’s 1:01 p.m. on a Monday. We sit in the cinematic lap of luxury, with all of the trappings one would expect from Lucas et al. But instead of grandly parading around the sprawling campus, we post up in a quiet cafeteria, nearly unseen, with Coog munching the humble PB&J he brought from home.

2. Favorite 2pac album? Me Against the World.

I press further: What’s your favorite Pac album? Coog furrows his brown-skinned brow as if I have asked him to pick a favorite child or most preferred appendage. He finally chooses: Me Against the World. That question is like a hood litmus test, and Ryan shows his true nature, picking the work that best epitomizes Shakur’s time in Oakland

3. He’s getting married!

Coog, age 26, has been preparing for the July national release of the film under the new name Fruitvale Station, planning his upcoming nuptials to his absolutely stunning fiancée, and somehow maintaining an admirable state of calm.

Read the full interview over at San Francsico Magazine.

Meet America’s Most Gangsta High School Nerd

Meet America's Most Gangsta High School Nerd

Think your senior quote in the yearbook was awesome? It wasn’t. Because Jessica Lee’s is the best thing ever. Angry Asian Man explains it:

Drawing on her knowledge of the periodic table, the graduating high school senior’s parting words of wisdom — published under her photo in the Garfield High School yearbook — appear to be a nerdy recitation of elements. But wait. Look a little closer, and you’ll see a coded message inspired by the lyrical stylings of none other than the Notorious B.I.G.:

“Flourine uranium carbon potassium bismuth technetiumhelium sulfur germanium thulium oxygen neon yttrium”

Which, in case you were wondering, is Biggie-speak for:

(F) flourine (U) uranium (C) carbon (K) potassium (Bi) bismuth (Tc) technetium (He) helium (S) sulfur (Ge) germanium (Tm) thulium (O) oxygen (Ne) neon (Y) yttrium.

See it? Got it? Good. Check out the actual photo after the jump.

Brittney Griner Put Haters on Blast This Father’s Day

Brittney Griner Put Haters on Blast This Father's Day

All Brittney Griner wanted to do was show her dad some love on Father’s Day. That’s it. But apparently when you’re a proudly gay 6’8” black professional women’s basketball player, even the most ordinary expressions of love invite the most vile demonstrations of hate.

Griner posted a photo on Instagram with her father on Sunday. The message was innocuous enough: “Happy Father’s Day love you daddy”. But one user, who apparenly is a regular troll of Griner’s Instagram account, responded “2 men.” Griner, who acknowledged in her recent ESPN profile that she regularly reads the messages of love and hate that people leave her on social media, had apparently had enough. So she responded:

you always got something smart to say! Why don’t you try to get a life and stop being a sorry individual that has nothing to do but be a horrible demon! You need to look and [sic] the mirror and se what u are!!! Get a life! So be happy u finally got your fam because I responded! But know u look like an axh though! :) have a good day!

Griner then posted a seperate Instagram photo of the regular doses of Internet hate that she gets every day. See below.

Regular Working People Might Be Able to Afford to Live in San Francisco Again

Like many people who grew up in San Francisco, I don’t live there anymore. And with the medium home prices in the city recently topping $1 million, I’m not likely to settle down there any time soon (sorry, Mom). But! San Francisco tenants just won a big battle 


Kevin Clash Won a Bunch of Emmys Last Week, Everything is Awkward

Kevin Clash Won a Bunch of Emmys Last Week, Everything is Awkward

Before Kevin Clash became a controversy, he was an anomaly. He was a history-making black performer in a world that was mostly white, and became the voice behind Elmo, one of the most loved figures in child entertainment. Clash has since been rocked by several accusations of inappropriate sexual behavior with several underage boys. The allegations led to Clash’s resignation from the show last year.

Nonetheless, Clash took home three Emmy Awards last week at the Daytime Entertainment Creative Arts show. In total, Clash took home awards for his work as executive co-producer of Sesame Street, which won for Outstanding Pre-School Children’s Series; Outstanding performer in a Children’s Series; and he shared another award for Outstanding Directing in a Children’s Series. 

Clash hasn’t been heard from publicly since the scandal broke, so he didn’t accept the awards in person. But his wins pretty much sum up the competing sentiments about him: talented, troubled, and ominously absent. 

(h/t Shadow and Act)


US Supreme Court Strikes Down Proof of Citizenship Voting Law

US Supreme Court Strikes Down Proof of Citizenship Voting Law

This morning the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that an Arizona law requiring proof of citizenship from residents as they register to vote is invalid because it violates the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA). Through the NVRA, a standardized federal form is provided to all states to keep voter registration uniform across the nation. But Arizona passed a state law in 2004, Proposition 200, that requested additional information such as hard-copy documents proving one’s citizenship, in order to register. This created burdens and barriers to the ballot for many Native and Latino Americans in Arizona. Today’s decision lifts the proof of citizenship law from Arizona’s law books. 

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in the majority opinion:

“We hold that [federal election law] precludes Arizona from requiring a Federal Form applicant to submit information beyond that required by the form itself. Arizona may, however, request anew that the [Election Assistance Commission] include such a requirement among the Federal Form’s state-specific instructions, and may seek judicial review of the EAC’s decision under the Administrative Procedure Act.”

This was an important victory for voting rights, especially given that a favorable opinion came from Justice Scalia, whose comments on voting rights lately have been discouraging. In March, after oral arguments concerning the case, Justice Scalia said he saw nothing wrong with requesting a birth certificate to register to vote.  As noted in his conclusion above, he is encouraging Arizona to appeal to the federal Election Assistance Commission board to have them require additional information — like proof of citizenship — for federal registration forms.  If the EAC did adopt such measures, then people across the nation would have to show forms like birth certificates to register, which would chiefly burden people of color.

“Today’s decision sends a strong message that states cannot block their citizens from registering to vote by superimposing burdensome paperwork requirements on top of federal law,” stated Nina Perales, Mexican American Legal Defense Education Fund’s Vice President of Litigation and lead counsel for the voters who challenged the Arizona law.  “The Supreme Court has affirmed that all U.S. citizens have the right to register to vote using the national postcard, regardless of the state in which they live.”  

MALDEF President and General Counsel, Thomas A. Saenz, stated, “Arizona, and those states that choose to follow its irresponsible legislating, received a strong message today. The federal government has, through the NVRA, made clear that states may not place unnecessary and unreasonable obstacles to voter participation.”

Read Aura Bogado’s story “From Arizona to Montana, Native Voters Struggle for Democracy” here for further background. 

 UPDATE: 11:38 A.M. EST 

The Constitutional Accountability Center, a D.C.-based think tank and law firm that focuses on defending the U.S. Constitution and democracy, found the ruling favorable. Said CAC’s civil rights director David Gans: “The Court affirmed Congress’ decision to use a single federal form to help streamline the voter registration process, and prevent states like Arizona from denying the right of citizens to register to vote in federal elections.  At a time when states are engaged in voter suppression efforts, today’s opinion is an important reaffirmation that the text and history of the Elections Clause give the federal government broad power to preempt state law in order to protect the right to vote in federal elections.” 

Read CAC’s amicus brief with the court filed with the Brennan Center for Jusitce here


Civil rights law organization Advancement Project also found the ruling acceptable: 

“The Supreme Court’s decision on Arizona’s Proposition 200 is an important victory for voting rights,” said Advancement Project Co-Director Judith Browne Dianis. “By rejecting the federal mail-in voter registration form and requiring additional proof of citizenship such as a birth certificate, passport or naturalization papers, the statute not only violated federal law but was also misguided. Between the time of the law’s implementation in 2005 and the first time it went to trial in 2008, more than 30,000 prospective voters in Arizona had their registration rejected because they did not include the additional documentation required. Nationally, more than 11 million American citizens lack access to these documents - which can be costly and difficult, if not impossible, to obtain. With the tremendous success of the National Voter Registration Act in boosting participation though the mail-in voter registration form, as well as safeguarding the process against fraud, there is simply no need for laws like Prop 200 that only restrict access to the ballot.”

Census: Asians Are the Fastest Growing Racial Group in the U.S.

Census: Asians Are the Fastest Growing Racial Group in the U.S.

The New York Times may have led its Thursday census story with handwringing over the decline of the white population in the U.S. But that wasn’t all that the U.S. Census Bureau released. The other big news? Asians are now the fastest growing racial or ethnic group in the country. Asians in the U.S. now number 19 million, a change of 2.9 percent between 2011 and 2012, NPR reported.

The change comes on the heels of shifting migration patterns. According to a 2012 Pew report, Asian migration surpassed Latino migration to the U.S. for the first time, the AP reported last year. Rapid demographic changes are underway in the country. The majority of babies born in the U.S. are now Asian, Latino or black.

And yet, the reaction to demographic change in the U.S. is all too often nativist fear of some kind of newcomer-led overthrow. Where Asians are concerned, those fears become tinged by a yellow peril panic that xenophobes have been practicing for about as long as Asians have been coming to the U.S., which means, for well over a century.

Beau Sia’s poem “The Asians Are Coming, The Asians Are Coming” has always been one of my go-to salves for that tired xenophobia. It’s also the first thing I thought of when I heard the Census news. Enjoy.

U.S. Reports to U.N. on Ending Racial Bias, With No Plan of Its Own

U.S. Reports to U.N. on Ending Racial Bias, With No Plan of Its Own

The U.S. State Department submitted a report to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination about the state of racial injustice in America. The U.S. government says in the report that “more can and should be done in many areas” regarding their commitment to race discrimination. They also admit that “more can be done” for “strengthening understanding and respect for human rights.”

The report helps the nation fulfill its obligations under the U.N.’s international Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, or CERD. The State Department writes, “This Report shares our progress in implementing our undertakings under the CERD and on related measures to address racial discrimination.”

The ACLU is calling the report “a step forward,” but says there’s still much work to be done.

“With its submission of this report, the Obama administration makes the critically important point of acknowledging that racial discrimination still persists in the U.S.,” said Chandra Bhatnagar, senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s Human Rights Program. “However, the report glosses over how certain federal policies, such as those allowing state and local involvement in immigration enforcement, have been vehicles to enable racial discrimination to occur. Further, the report doesn’t address the pressing need for a national plan of action to end all forms of racial discrimination, which many other countries have already created.”

In March, the US Human Rights Network along with dozens of racial justice organizations sent a letter to President Obama requesting that he develop a “National Plan of Action for Racial Justice” that would bring the nation in full compliance with its commitments under the U.N. convention. 

“Despite a strong civil rights legacy, race disparities linked to institutionalized and structural forms of racism continue to exist in almost every sphere of life in the United States,” reads the letter, which lists examples of present-day unresolved racial discrimination:

  • In the 2009-2010 school year, 74 percent of African-American students and 80 percent of Latino students attended majority minority schools, where most of their classmates are nonwhite. An outcome of the deeply segregated and racially and economically isolated American education system is severe achievement gaps between students of color and white students.
  • Indigenous Peoples, African Americans, and Latinos are disproportionately incarcerated in the United States. Two-thirds of the two million prisoners in the United States are African-American or Latino. The disparities can be linked to improper policing practices like racial profiling. Drug policy and drug sentencing also contribute by disproportionately targeting African Americans and Latinos.
  • People of color and Indigenous Peoples are also more likely to live near hazardous waste facilities with nearly half of all people of color in the United States living within less than two miles of a hazardous waste facility.

There’s also the recent HUD-sponsored investigation that found people of color are less likely to be shown housing units by real estate agents and landlords than white people — findings that HUD apparently isn’t prepared to resolve anytime soon, as Seth Freed Wessler and ProPublica’s Nikole Hannah-Jones recently reported on (which won the National Low Income Housing Coalition Media Award for Hannah-Jones).

It should also be added that the Voting Rights Act’s Section Five, which prevents racial disenfranchisement intentional and unintentional in areas with a history of racial discrimination, and also race consideration in affirmative action policy are both in danger of being deleted from the law books by the U.S. Supreme Court. 

Sherrilyn A. Ifill, president of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund who is helping defend both of those issues in the Supreme Court, wrote an op-ed in the New York Times today saying, “If there is public discomfort, it is precisely because race still does matter, because it still resonates so powerfully in American life.” 

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