Newswire- Supreme Court sends mixed Civil Rights signals as America celebrates July 4th

By Hamil R. Harris

Supreme Court

(TriceEdneyWire.com) – On the eve of America’s celebration of its 243rd Independence Day, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down rulings that sent mixed messages to Civil Rights groups at a time when President Trump and Republicans hope to tilt the 2020 presidential elections their way.
In a 5-4 decision, the court ruled that the issue of partisan gerrymandering (drawing district lines in order to achieve political outcomes) does not belong in federal court and should be decided by state legislatures. Conservatives applauded that decision because it comes on the eve of the 2020 Census when state lawmakers configure districts often to benefit whatever party controls their particular state.
While the court rejected challenges to Republican-drawn congressional districts in North Carolina and a Democratic district in Maryland, the decision was still a major blow to critics who have argued for years that partisan manipulation of electoral maps unfairly results in single-party political control. The 5-4 decision fell along traditional conservative-liberal lines. Conservative Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Chief Justice John Roberts voted to keep the redistricting cases out of the federal courts. And liberal justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer voted to maintain federal jurisdiction over the cases.
Speaking for the conservative majority, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that while redistricting plans “are highly partisan by any measure,” the Supreme Court and lower courts are not the venues to settle these disputes. With this decision, Civil Rights groups say the court is giving state houses, mostly controlled by Republicans, more power to tilt things in their ideological direction.
But writing for the four dissenting judges, Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, who was appointed by President Obama, said, “For the first time ever, this court refuses to remedy a constitutional violation because it thinks the task beyond judicial capabilities.”
In the case of Rucho V. Common Cause and Lamone v. Benisek, NAACP President Derrick Johnson, said in a statement, “The Court’s rulings are allowing party politics to determine the outcomes of our elections…Extreme partisan gerrymandering has infected our electoral process for far too long. Exercise of the franchise, which many fought and even died for, must not be reduced to a political charade in which the outcomes are predetermined. In America, voters should choose their representatives instead of representatives choosing their voters.”
Johnson concluded that the high court should have halted what the NAACP and other civil rights advocates consider unconstitutional conduct, but it did not. Therefore, he contends, this is a throwback racism of the past.
“In racially polarized environments like North Carolina where racial block voting is standard, today’s decision will license policymakers to mask racial intent as partisan gerrymandering in order to suppress votes and prevent communities from fully participating in democracy to elect candidates of their choice,” Johnson stated.
The court’s decision basically reverses the outcome of rulings in Maryland, Michigan, North Carolina and Ohio, where lower courts had ordered new maps drawn and it ends proceedings in Wisconsin, where a retrial was supposed to take place later this summer.
Supreme Court decision in Census case more acceptable
On the other hand, the NAACP and members of the Congressional Black Caucus applauded the court ruling in the case of the Department of Commerce v. New York that blocks the Trump Administration’s attempt to insert a citizenship question into the 2020 Census based on the pretext of enforcing the Voting Rights Act (VRA).
“I am very pleased that the Supreme Court ruled today that the Trump Administration may not add the citizenship question to the 2020 Census based on the Administration’s claim that it was trying to protect voting rights,” said Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), referring to the 5-4 decision where Robert’s decided with the most liberal leaning justices on the bench.
Cummings, Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Operations Committee, challenged President Trump’s move from the very beginning after his Secretary of Commerce added the citizenship question to the upcoming 2020 Census form.
“Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross testified before Congress that the Trump Administration was adding the citizenship question to the census ‘solely’ at the request of the Justice Department to help enforce the Voting Rights Act,” Cummings said in a statement. “The Supreme Court has now eviscerated this claim, calling it a ‘pretext,’ ‘contrived,’ and ‘incongruent with what the record reveals.’
Some have suggested that Secretary Ross could go back and offer other reasons for adding the citizenship question. However, any claim now that the Trump Administration had other reasons for adding the citizenship question would directly contradict Secretary Ross’ sworn testimony that helping the Justice Department enforce the Voting Rights Act was the Administration’s sole purpose.
Johnson said that the NAACP also welcomed the court ruling, which he said stopped the Trump administration’s fraudulent efforts to suppress votes in the upcoming Presidential election.
“Through various means, the Trump administration is deliberately seeking to undercount communities of color in the 2020 Census, a ploy designed to increase the political power of Whites at the expense of already underrepresented communities,” Johnson said. “Weakening the political representation of communities of color has been a stain on our democracy since its founding. The Three-Fifths Compromise of the Constitutional Convention in 1787 counted enslaved black people as three-fifths of a person in apportioning congressional districts. Since that time, the Census has severely undercounted the communities of color.”
This week President Trump has planned a huge 4th of July celebration, complete with a military parade and even a jet fly over in Washington DC. But Johnson wrote that President Trump would do better by stopping his effort to take Democracy away from so many vulnerable people whether it is through a census or mass deportations scheduled sometimes after the holiday.
“The citizenship question was not made for the reasons put forth by Secretary Ross,” Johnson said. “Rather, it was a bald-faced effort to benefit one race and one political party at the expense of some of our nation’s most vulnerable communities. This astounding truth can no longer be swept under the rug. It is there for all to see.”

Newswire : Election Day Countdown: Civil Rights Leaders fight for maximum voter participation; Georgia is unjustly holding 53,000 voter registrations

By Hazel Trice Edney (TriceEdneyWire.com) – The Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law has filed suit against Georgia Secretary of State and Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp over the state’s “discriminatory and unlawful ‘exact match’ voter suppression scheme.” The suit alleges that Georgia’s “‘no match, no vote’ voter registration scheme violates the Voting Rights Act, the National Voter Registration Act, and the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution,” according to a statement from the organization. The alleged scheme appears to intentionally deter Black voters who intend to vote for Kemp’s opponent, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacie Abrams, who would become the nation’s first Black woman governor. Meanwhile, Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Cedric Richmond has written a scathing letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions strongly objecting to what appears to be his “abdication of his complete abdication of the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) voting rights oversight responsibilities” in the Georgia controversy. And NAACP President Derrick Johnson has announced that the historic civil rights organization is also monitoring the situation in Georgia, which he describes as “a stain on our system of democracy when less than a month before an election which could produce the first African-American female governor in our nation’s history, we are seeing this type of voter suppression scheme attempted by a state official whose candidacy for the governorship produces an irremediable conflict of interest.” The war for votes in the Nov. 6 election is on. And civil rights leaders across the country are fighting vigorously for each one. Despite the contention for political control of the U. S. House of Representatives, the historic gubernatorial election in Georgia is the ground zero of sorts as it tests fair elections after the 2013 Shelby v. Holder U. S. Supreme Court decision that outlawed the Section 5 “Pre-clearance Clause”, which once mandated Georgia and a list of other states to seek permission from the Justice Department before changing voting laws. “Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp has been a driving force behind multiple voter suppression efforts throughout the years in Georgia,” says Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee. “If there is one person in Georgia who knows that the ‘Exact Match’ scheme has a discriminatory impact on minority voters, it’s Brian Kemp because we successfully sued him over a mirror policy in 2016.” In a nutshell, Kemp’s “exact match” policy has placed more than 53,000 voter registration applications on “pending” status a month before the midterm election. They are on hold because of simple typos or for not exactly matching the registrants’ official identification for any reason. Though Kemp contends the 53,000 can still vote, lawyers contend that just the implication that the vote may not count or that they may be question at the polls could cause Black voters to become skittish and stay at home. There exists a stark parallel between the voter suppression schemes levied by states around the country prior to the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the insidious tactics used by Secretary Kemp to capitalize on the Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County to gut the Act and its protections for African Americans and other people of color that came with it. No less than 70 percent of people impacted by ‘Exact Match’ are African-American. We will continue fighting voter suppression to ensure a level playing field for voters across Georgia this election cycle.” In his letter to Attorney General Sessions, CBC Chairman Richmond says Georgia is just a tip of the iceberg for voter suppression antics going on around the country. “The current state of election integrity across the nation is in a tenuous position thanks to your intentionally lax approach to enforcement of voting rights laws. Bad actors in governments in various states have been deliberately compromising fair elections with impunity,” Richmond wrote. The NAACP’s Johnson says the organization will continue to monitor Georgia closely after a major win against voter suppression in the state just two months ago. In August the NAACP Georgia State Conference successfully fought against the closing of 7 of 9 polls in the nearly all Black area of Randolph County. The Associated Press has reported that Kemp has “cancelled over 1.4 million voter registrations since 2012. Nearly 670,000 registrations were cancelled in 2017 alone.”

Newswire : NAACP set to change tax status to engage politically

By Lauren Victoria Burke (NNPA Newswire Contributor)

Derrick Johnson
 Derrick Johnson, NAACP President

After being eclipsed in recent years by Color of Change, Black Lives Matter and other younger, more tech savvy and politically-pointed groups, the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization will change its tax status.
The group’s leaders said that the new tax status would allow them to be more aggressive politically. During a call with reporters, NAACP officials announced that the civil rights group will transition from a 501(c)(3) to 501(c)(4) designation. The change will allow the organization to be more partisan and politically focused. However, the tax designation does not allow political work to be the “primary activity” of the organization.
Even though the NAACP is 108 years old, the organization is struggling to modernize and stay relevant in a rapidly-evolving, social media-driven landscape that requires speed and strategic communications skill. In October, the NAACP named Derrick Johnson as its president; Johnson was elected by the NAACP’s board to serve for three years.
In a statement announcing Johnson as the new president, Leon Russell, the board chairman of the NAACP said, “As both a longtime member of the NAACP, and a veteran activist in his own right—having worked on the ground to advocate for the victims of Hurricane Katrina, along with championing countless other issues—Derrick also intimately understands the strengths of the Association, our challenges and the many obstacles facing Black Americans of all generations, today. I look forward to continuing to work with him in this new role.”
Russell continued: “In his time serving as our interim president and CEO, Derrick has proven himself as the strong, decisive leader we need to guide us through both our internal transition, as well as a crucial moment in our nation’s history. With new threats to communities of color emerging daily and attacks on our democracy, the NAACP must be more steadfast than ever before.”
New NAACP President Derrick Johnson is a native of Detroit, Michigan who lives in Jackson, Mississippi. He is a long-time member of the NAACP, who was elected Vice Chair earlier this year and served as the interim president after Cornell Brooks was forced out. Johnson attended Tougaloo College before earning a juris doctor degree from South Texas College of Law in Houston.