This week, Trump-appointed judges permanently barred the NAACP from suing government voting rights violators. Only the government itself may to sue to stop government itself from committing gross racial vote suppression.
The ruling by the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals literally blesses racist blockades to the Voting Rights Act in seven states under its malfeasant jurisdiction (Arkansas, Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska and Missouri). If the US Supreme Court goes along with this ruling, the whole of the United States will be Jim Crow’d.
The facts: This week, the court voted 2-1 that the NAACP is banned from bringing any suit—ever—for racial discrimination under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. The ban also applies to the ACLU (which filed a friend-of-the-court brief on the side of NAACP) and every other civil rights organization in those seven states. Only the government itself may sue.
As it is the government itself which is the perpetrator of the crime of vote suppression, this ruling means that only the perpetrator of the crime may sue itself.
The court’s “left-wing” justice, that is, a Bush appointee, dissented. Democracy Docket, the front-line group of voting rights attorneys, called the decision, “catastrophic.” That’s an understatement. In. legalese, the ruling bars “a private right of action” against a state discriminating against voters of color under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. “Private” here means “voter.” That is, if Arkansas passes a law that only white voters may cast a ballot in a drop box, the voter would have no right to challenge the ruling in Court. (Think I’m exaggerating? That effectively is the case under new Georgia law. (See below.)
There is a tiny crack in the wall allowing justice to sneak through: Private citizens and their representatives like the NAACP are now blocked from the courtroom but, because “government” includes the feds, the Trump tribunal had no choice but to invite the US Attorney General to join the case in place of the NAACP.
This is small comfort, given that under the Trump and Bush Administrations, it was the federal government itself which organized and directed the Jim Crow operations. Let me count the ways….
Tears of a Clone
In June 2007, the US Justice Department’s Prosecutor for Arkansas, Tim Griffin, had to resign from office in disgrace and in tears, when my investigations team at BBC Television broadcast the evidence that Griffin ran an illegal “caging” operation to block the votes of tens of thousands of Black, Hispanic, Asian and Jewish voters.
We’d gotten our hands on dozens of emails sent from Griffin to Republican operatives in Florida and elsewhere. The emails contained lists of voters of color to be blocked from the polls. Griffin called them “caging” lists. The scheme was as simple as it was cruel: soldiers of color who were shipped to Iraq were sent letters from the GOP to their home voting addresses, “do not forward.” When the letters were returned, “caged,” by the GOP, the voters’ ballots were then challenged and could not be counted. Go to Iraq; lose your vote; mission accomplished. A report on my investigation by David Brancaccio on PBS also found that Griffin used the caging lists to send letters to Black student voters during their summer vacations, so the letters would be returned.
This was a straight-up crime under the Voting Rights Act—committed by the Justice Department itself.
I must note that Griffin said, literally through tears, “I didn’t cage anyone!” –although the emails were clearly marked from “Tim Griffin.” Here’s a clip explaining how Griffin (with his boss Karl Rove) ordered the caging scam, from The Best Democracy Money Can Buy.
David Iglesias, former US Prosecutor for New Mexico, told me that Griffin and Rove ordered Iglesias fired for refusing to arrest Hispanic voters on fake charges of voting fraud. Griffin’s purpose was to justify mass purges of Hispanics from the voter rolls to steal the electoral vote in New Mexico in 2004 for George W. Bush’s re-election.
Griffin succeeded. In 2004, Bush shoplifted New Mexico’s electoral votes. For the full story, watch Reclaiming Their Voice, directed by Dorothy Fadiman and narrated by Peter Coyote.
I could go on with examples all night—but I chose these for a chilling reason. This week’s catastrophic ruling blocking victim voters from suing for their rights, Arkansas NAACP versus the state of Arkansas was argued for the law-breaking state by Arkansas Attorney General…Tim Griffin!
I can’t make this up. Tim Griffin, voting rights criminal, won the court’s approval to continue his vote suppressing spree. It’s as if a bank robber, paroled from prison, won a court ruling that allowed him to return to robbing banks. Al Capone would be so, so jealous.
The point is, almost all vote suppression is rooted in laws, procedures and actions of government itself, from cutting off early voting to shutting polling stations to purging legal voters of the wrong color (blue). If victim voters can’t sue, they have to ask the perps to sue for them.
What made Griffin’s win doubly delicious for vote rustlers is that the court ruled that, while voters cannot sue if they are victims of voting crimes, the court admitted that the state was, indeed, likely guilty:
“[T]here is a strong merits case that [Arkansas’ actions] are unlawful under §2 of the Voting Rights Act.”
Will this berserko ruling of the Eighth Circuit survive a Supreme Court review? Two “Justices,” Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas, have already indicated that they would bar a private right of action, that is a voter’s right to action, under the Voting Rights Act.
And that’s my warning for today: We have more to fear from the men in black robes than the men in white sheets.
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What can you do about it? Well, here’s what the Palast Investigations Team is doing about it. We are committed to our work in coordination with the NAACP of Georgia, Black Voters Matter Fund, Rainbow/PUSH, and the Transformative Justice Coalition to update our film, Vigilante: Georgia’s Vote Suppression Hitman. This includes exposing the operation of Georgia’s law which limited the location of drop boxes only in large Black counties. Really, truly.
In the updated 2024 national, feature-length version, Vigilantes Inc., we’re taking on the vote suppression hitmen in Texas, Arizona, Wisconsin and other states where the Georgia Jim Crow tactics have spread to.
Public radio in Atlanta credited our film with saving the re-election of Sen. Raphael Warnock. We did not. We are seriously non-partisan. Rather, our work exposed and stopped the governor and his vigilante vote challengers from removing thousands of voters of color from the rolls. You can help us shine the light on these racially poisonous schemes concentrated in the swing states where vote suppression tactics are targeted.
Join our producers Martin Sheen and Oscar-winner Maria Florio with an on-screen credit with your tax-deductible donation. We are always sorry to have to ask you to fund investigative reporting which should be the work of America’s news organizations. But don’t hold your breath waiting for the media moguls to expose the system that benefits them, unless you can hold your breath for decades.
We need you. You have the “private right of action” to tell the truth on’m.
I cannot thank you enough for all the support you’ve given us over the years. – Greg Palast and the Palast Investigative Team..
Greg Palast (Rolling Stone, Guardian, BBC) is the author of The New York Times bestsellers, Billionaires & Ballot Bandits and the book and documentary,
The Best Democracy Money Can Buy.
His latest film is Vigilante: Georgia's Vote Suppression Hitman
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