But now, supporters of strict voter-ID, registration and other voting laws are trying to use the same defense they have used to defend gerrymandering. They can claim ostensibly good reasons for their laws: preventing fraud or saving money. As a fallback, they can claim, like Texas, they are engaged in permissible partisan discrimination, not impermissible race discrimination.
But this is specious. First, it is artificial to separate race and party under current political conditions. When Don Yelton, a Republican official in North Carolina, recently told “The Daily Show” that if the state’s strict new voter-ID law “hurts a bunch of lazy blacks,” then “so be it,” it was easy to see old-fashioned Southern racism. But just as significant was Mr. Yelton’s saying that the new law “is going to kick the Democrats in the butt.”
Second, courts should alleviate unnecessary burdens on voters whatever the state’s asserted motive. The Supreme Court has said that, in redistricting, it cannot distinguish between permissible partisan considerations (for example, grouping “communities of interest”) and unconstitutional gerrymandering. But outside redistricting, partisanship has no place. Our elections should be conducted such that all eligible voters (and only eligible voters) can easily register, and cast a vote that will be accurately counted.
Few states will be as bold as Texas and admit naked partisanship. Most will engage in polite obfuscation. End of Excerpt