05-24-2018  4:24 pm      •     
The Skanner Report
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NEWS BRIEFS

Attorney General Forms Hate Crime Task Force

The task force will study hate-motivated crimes and review existing legal protections for victims ...

Portland Art Museum Celebrates Art Museum Day with Free Admission on May 25

Portland Art Museum joins art museums across North America, with great works of art and public programs ...

June Key Delta Community Center Hosts May Week ’18 Health Fair May 26

Event includes vision, glucose screenings, medication disposal and car seat installation ...

Mississippi Avenue Giving Tuesday

On Tuesday, May 22, 10 percent of proceeds from participating Mississippi Ave. businesses will go to SEI ...

Amazon: Echo device sent conversation to family's contact

SEATTLE (AP) — An "unlikely" string of events prompted Amazon's Echo personal assistant device to record a Portland, Oregon, family's private conversation and then send the recording to an acquaintance in Seattle, the company said Thursday.The woman told KIRO-TV that two weeks ago an...

Portland streetcar derails in crash; 1 injury

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A Portland streetcar derailed during an accident involving several vehicles.No major injuries have been reported, but police say one person was taken to a hospital.The crash happened early Thursday afternoon in the Central Eastside Industrial District.The streetcar's "B...

Suspect in 1986 Washington murder case pleads not guilty

TACOMA, Wash. (AP) — A man arrested in the killing of a 13-year-old Tacoma, Washington girl over three decades ago has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder.The News Tribune reports 60-year-old Robert Washburn pleaded not guilty Thursday in Tacoma, Washington, to murder with aggravated...

Amazon: Echo device sent conversation to family's contact

SEATTLE (AP) — An "unlikely" string of events prompted Amazon's Echo personal assistant device to record a Portland, Oregon, family's private conversation and then send the recording to an acquaintance in Seattle, the company said Thursday.The woman told KIRO-TV that two weeks ago an...

OPINION

Racism After Graduation May Just Be What's on the Menu

Dr. Julianne Malveaux says that for our young millennials, racism is inevitable ...

Prime Minister Netanyahu Shows Limits of Israel’s Democracy

Bill Fletcher, Jr. on racial politics in Israel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s uneven treatment of African immigrants ...

Golfing While Black Is Not a Crime

Grandview Golf Club asks five Black women to leave for golfing too slow ...

Discovering the Best of Black America in 2018

Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis discusses the DTU Journalism Fellowship & Scholarship Program ...

AFRICAN AMERICANS IN THE NEWS

Staley settles lawsuit against Missouri athletic director

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — South Carolina coach Dawn Staley has reached a ,000 settlement in her lawsuit against Missouri athletic director Jim Sterk.Missouri is paying the ,000. One half of the settlement will go to INNERSOLE, a nonprofit foundation co-founded by Staley. The other half will...

San Francisco police not charged in black man's 2015 killing

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — San Francisco prosecutors said Thursday that they will not charge officers in two shooting deaths, including the killing of a black man that led to citywide protests three years ago and federally recommended police reforms.District Attorney George Gascon declined to...

Body camera video is latest setback for Milwaukee police

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Body camera video showing police using a stun gun on an NBA player over a parking violation is just the latest setback for efforts to improve relations between Milwaukee officers and the city's black population.The confrontation involving Sterling Brown of the Milwaukee...

ENTERTAINMENT

Scenes cut from 'Show Dogs' over resemblance to sexual abuse

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Two scenes are being cut from the family movie "Show Dogs" after complaints that they resemble real-life sexual abuse, the movie's distributor has announced.In the movie, a police dog goes undercover at a dog show to catch animal smugglers.In one scene, the dog is told to...

Tommy Chong reflects on pot's evolution as he turns 80

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Yeah man, Tommy Chong says he always knew he'd live to see the day marijuana legalization would be sweeping America.He knew when he and partner Cheech Marin pioneered stoner comedy 50 years ago, a time when taunting the establishment with constant reminders that they...

Paltrow: Brad Pitt threatened Harvey Weinstein

NEW YORK (AP) — Gwyneth Paltrow says ex-boyfriend Brad Pitt threatened producer Harvey Weinstein after an alleged incident of sexual misconduct.The 45-year-old actress told "The Howard Stern Show" on Wednesday she was "blindsided." Paltrow claimed she was 22 when Weinstein placed his hands...

U.S. & WORLD NEWS

MLB panel says baseballs getting extra lift, cause unknown

NEW YORK (AP) — Baseballs really have been getting extra lift since 2015, and it's not from the exaggerated...

Tommy Chong reflects on pot's evolution as he turns 80

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Yeah man, Tommy Chong says he always knew he'd live to see the day marijuana...

Bus driver charged in crash that killed student, teacher

A school bus driver with a history of driver's license suspensions caused a fatal crash on a New Jersey highway...

Israel defense chief plans 2,500 new West Bank settler homes

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel's defense minister said Thursday he will seek approval next week to fast-track...

Cyclone Mekunu pounds Yemen island on its path to Oman

SALALAH, Oman (AP) — Cyclone Mekunu roared over the Yemeni island of Socotra in the Arabian Sea on its way...

Saudi Arabia releases 3 women as other activists still held

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Saudi authorities have released three prominent women's rights...

By The Skanner News

WASHINGTON—A school closes that once housed a polling place. For the next election, city officials send voters to a new site across the street. In Boston, no problem. In Atlanta, no problem provided the federal government grants permission.

Such has been the law for 40 years under the Voting Rights Act, which sought to end racist poll taxes and literacy tests by putting Southern states — then, without question, the worst offenders — on a shorter leash than most other places.

Now President Bush, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and congressional leaders from both political parties are pushing to renew this requirement for 25 more years. Although it doesn't expire until 2007, continuation of Section 5 — the provision involving federal preclearance of voting laws — seems a foregone conclusion.

Still, a handful of Southern Republicans — particularly those from Georgia — are determined to mount a spirited dissent, though they realize it will probably be in vain.

"It's just a matter of feeling dissed when you know you've paid for your sins or the sins of your forefathers, and it wasn't even our party that did it," said Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga.

Congress is just a few weeks into its hearings on the act's renewal, but most have involved a parade of witnesses who support extending the requirement and a small handful who don't. So Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, a Georgia Republican in his first congressional term, decided it's time for the other side to mobilize.

Earlier this month, Westmoreland called a meeting of several Southern Republicans whose states are subject to Section 5 approval. He shared with them some facts involving his state of Georgia.

First, Blacks there now turn out to vote at a higher rate than Whites, according to a study by two political scientists. Second, the state has little trouble electing minorities to office. Four of 13 members of the U.S. House are Black, as is Thurbert Baker, who was easily re-elected as the state's attorney general.

"I'm not going to deny there weren't problems," Westmoreland said. "But right now, if you look at those same communities where there were problems, those communities are controlled by minorities."

Ironically, the loudest voices for continuing Section 5 use the same primary argument as those who want to scrap it. They just insist the progress happened mostly because the Voting Rights Act was there at all. Take that away, they fear, and discrimination returns in force.

At a news conference this past week largely in response to Westmoreland's efforts, Rep. John Lewis, a Georgia Democrat and civil rights leader, called Section 5 "the heart of the act." His Georgia Democratic colleagues agreed, with Rep. David Scott predicting a "full-frontal assault" by opponents.

"In an ideal world we would not need the Voting Rights Act, and in an ideal world we could apply Section 5 across the board without watering it down and making it ineffective," said Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Ga. "But if history, both past and present, teaches us anything, it's that we do not live in an ideal world."

In just a few months as a congressman, this is the second time Westmoreland has led a chorus of few on an otherwise unpopular crusade. After Hurricane Katrina slammed the Gulf Coast, he voted against a $52 billion aide package that passed overwhelmingly, not convinced there was enough fiscal management.

"I think it takes some political courage to do what's right," Westmoreland said.

Westmoreland contends Congress should either scrap the Section 5 requirement altogether or make it apply to every state. Proponents say that idea is no better because it would dilute civil rights challenges and make the law far more likely to be overturned by the courts on the grounds the federal government is infringing on states' rights.

The representative said he is confident most Georgia Republicans are with him, including Sen. Saxby Chambliss, who acknowledges he has similar concerns. But some other Southern lawmakers, including two Republicans from neighboring Alabama, are torn.

Rep. Jo Bonner, from Mobile, Ala., said the Voting Rights Act shouldn't be eliminated if it means a return to the days of discrimination. Still, he said, there is inherent unfairness.

"You're applying a standard on the Southern states you're not applying elsewhere," Bonner said. "In Columbus, Ohio, you don't have to pre-clear when moving a voting precinct from a church in one part of town to another part of town. We do in Thomasville, Ala. It's not punishment, but it's added expense."

Actually, civil rights leaders even dispute that point. Officials say the cost of going through the hoops of Section 5 is less than 3 percent of what it takes to run an election, usually far less.

Under the Voting Rights Act, "retrogression" against minorities isn't allowed, but even 40 years later, there are various opinions on what exactly that means.

For most of that period, it was assumed an election change — such as redistricting, which Georgia has done twice in the last few years — couldn't dilute the ability of minorities to elect candidates they choose to office. But in the 2003 Supreme Court case Georgia vs. Ashcroft, the justices found such plans could be approved provided they still let Black voters influence an election.

Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Ala., who sits on the Judiciary Committee's Constitution panel, which is considering reauthorization, calls the retrogression standard a "mixed bag" that needs to be revamped.

"I'm going to try to find out if we could salvage Section 5 by bringing more clarity to it," Bachus said. "If we can't do that, I would just support letting it expire."

Supporters of reauthorization say it's fitting that the most vocal opposition is coming from Georgia, which recently had a federal court rule it couldn't enact a new law requiring voters without a driver's license to pay for a state-issued ID badge. Lewis equates the move to a poll tax, falling disproportionately on minorities, but the Justice Department cleared it.

The Georgia Republicans aren't claiming they have the votes in Congress to sink Section 5, but they insist they aren't afraid to try.

"That happens sometimes," Gingrey said. "You don't have much of a snowball's chance in hell of winning. You still feel like it's the right thing to do, so you strap on your helmet, go out there, and if you fail, you walk away with your pride."

— The Associated Press

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