Natasha Merle, a lawyer with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, joins host Lindsay Beyerstein to discuss how false allegations of voter fraud are being used to suppress the votes of communities of color. Merle and her organization are suing President Donald Trump’s handpicked electoral commission for intentional discrimination against Black and Latino voters. Merle explains how voter ID laws have become the modern-day equivalent of poll taxes, imposing undue burdens on vulnerable people seeking to exercise their franchise, and how citizens can take action to combat these efforts.
An edited excerpt:
Lindsay: Intentional discrimination’s a really difficult standard to prove, especially if you don’t have access to tapes of people expounding on their intentions. As a lawyer, how do you go about proving something elusive like deliberate intent to discriminate in a case like this?
Natasha: Yeah. That’s a good point. Sometimes you do have legislators, state legislators, saying on the record that they don’t want “illegals” voting. Sometimes you have those statements on the record. Sometimes you have emails, but a lot of the time, you don’t, and you are required to rely upon the circumstantial evidence. For example, in Alabama, in the legislature, we know that the Black caucus in the Alabama legislature informed the other sponsors of the photo ID bill that this would impact their constituents, that it would be inhibitive for their constituents, that it would disproportionately impact Black and Latino voters, and so the state legislature knew that this bill would have a disproportionate impact on Black and Latino voters. That is part of this circumstantial evidence that you could put forward to show that this law was passed with the intent to discriminate against the Black and Latino voters in the state.
Lindsay: That’s really interesting that you can use testimony and things that are presented to the legislature while they’re deliberating about passing a law in future legal cases.
Natasha: Yes, because, like you said, a lot of the time you may not have legislatures saying certain things on the record that would go to intentional discrimination, but if you look at other circumstances, perhaps you can also look at how long the bill was debated, if the legislatures cut off debate quickly, like they didn’t want the bill to be debated. That could also support your claim of intentional discrimination.
- “Charlottesville: Race and Terror,” by Vice News, August 2017
- “Difference Makers: The Free Keane Squad,” by The Colbert Report, November 2014
- “Nazi Christopher Cantwell Crying,” by Peter Case via YouTube, August 2017