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Hillary Clinton’s Voting-Rights Speech

Two observations on Hillary Clinton’s voting-rights speech last Thursday: 

First, it contained the predictable race-baiting demagogy — e.g., “what is happening is a sweeping effort to disempower and disenfranchise people of color . . .” No, what is happening is the usual effort to strike the right balance between facilitating voting by eligible voters and preventing voting by ineligible voters. If there is evidence of racial discrimination, the courts are open for business. 

Second, she showed, again predictably, her impatience with constitutional limits on federal power, in this case by endorsing federal legislation that would force states to allow felons to vote. Not only is automatic felon reenfranchisment a bad idea, but it is beyond Congress’s authority to pass such a law.

And speaking of the Constitution, she also endorsed efforts to overturn the Supreme Court’s decision two years ago in Shelby County v. Holder, which struck down as unconstitutional one section of the Voting Rights Act. But that decision was correct, and the bill that has been introduced to overturn it contains its own constitutional infirmities — in addition to being bad policy and unnecessary — as discussed here and here and here and here and here and here and here.

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There are a couple of other items on the felon-voting front, both involving proposed bills at the state level to allow felons to vote when they are still on parole or probation.
Maryland’s governor Larry Hogan vetoed a bill last month that would have reenfranchised felons on the day they walk out of prison — even if the parole/probation part of their sentences had not been served. Good for him.

As I and other conservatives had pointed out to him, such automatic reenfranchisement is “premature and unwise.”

To elaborate: If you aren’t willing to follow the law yourself, then you can’t demand a role in making the law for everyone else, which is what you do when you vote. The right to vote can be restored to felons, but it should be done carefully, on a case-by-case basis after a person has shown that he or she has really turned over a new leaf, not automatically on the day someone walks out of prison — let alone when parole/probation have not even been served. After all, the unfortunate truth is that most people who walk out of prison will be walking back in. 

The only bad news is that there may be a serious attempt to override the veto. Here’s hoping the votes are lacking in the Maryland state legislature.

And in Minnesota, the bill failed to pass the state legislature at all.  Here again, though, the struggle is not over, because the governor has asked that the bill be among those on the agenda he’s proposed for a special session of the legislature later this year.

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“The Case for Black Doctors”:  That’s the title of a recent New York Times op-ed by Dr. Damon Tweedy.  But his arguments in favor of racial preferences are unpersuasive, as discussed in my response:

Dr. Tweedy offers only two justifications for racial preferences in med school admissions: that many black patients prefer black doctors, and that African-American doctors are more likely to work in underserved areas.

Both are shaky as an empirical matter (see Sally Satel’s book PC, MD on the first, and the second was rejected by Justice Powell in his Bakke opinion), and both are shaky as a matter of policy (we wouldn’t indulge nonblack patients’ reluctance to have a black doctor, and there are more direct ways to improve service in underserved areas than the convoluted one of admitting doctors we hope might someday practice there).

But even if there is something to them, they would not justify the many costs of racial discrimination in university admissions — the unfairness, divisiveness, stigmatization, “mismatch” problem leading to lower graduation rates, and on and on. And in particular in this context, there is the cost to future patients of turning down the most qualified applicants and instead admitting less qualified individuals to become doctors. Is that ultimately a good thing for black patients? No wonder Dr. Tweedy admits finally that he is “ambivalent” about race-based affirmative action!