Tuesday, June 25, 2013

What's Next for Voting Rights in America?

In one of the most anticipated Supreme Court rulings, the SCOTUS nullified Section 4B of the Voting Rights Act.  They left intact Section 5, which requires certain states/counties to get pre-clearance from the Justice Department before making changes to their voting laws.  At issue is the formula used to determine the jurisdictions needing pre-clearance.  It was argued by the plaintiffs that Southern states, which were the worst offenders in earlier decades are being unfairly targeted.  

As I read the reports it appears that Congress could redo the formula based on recent voting patterns.  That would be fine, if it weren't for the fact that it will be almost impossible to get Congress to enact the changed formula.  Thus, there is a pre-clearance requirement, but no criteria upon which to rule.  Therefore, Section 5 is essentially muted.

Now, what does this mean for the future of voting rights in America?  The majority rulings appeals to the fact that things have gotten better over the past four decades -- largely due to the Voting Rights Act.  But Chief Justice John Roberts seems to believe that things have gotten to the point that in the South there's little reason to keep the requirements in place for the affected jurisdictions.  Onlly time will tell.  

In the most recent elections we saw attempts being made to hinder voiting, especially among the poor and the marginalizeed.  Some of these provisions have been struck down, but will the Justice Department have the tools now to go after those who seek to limit voting opportunities?  

With other supporters of broadening Civil Rights, I'm disappointed in the ruling.  Therefore, I want to encourage Congress to do the right thing and act in such a way that the law can be brought into compliance with what the Ruling would seem to allow.

If we are to be a true democracy, we need to broaden access the polls not limit them.  We've come too far to go backward. 

2 comments:

John McCauslin said...

The fact that conservatives have suddenly turned on the voting rights act six years after voting for its extension, just after the election of a black man as president in two consecutive elections is not a coincidence.

bobcornwall said...

It is interesting that both Texas and North Carolina immediately stated that they would implement laws that have been invalidated, because now they don't have to preclear.