Friday, June 28, 2013

The Voter Rights Act Becomes a Hollow Specter of Itself

The 1965 Voting Rights Act is seen by many as the crown jewel of the civil rights movement.  Earlier this week--before Supreme Court's DOMA decision--the Supreme Court struck down the federal enforcement clause in the Voting Rights Act.

what eye thynk:    Technically, the Voting Rights Act still stands; but the Supreme Court has taken away any ability to enforce it on the federal level, leaving states to police themselves.  In reading their decision, it seems that the majority based their opinion on the fact that the Voting Rights Act has done so much good that oversight is no longer needed. (They also believed that big money wouldn't corrupt the election process in this country and we all know how THAT turned out.)

It should be obvious to any reasonable person that removing federal enforcement does not alter the essence of the law.  Any action that was unlawful in 2012 with federal oversight would be equally unlawful in 2013 without it...but southern Republican run states will never be found guilty of being reasonable.

Without the threat of federal oversight, our southern states are already rushing to undo any of the good done since 1965.  Several have already voiced their intention to re-instate voter I.D. laws that were deemed unfair to minorities and blocked by the Department of Justice last year.  

Texas has announced that their current redistricting map will be immediately replaced by their original redistricting map which was drawn in secret last year by white members of the state legislature without notifying black or Hispanic members.  Under this old/new map, Democratic legislators will suddenly find themselves in strongly Republican districts while their Democratic base has been shifted to a Republican's district.  One minority legislator will find his district encompasses two lily-white country clubs while his low income community center--a strong base of minority voting power--is now isolated in a mostly white district.   

In fairness, it has to be pointed out that our southern states and Republicans are not the only ones guilty of prejudicial redistricting.  Northern and Democratic run states do the same thing in their own favor, though I wonder if they are so obviously anti-minority.  I firmly believe that redistricting should not be under the jurisdiction of whatever party currently holds the majority.  It should be based solely on "how many" not "who" lives in any geographic area and any changes should be administered by a solely independent entity.  Letting politicians design political districts is never going to be completely fair--no matter which party is in charge. 

Texas will, of course, be re-instituting its own voter I.D. requirements.  Is your only photo I.D. an expired gun license from another state?  That's fine.  You'll be permitted to vote in Texas.  Want to vote using a student I.D. card? Sorry, that is not an acceptable form of identification.  To obtain a state photo I.D., you will have to produce your birth certificate and pay a fee. Students born out of state will have to prove that they are legal residents of Texas.  (It is not clear whether student housing will be accepted as proof of residency.)   Offices that will be permitted to issue state voter I.D.s will be few and located within mostly white city centers.

And so begins the age of states policing themselves.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg said it best in her dissenting opinion:

I give the Supreme Court a score of 1:1 this week.  They moved our LGTB community one enormous step forward, but sent our minority citizens back to the last century.  

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