Wednesday presented great cause to celebrate as the Supreme Court struck down DOMA and rejected California’s anti-gay marriage legislation, Proposition 8.  However, just the day prior, the same Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act.

The nearly fifty-year old Act was originally passed to protect the voting rights of minorities.   It took just two hours before the first state took advantage of its absence.

El Perry

In a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court nullified Section 4 of the 1965 legislation.   Section 4 was the formula in determining which states would have to submit for preclearance of any new voting laws.  Up until Tuesday, there were nine southern states that met the criteria under Section 4 for Section 5.

Section 5 is the preclearance requirement, which required the states under Section 4 to have their new voter laws cleared by a D.C. federal court or the Justice Department.  Section 5 was essentially stalled when Section 4 was struck down like Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Section 4 struck down

In the ruling, Chief Justice John Roberts validated the court’s decision to drop kick the core of the Act, explaining “things have changed dramatically” in the South since the legislation was originally signed into law.

Texas is one of the states that is no longer required to submit its voter law changes for preclearance.  It was also one of the states most recently caught up in the hip Republican trend of creating voter ID laws targeting minorities.

One Texas’ voting law that we previously discussed in Licensed to Ill, would have prevented 38% of the state’s Latino population from voting.  The law was rejected under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.

Two hours after the SCOTUS ruling, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott declared the state would now move forward on the voter ID law that was originally blocked last March by the Justice Department.

Gregg Abbott

“Redistricting maps passed by the legislature may also take effect without approval from the federal government.”  Abbott said.   That is likely the only way it could “take effect.”

The last time this guy had a map, three federal judges, including Judge Thomas Griffith (appointed by Bush 43), determined it violated the Voting Rights Act.  The ruling referred to the map as showing “a deliberate, race-conscious method to manipulate not simply the Democratic vote, but more specifically, the Hispanic vote.”   The people of Texas would be better off if Abbott did a redistricting to the map to One-Eyed Willy’s treasure.

One-Eyed Willy's Map

Texas Governor Rick Perry signed a new map into law just 24 hours after Abbott’s comments.

Texas is just one of nine states to which Sections 4 and 5 no longer apply.  Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Virginia are also in the clear to restrict minority votes… I mean issue new voter laws.  Five of which are now currently moving forward with such plans.

Justices Roberts, Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas and Alito no longer see voter discrimination as the issue (even though they admit it still exists).  They are more concerned with what they perceive to be an outdated formula as it was applied to these states.

I would like to say it is unfortunate these states have to submit new voter laws for government approval, but I simply can’t when the states’ current leaders continue to target minority votes through legislation.  Seriously, did these guys even watch the voter coverage leading up to the last election?

The Brennan Center for Justice concluded there have been 180 restrictive voting bills introduced in 41 states since 2011.

By not striking down Section 5, the Supreme Court has allowed the ability for Congress to pass a new formula, essentially updating Section 4.

Of course, the House of Representatives is controlled by the GOP, the very party that has initiated the most recent wave of voter ID laws, which gives little hope that the current Congress would achieve such an accomplishment.

In the meantime, the Justice Department can still use Section 3 of the Act.  Section 3 allows for preclearance by the government on alterations of existing and new laws if there has been a recent case of discrimination (Oh, Texas).

As evidenced by Wednesday’s ruling, our nation is STILL taking historic steps toward equality.  Which makes the loss of a cornerstone of civil rights legislation that much more disappointing and frustrating.

VRA Supporter

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s