Now let me see if I've got this straight: the five Supreme Court justices who voted on Tuesday to strike down a key part of the Voting Rights Act did so because that provision has been so successful at preventing racial discrimination?
That’s the way Chief Justice John Roberts’ decision read to me. It’s the way it read to dissenting Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, too. In her dissent Ginsburg wrote that throwing out the provision “when it has worked and is continuing to work is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.”
Good analogy, that.
The provision of the Voting Rights Act in question had been reauthorized by Congress for an additional 25 years in 2006. The section gives the federal government the ability to pre-emptively reject changes to election law in states and counties that have a history of discriminating against minority voters.
Roberts and the four justices who voted with him opined that the section focuses “on decades-old data relevant to decades-old problems.” Ginsburg and her fellow dissenters countered that the majority decision ignores so-called “second generation” laws and regulations which have been passed by some states and are clearly designed to make it difficult for minorities to vote. (One such regulation cited in an article I read Tuesday, which was passed in Mississippi, reportedly sought to cancel a local election in 2001 because – Gasp! – black candidates had announced their intention to run. Oh, the horror of it all...)
The Court, the White House and others have called upon Congress to quickly act to pass new bipartisan legislation to ensure that voting rights for minorities remain protected. But expecting Congress to do anything quickly and in bipartisan fashion these days is a little like asking your teenage son to keep his mind on his homework instead of that new Victoria's Secret television commercial: It's probably NOT going to happen.
Quick history lesson: The Voting Rights Act, which was first signed into law in 1965, was a keystone victory of the civil rights movement. American citizens – black and white, rich and poor, famous and unknown, male and female, Protestant, Catholic and Jewish – went through much trial and tribulation on the road towards its passage. Some withstood beatings. Some gave their lives.
In the nearly five decades that have since passed, the law has protected the right to vote for millions of America's citizens – regardless of their color, faith or creed.
But there are those in this country who don’t hold with such ideals. They have worked for years to undo the good that legislation such as the Voting Right Act has done in this country. This week, unfortunately, those people have won an important victory. At what price remains to be seen – but to quote a line from a certain well-known science fiction film, “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”
President Obama called Tuesday’s ruling a disappointment.
Me, I think it’s a gross injustice.
In : Opinion