The Right To Vote

Last week, the United States Supreme Court heard a case involving the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  The case, Shelby County v. Holder, challenges the constitutionality of Section 5 of the law which requires states with a history of voting discrimination to get pre-clearance from the federal government before making any voting changes.  The states in particular involve southern states where Jim Crow laws were in place in the 1960s.  The law can apply to local jurisdictions, and it can apply to an entire state.

The case comes from Shelby County in Alabama, and they challenge that voting discrimination isn’t as prevalent in the South as it once was and there is more evidence of voter discrimination in other parts of the country where Section 5 does not apply.  Liberals are up in arms as this is one of the landmark civil rights bills signed during the Johnson administration and claim that there are still cases of voter discrimination in the south and that without these laws, reports of such discrimination would increase again.  Conservatives use the argument that voter discrimination is not just in the south and that if the law remains, it should be in effect everywhere , but overall the law isn’t needed anymore and that areas that require pre-clearance to make changes should not be required to do so.

supreme-courtThe reason for the Voting Rights Act of 1965 is quite important here.  The law targeted localities and states that had laws that were aimed at keeping African-Americans from voting.  In its wording, it is similar to the 15th Amendment to the US Constitution which gave African-Americans the right to vote.  Southern states found ways around the amendment by not making it illegal for African-Americans to vote.  They wrote voting laws that targeted the African-American community more than others, such as literacy tests.  The law was last renewed in 2006 for another 25-years though Republicans then argued that the pre-clearance part of the legislation should be allowed to expire since the states had done away with the practices that that section had been written to eradicate.

According to website for the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, there have been approximately 195 cases filed under the Voting Rights Act from 1978-2013 with 15 of those having a settlement…not including the Shelby case.  Of those cases, a vast majority of them came from non-southern states.  For the sake of writing this, states that were part of the old Confederacy or had Jim Crow laws are considered southern states.  Yes, there are more non-southern states than southern states, so proportionally, the number would be higher.  The numbers aren’t in proportion, though.  It does indeed make the claim the Shelby case is trying to make in that there are more violations (cases) involving the Voting Rights Act from non-southern states; therefore, Section 5 should apply to them as well.

The talk today is of Voter ID laws which some say are discriminatory and are unconstitutional under the Voting Rights Act of 1965 as it disenfranchises those that are young and poor.  It’s a conservative-led effort that liberals claim is designed to undermine their voting demographics in large urban areas… which is usually where the poor tend to live and is usually made up of minority groups such as African-Americans and Latino voters.  In essence, the Voter ID debate has become the new voting rights debate.  Is it possible to have Voter ID laws without disenfranchising minority voters?  Some of the bigger states that are debating these Voter ID laws fall outside the South… with the exception of Virginia.  These states include Pennsylvania, Ohio, and even Missouri.  As a result, they don’t fall under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act and wouldn’t need pre-clearance for such things.  It doesn’t take a fortune-teller to know that if any state passes a Voter ID law that it will end up in the courts before the ink is even dry.  The state of Texas already had its Voter ID law struck down by a federal court in 2012.

The Shelby case does bring up the question as to whether the Voting Rights Act of 1965 along with Section 5 is still relevant in today’s times.  With the deep political divides that currently engulf our country, the two main parties look for any opportunity to give themselves an advantage, and this could come in the form of disenfranchising the other side’s voting block.  With the current Voter ID debate taking place, it does show a need for the Voting Rights Act.  It even shows the necessity of Section 5; however, it also proves that the law needs to be upgraded for today’s time.  It’s not 1965 anymore.  If Section 5 is to remain, it should be in place for every state as the evidence has shown that the cases brought up in violation of the law aren’t confined to the South only.  There should never be any effort to disenfranchise any citizen from exercising their right to vote no matter which state they reside in.  Voting is a right and not just a privilege.

Voter Fraud – ABC News
Civil Rights Division Voting Cases List


One Response to The Right To Vote

  1. lista de email says:

    nice, thanks for providing us with this information.

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