The Supreme Court has voted 5-4 to strike down part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, reasoning it is no longer needed in these more enlightened times. The law was created to prevent discrimination against racial minorities wanting to vote.
In the past, minority voting was discouraged with poll taxes, literacy tests and threats of violence. The component of the Voting Rights Act that was overturned on Tuesday forced some states and districts – mostly southern – to get federal approval before making any changes to their voting laws and regulations.
The states and other entities subject to this “pre-clearance requirement” were ones that had a record of past discrimination. Surely, the majority reasoned, these states should no longer be singled out.
But if the key provision of the Voting Rights Act is no longer needed, why did the ruling result in immediate changes being proposed in Texas? Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott announced, “the state’s voter ID law will take effect immediately (and) redistricting maps passed by the Legislature may also take effect without approval from the federal government.” Those gerrymandering maps were not allowed before the Supreme Court ruling.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was in the minority on this one, but she explained that we haven’t become totally enlightened and color blind in the 21st century. She gives several examples, such as:
“In 2006, the court found that Texas’ attempt to redraw a congressional district to reduce the strength of Latino voters bore ‘the mark of intentional discrimination that could give rise to an equal protection violation,’ and ordered the district redrawn in compliance with the VRA ... In response, Texas sought to undermine this Court’s order by curtailing early voting in the district, but was blocked by an action to enforce the pre-clearance requirement.”
We may be more polite on the outside but, when placed under oath, some will admit that racist 1960s attitudes haven’t entirely disappeared.