EDITORIAL: We Must Remain Ever Vigilant About Voting Rights
6/26/2013, 3 p.m.
While those of us in the regular world navigate, struggle, win and lose in our daily lives, it seems that the “wise men” in the U.S. Supreme Court live in an alternate universe.
Tuesday’s ruling on Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act is further evidence of how far the court’s right wing sits from the court of public opinion. By a 5-4 ruling, the court struck down a critical part of the Voting Rights Act that aided Civil Rights activists beginning 60 years ago to topple a raft of voting restrictions that the South used to deny African Americans their constitutional right.
Chief Justice John Roberts claims that our country has changed but it hasn’t changed as much as he would like us to believe. That the conservative bloc of the court would vote to loosen this law now illustrates not just their myopia, but a point of view that is seriously misguided and legal arguments that are vacuous as best.
In recent years, Republican legislators around the United States have been working overtime in a cynical attempt to block prospective Democratic voters from going to the polls. Prior to the 2012 general elections, the GOP engineered a wave of voter suppression laws or introduced legislation currently being considered in 41 states designed to disenfranchise minorities, the elderly, the poor, students, and disabled voters. Now, the Supreme Court justices have rushed to the aid of these miscreants and let loose the hounds.
Section 5 of the Act was reauthorized by Congress in 2006 for an additional 25 years. It allows the federal government to preemptively refuse changes to electoral law in states and counties that carry a history of discriminating against non-white voters. The law covered nine states and sections of seven more, primarily in the South.
We agree with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg that "Throwing out preclearance when it has worked and is continuing to work is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet."
Lucky for us, the court isn’t the only avenue for those seeking redress. The justices fired the first salvo but we do have Congress and the executive branch to blunt the fallout from this decision.
Today’s ruling, while not a surprise, is a not too subtle reminder that in 2013 we’re no longer confronted by Klansmen in white robes, but influential people, who while dressed in black robes, suits and ties, still carry with them the power to germinate and disseminate among us the seeds of prejudice, racism and discrimination.