Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Will SCOTUS Kill Voting Rights Act Section 5?

What is Section 5? Sahil Kapur of TPM tells us:
Section 5 requires states and municipalities with a history of racial discrimination (read: mostly in the south) to seek preclearance from the Justice Department or a federal court before making changes to their voting laws. The law was upheld in 1966 by a Supreme Court that deemed it valid to correct the “insidious and pervasive evil” of racism. The law was most recently reauthorized in 2006 by a nearly unanimous Congress, with Section 5 intact.

For over 47 years, then, the Voting Rights Act, including Section 5, has stood as the law of the land. And it makes sense: people who are or were, or whose ancestors were, victims of racial injustice that prevented them from voting deserve extra protection from likely present-day attempts to do the same thing to them. You don't think it happens? Really? Are you seeing a solid brown field of view? C'mon, pull it out; look at the real world. Look at Election 2012, and tell me the Voter ID laws in a lot of states weren't in fact an attempt to prevent Blacks, Hispanics, Asian-Americans, First Peoples, etc. from voting. We need the Voting Rights Act... all of it... as much as we did in 1965 when President Johnson signed it on my birthday.

One would think it just makes sense. But not necessarily to this Supreme Court. Justices Roberts, Scalia, Thomas and Alito are almost certain to vote to strike down Section 5, leaving Justice Kennedy in his usual position as swing voter.

It is not right that one man in a position of great power should be able to endanger the right to vote of millions of people with almost no power except their vote. But it may well happen.

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