Voting Rights

The Supreme Court has decided to hear a case on the constitutionality of portions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The Voting Rights Act was put into place because several places in the US (mostly the deep South) made it nigh impossible for Black people to vote.  I mean you can’t have “those” people affecting electoral outcomes now can you?  So the offending states instituted Jim Crow era statutes like polls taxes, literacy tests and other hoops for people to jump through in order to vote.  Congressman John Lewis from Georgia recounted some of the more ridiculous versions from the Jim Crow Era:

Not too long ago, people stood in unmovable lines. They had to pass a so-called literacy test, pay a poll tax.

On one occasion, a man was asked to count the number of bubbles in a bar of soap. On another occasion, one was asked to count the jelly beans in a jar — all to keep them from casting their ballot.

In short, the VRA was one of the truly great pieces of legislation to come out of LBJ’s administration; maybe any administration.  Not only does it outlaw outright discriminatory acts that prohibit minorities from voting, but it also names specific states that had such a horrible history with voting abuses that they aren’t allowed to change any voting laws without prior Federal authorization.  I’m looking at you Alabama.  And if the Supreme Court is looking into the law, there’s a possibility that it could be struck down.  This is rather worrisome as I don’t really trust this court to determine if Alabama (the plaintiff in the case) is no longer racist enough to skip the whole run their changes in voting laws past the federal government.

The recent proliferation of voter ID laws that have been pushed through state legislatures in the last couple of years proves that we need more federal protection of voting rights, not less.  Those laws were designed to disenfranchise people.  Again, can’t have “those” people affecting electoral outcomes.  According to the Brennen Center for Justice:

Studies show that as many as 11 percent of eligible voters do not have government-issued photo ID. That percentage is even higher for seniors, people of color, people with disabilities, low-income voters, and students.

Let’s see, what do those groups have in common?  They are otherwise known as democratic constituencies.  The leader of the Republican House in Pennsylvania Mike Turzai, admitted as much back in June. Turzai bragged that Voter ID laws would ensure a Romney victory in the state.  Same thing with the Republican Governor of Florida reducing early voting.  They were both wrong but it wasn’t for lack of trying.  But let’s get back to Alabama.

Here’s all you need to know about Alabama.  A recent poll done by Public Policy Polling found that 21% of those surveyed thought that interracial marriage should be illegal.  Let that marinate for a minute.

They didn’t say that it made them personally uncomfortable.  They didn’t say that they didn’t think it was right.  What one in five people in Alabama are saying is that people who inter-marry should be arrested. Now extrapolate that out to what they might believe about different races in general and the rights they should be extended.  It’s not a pretty picture.  That poll was taken in March of this year not the Jim Crow South of 1952.  So excuse me if I’m not ready to believe everything in Alabama is copacetic now.

Voting rights and the exercise thereof should be considered sacred.  And no matter the party, we should be making it easier for everyone eligible person to vote not harder.  The Voting Rights Act is one of the ways we’ve protected that right.  It should be enhanced, not struck down.

Categories: Politics Fix

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