Mike Kueber's Blog

February 21, 2013

The prospects for Section 5

Filed under: Issues,Law/justice,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 7:29 pm
Tags: ,

Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act has outlived its usefulness, and according to an article in the NY Times, a case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court will consider that position. 

Section 5 is the part of the Voting Rights Act that prohibits nine states with a history of suppressing minority voters – AL, AK, AZ, GA, LA, MS, SC, TX, and VA – from taking any action that affects voting without getting preclearance from the courts or the federal Dept. of Justice.  The most common application of Section 5 preclearance is when a jurisdiction redistricts, but it has also been called on recently in the cases of Voter ID laws and shortened early voting. 

Republicans hate Section 5 because their machinations in the voting process, although intended to disadvantage Democrats, incidentally disadvantage minorities, and thus are likely to be invalidated by the courts or the DOJ.  That fact makes it confusing why Bush-43 agreed to a 25-year extension of the Voting Rights Act in 2006.  It also reveals how much Congress has moved to the left since 2006 – i.e., the Times article indicates that, even if the Supreme Court rescinds Section 5 for the technical reason being argued, Congress would be constitutionally able to restore it by tweaking the law.  But the Times concedes that, in practice, any tweaking to save the VRA by the current Congress would be highly unlikely.

How ironic that Bush-43 and his Congress could achieve a more liberal agenda that Obama and his Congress since the Democratic electoral debacle in 2010.   

In the interest of fairness, the Times concludes its article by providing the opinions of an articulate opponent and proponent of Section 5:

  • Chief Justice Roberts on an earlier related decision – “Things have changed in the South….  The statute’s coverage formula is based on data that is now more than 35 years old and there is considerable evidence that it fails to account for current political conditions.”
  • Jerome Gray, an Alabamian who recently was improperly removed from the voting register – “Section 5 allowed us to stop an election that would have been a disaster.  We need Section 5 because there are still bad actors, and Evergreen is one. They had removed almost 800 people from the voting rolls, including Jerome Gray.

I don’t think minorities in Alabama or Texas need any more legal protection of their voting rights than whites in Chicago or Philadelphia.


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