Time to Reconsider the Voting Rights Act?
The Supreme Court will consider eliminating the government’s most potent weapon against racial discrimination at polling places since the 1960s. The court acted three days after a diverse coalition of voters propelled President Barack Obama to a second term in the White House.
"The America that elected and reelected Barack Obama as its first African-American president is far different than when the Voting Rights Act was first enacted in 1965. Congress unwisely reauthorized a bill that is stuck in a Jim Crow-era time warp. It is unconstitutional," said Edward Blum, director of the not-for-profit Project on Fair Representation, which is funding the challenges to the voting rights law and affirmative action.
Indeed! Why would anyone think we still need such a provision in today’s “far different America”?
Well, maybe this will shed some light on things:
Now maybe these maps just point to a coincidence and won’t tell us anything about what we ought to do with the Voting Rights Act.
Some things to keep in mind, though, when considering the maps above the purpose of the Voting Rights Act:
The requirement currently applies to the states of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia. It also covers certain counties in California, Florida, New York, North Carolina and South Dakota, and some local jurisdictions in Michigan and New Hampshire. Coverage has been triggered by past discrimination not only against blacks, but also against American Indians, Asian-Americans, Alaskan Natives and Hispanics.
Before these locations can change their voting rules, they must get approval either from the U.S. Justice Department’s civil rights division or from the federal district court in Washington that the new rules won’t discriminate.
Congress compiled a 15,000-page record and documented hundreds of instances of apparent voting discrimination in the states covered by the law dating to 1982, the last time it had been extended.
Six of the affected states, Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, South Carolina, South Dakota and Texas, are backing Shelby County’s appeal.
In 2009, Roberts indicated the court was troubled about the ongoing need for a law in the face of dramatically improved conditions, including increased minority voter registration and turnout rates.
Maybe the maps aren’t just pointing to a coincidence. Maybe we’re not yet living in the post-racial America — whatever proponents of such a term actually mean by it — that many would like to believe we have somehow magically achieved. Maybe — just maybe — hundreds of years of institutionalized racism isn’t so quickly overcome.
If our society somehow still has problems when it comes to race, then making adjustments to the key provisions of the Voting Rights Act could ensure that in the future there’s no coincidence in the way the above maps look.