The Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision to shoot down sections of the Voting Rights Act may be one giant step backward in our nation’s centuries-long fight for equality and civil rights. It also represents an unprecedented power grab by the Court.
The Voting Rights Act was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson to prevent widespread voter suppression throughout the South. The law required offending states to obtain pre-clearance by the DOJ (Department of Justice) for changes in voting laws, including any attempts at redistricting aimed at marginalizing the minority vote. For years, this mandate has not only helped African-Americans and Latinos vote, it has helped them get the representation they deserve.
Yet, despite the law, states have never stopped trying to block minority votes.
For example, just last year, the DOJ prevented Houston, Texas from reducing voting centers from 84 to just 12. The plan was to eliminate voting centers in predominately African-American areas of the city. And last year, Teapublican-controlled legislatures throughout the country imposed strict new voter ID laws aimed at reducing minority voter turnout for President Obama. They also drastically reduced polling hours in some states, forcing minorities to stand in line up to 6 hours in order to vote.
All of this has been done under the guise of “vote integrity” to prevent felons and undocumented immigrants from voting, despite the fact there is absolutely no evidence of such illegal voting.
In gutting the Voting Rights Act, which was renewed by Congress in 2006 with near unanimous support, the Court has, in essence, overruled Congress. And, by stating that it is now up to Congress to come up with a new and more equitable way to enforce voting rights, it has given Congress a task the Teapublican-controlled House and the filibuster-prone Senate are clearly not capable of handling.
As a result, racists in Congress and in legislatures throughout the nation, particularly in the Old South and in Arizona, will feel free to run amok again. If you doubt this, all you have to do is to look at the way Teapublicans have pushed through Voter ID laws and anti-abortion laws with an array of bullying tactics and parliamentary tricks.