New voting laws show need to act

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When the Supreme Court weakened the Voting Rights Act last month, Chief Justice John Roberts argued that it was wrong to penalize states today for what happened in the past.

Roberts’ opinion effectively freed all or parts of 15 states with a history of racial discrimination from having to get advanced federal approval for any election procedure.

In a deeply divided 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court ruled last month that a key provision of the landmark Voting Rights Act cannot be enforced unless Congress comes up with an up-to-date formula for deciding which states and localities still need federal monitoring.

The justices said the law Congress most recently renewed in 2006 relies on 40-year-old data that does not reflect racial progress and changes in U.S. society.

While the court did not throw out the advance approval requirement of the law, the court’s decision effectively gutted the heart of the law.

The five justices of the Supreme Court that disabled the Voting Rights Act seem not to understand that voter discrimination and suppression is still an issue in America today.

While the election and re-election of President Obama is used by some conservatives as a reason why the Voting Rights Act should be changed the president issued a statement immediately after the court’s decision opposing the ruling:

“As a nation, we’ve made a great deal of progress towards guaranteeing every American the right to vote. But, as the Supreme Court recognized, voting discrimination still exists. And while today’s decision is a setback, it doesn’t represent the end of our efforts to end voting discrimination. I am calling on Congress to pass legislation to ensure every American has equal access to the polls. My Administration will continue to do everything in its power to ensure a fair and equal voting process.”

A recent article in the New York Times headlined, “After Ruling, States Rush to Enact Voting Laws,” point to new efforts of voter suppression.

“State officials across the South are aggressively moving with ahead with new laws requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls after the Supreme Court decision striking down a portion of the Voting Rights Act,” read the article.

“The Republicans who control state legislatures throughout the region say such laws are needed to prevent voter fraud. But such fraud is extremely rare, and Democrats are concerned that the proposed changes will make it harder for many poor voters and members of minorities—who tend to vote Democratic—to cast their ballots in states that once discriminated against Black voters with poll taxes and literacy tests.”

In addition to new laws requiring voters to show photo identification in the south, Pennsylvania and other states, Republican state lawmakers are also pushing efforts to reduce early voting and make registration more difficult.

Most of these efforts were blocked in the 2012 presidential election, in state or federal courts. However, the recent Supreme Court has sparked a renewed effort at voter suppression efforts.

These new voter suppression efforts should concern all Americans because the right to vote is fundamental to democracy.
We urge readers to write to congress to ask for quick action to determine which states should be covered by the Voting Rights Act in the future.

(Reprinted from the Philadelphia Tribune)

 

 

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