You’d have thought that the re-institution of the Jim Crow laws had just been handed down from the Supreme Court yesterday when they gave their ruling on the Voting Rights Act of 1965 if you had listened to the main stream media or reverend Jackson. They were all up in arms about judicial activism, a step back in time and rights, and Uncle Thomas (that is mocking Justice Thomas). But really in looking at the meat of the case and the narrow scope of the ruling that just wasn’t the case at all.
The Supreme Court, in their 5-4 ruling, only struck down one piece of the VRA. Specifically the Supreme Court struck down the formula used in section 4 of the VRA that defines the areas most in need of oversight from the federal government based on voter impedement. The SCOTUS said nothing about a lack of racism in America, what they said was that the racism and intimidation that did exist, if any, were not in the same places and same proportions as they were forty years ago when the formula was last updated (1972). The justices said in the majority decision that 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. I agree, if you were to try and sell me on the fact that racism is just as rampant now as it were forty years ago I’d laugh in your face. If that were the case we would not have a black president, black attorney general, woman speaker of the house (well not anymore, but we did when Pelosi was there) and et cetera. You see times have changed, but the VRA locked states into the past, begging the government when they wanted to update their own voting laws, or re-district their states.
The funny thing is that you can thank Eric Holder for this decision. Shelby County v. Holder would have never gone all the way up to big court. See, Eric Holder and the Justice department were playing this game with the 15 states that fell under the provisions of the VRA. Some of these states wanted to pass voter ID laws. In fact, Indiana passed such a law, but was not subject to the VRA. The government took them to court and guess what, the Supreme Court found that a voter ID law is well within the confines of the constitution because it applies the law across all people and not subjectively across a populace. But when Texas and Alabama tried to pass their own voter ID laws they were stopped cold by the government under the auspices of the VRA.
How is that equality among the states? How is that equal protection for voters across the country? No, the game the government was playing was block laws where you can, sue them where you can’t and try to win it all. That is not enforcement of a civil right, that is manipulation of the system to cause favorable conditions for your apparatus. Before the decision, the VRA applied to the states of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia. It also covered certain counties in California, Florida, New York, North Carolina and South Dakota, and some local jurisdictions in Michigan.
Now all states are allowed to pass their voter ID laws and re-district in accordance with their state, and not with the federal government’s approval. So last night Texas went ahead and dusted off their voter ID law that the justice department challenged in 2011 and set it back out there. Finally, these states won’t be discriminated against because of things that happened 40 years ago. Instead the onus is now on Congress to come up with a new formula, using new metrics, that will tell where the VRA needs to be applied. Which is the way it should have been because racism is stagnant, nor to attitude remain the same.