The court opinion in Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, is essentially an official finding from the highest court in the land that America is not the racist swamp of leftist myth.
The court finally recognized that the anti-discrimination provisions of the Voting Rights Act, which gave the federal government a veto over changes in state election laws, may have been needed when the law was enacted in 1965, but no longer.
Catherine Engelbrecht, president of Houston-based True the Vote, a good government group, praised the decision:
For decades, voters in various states, counties and boroughs have been punished for the sins others committed in a bygone era. Washington has treated whole segments of this nation as guilty until proven innocent. Ideological bureaucrats have used this law to exact a form of racial justice on their presumed enemies while ignoring the country’s demands for basic election integrity measures. Thankfully, the Court stripped Washington of a power that was only being used as a weapon today.
J. Christian Adams described the court opinion, which clears the way for enforcement of much-needed state-level voter ID laws, as “one of the most important decisions in decades.”
In terms of how the game of politics is played in this country, he’s right.
The Voting Rights Act is what unscrupulous Attorney General Eric Holder used to block states from implementing voter ID laws aimed at combating election fraud. The Left relies on fraud to win closely contested elections.
Section 5 of the statute relegated states and localities to second-class status by presuming they were too corrupt and racist to administer elections fairly. The section requires state and local governments in certain parts of the nation to get approval from the Justice Department or a federal court – called pre-clearance – before making changes in their voting procedures. Changes can include anything from moving a polling place to changing district lines in a county. The way the law is interpreted even lowly bond referendums in affected areas require pre-clearance.
The section requires a state, county, or local government entity to demonstrate to federal authorities that the voting change in question does not have a racially discriminatory purpose and is not “retrogressive,” which means that it will not make minority voters worse off than they were prior to the change.
Before the high court ruling, elections in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia were subject to pre-clearance. Section 5 also covered various counties across the nation: four in California; five in Florida; three in New York (all within New York City); 40 in North Carolina; and two in South Dakota. It covered two townships in Michigan and 10 townships in New Hampshire.
Congress approved the statute months after the nation witnessed Alabama state troopers attacking civil rights marchers in Selma in March 1965. Lawmakers reasoned it was needed because many state and local officials routinely discriminated against black Americans in the voting process, making it difficult for them to cast their ballots.
Echoing the language of the Fifteenth Amendment, the Act forbade states from enacting any “voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, or procedure … to deny or abridge the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color.” Congress gained the power to abolish the imposition of poll taxes in federal elections when the Twenty-Fourth Amendment was ratified in January 1964.
Section 4 of the Act laid down the criteria under which offending states and political subdivisions were covered by the statute. Initially, the section covered jurisdictions that had maintained “a test or device” as a prerequisite to voting as of Nov. 1, 1964, and had under 50 percent voter registration or turnout in the 1964 presidential election. “Such tests or devices included literacy and knowledge tests, good moral character requirements, the need for vouchers from registered voters, and the like,” according to the court opinion.
Congress reauthorized the law in 1970 and 1975, tinkering with the criteria used in Section 4. By 1975 the formula was ensnaring jurisdictions that had a voting test and under 50 percent voter registration or turnout as of 1972. That was the last time Congress updated the formula. In 2006, more than 40 years after voting tests were banned, Congress reauthorized the legislation for 25 years — with its outdated formula intact.
But Section 4 outgrew its usefulness in the eyes of the court. According to the majority opinion in the 5 to 4 decision, the court took action because in 2006 Congress “reenacted a formula based on 40-year-old facts having no logical relation to the present day.”
Our country has changed, and while any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks to current conditions.
The ruling recognizes that widespread systematic voting discrimination is a distant memory. Today black Americans fully participate in the democratic process by voting, running for, and winning elective office at every level of government up to and including the highest office in the land.
But this is bad news for the race industry which thrives on making mountains out of molehills.
Predictably, leftist demagogues and community organizers across the fruited plain are howling now that a key tool they used to frustrate electoral integrity efforts has been taken away.
Racial arsonist and MSNBC host Rev. Al Sharpton spoke of the court ruling as if the Jim Crow laws of the Old South were still in effect. The decision is “a devastating blow to Americans, particularly African-Americans, who are now at the mercy of state governments.” He angrily promised to mobilize his supporters to counteract the ruling.
Of course Congress may revisit the legislation and establish a new formula under Section 4. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.) has reportedly vowed to lead the charge to “fix” the legislation.
Adams, bestselling author of Injustice: Exposing the Racial Agenda of the Obama Justice Department, said it’s unlikely Section 4 will get fixed:
[T]he Supreme Court left almost no room to “fix” anything. Only in “exceptional circumstances” may the federal government have power to preclear state-election law changes. “Exceptional circumstances” is a term pulled from the jurisprudence to describe conditions blacks faced in 1964. Anyone with any sense knows those days are gone. Congressional Republicans should ignore the inevitable slurs from the racialist Left and find better things to do besides “fix” a law that the Supreme Court has found to be mostly unfixable and which has upset the constitutional order for the last couple of decades.
In the polarized current Congress, odds are much will be said about “fixing” the antiquated Voting Rights Act but not much will actually get done. Gridlock, in this case, may help to save the Republic.
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