Sunday, July 07, 2013

Bad SCOTUS: Gutting The Voting Rights Act of 1965

I know this post is long overdue, but every time I have sat down to write it, I've  just gotten depressed.  I am still feeling pretty shocked and horrified over what the Supreme Court has done and scared about the consequences.

All those marches led by Dr. King?  The ones in which the brave children of Selma and so many other civil rights heroes participated?  They were about this Act.  And now so much of it is gone.  

Always I knew that there was still much fighting to be done for civil rights in our country, but I thought the fights would be new fights - fights against the racism and sexism that still exist in our institutions and our hearts, fights for equal protection for people who are gay... I did not think we would have to go back and fight again the battles that the Movement had already won before I was even born.

But here we are...repeating history in that doomed way our teachers warned us about.  So we had better learn more.  And keep fighting.

On June 25th, the U.S. Supreme Court made public their ruling that struck down section four of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  In terms of the Court's deliberations, public chatter had mainly been about section five of the Act, the section that required that nine (mostly Southern) states (as well as some additional counties and municipalities) with a history of enacting electoral laws, maps and regulations that work to disenfranchise minority voters submit any changes to their electoral maps, laws or regulations to the federal courts before proceeding so that the courts could verify that the states were not trying to obstruct or dilute minority representation.  The Court did not actually strike down section five, but it struck down section four, the section of the Act which details the formula used to decide whether a state needs federal oversight of electoral changes or not.  Without section four, though, section five cannot be implemented.

The formula has to do with the numbers of eligible citizens registered to vote and who did vote in elections in 1964 and the Court struck down the section based on that formula being outdated and it no longer being a formula that accurately represents the reality of what goes on in those jurisdictions.  That is probably technically true given the limitations of the formula but the opining of the Justices that it was just not fair to impose restrictions on those jurisdictions based upon past racist practices that no longer exist is a big load of guano.  

To be fair, I know but little about the electoral processes of other states - Texas is big enough and messed up enough in that manner to take up pretty nearly all of my electoral-processes-attention.  Texas, however, has tried to obstruct and dilute minority voting at every possible opportunity and has had to be reigned in by the Voting Rights Act so often that if the Texas Legislature were a person and the Federal Courts were a person, we'd all be suspecting pretty strongly that Texas Legislature had a secret crush and was just doing all this crazy racist stuff to get attention.  The reality, however, is that Texas has been doing all of this crazy racist stuff because crazy racism is alive and well here and there are many, many people here who do not share Lone Star Ma's enthusiasm for a diverse, multicultural Texas with equal rights for all.  Many Texans still want white supremacy, even though most of them don't exactly know it - they basically want white cultural supremacy, which they see as "America" and which they figure can encompass all the nice minority people who will learn to think and act like them and thus be acceptable to the tribe ... the sociology of racism is fairly complex but it is all about fear, of course, Mamas - fear that change will bring insecurity.  Just about everything is. 

The point being that whatever may be going on in those other jurisdictions, Texas definitely, in the very present tense, requires federal oversight of its electoral processes.  Texas was not just guilty of racist voting practices in the past.  The Republicans of Texas  fight for racist electoral processes daily and have had this very thing that has happened - the abolishing of this aspect of the Voting Rights Act - in their Party Platform every single time.

The day of the ruling Texas vowed to implement its controversial (racist) Voter ID legislation and to implement redistricting maps passed by the Legislature.

Of course, each racist thing that Texas or any of these other jurisdictions do can always be taken to court the old fashioned way, but the money and years that takes means that injustices will continue for long, long years when they happen.  And they will happen.  

The other option, one which the Supreme Court actually invited, is for Congress to rewrite the coverage formula based upon modern information.  This needs to happen.  Instead of striking down section four as it existed, I believe the Court should have, in the light of the legion current examples of the need for federal electoral oversight of places like Texas, required Congress to rewrite the formula right then, under the Court's supervision, instead of making a ruling that will lead to the years of injustice that will happen now.  

That's not what happened, though.

So now it is up to us to make sure Congress gets another formula written.  Where I live, my Congressional Representative and Senators are currently jumping for joy that they can now implement racist voting laws and maps and processes, so they are not going to be much help.  We need a national campaign.  Let's start now.  We've had a  couple of weeks to wallow in the shock and horror, but we can't waste any more time.  We've got to fight.

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