Uphold Voting Rights Act


Pete Costanza

The United States Supreme Court is hearing Shelby vs. Holder a case on the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act. The act was signed into law by Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965 to prevent states from throwing up road blocks, which amounted to the disenfranchisement of minority voters. Section 5 of the act is at the crux of the matter, which requires certain states and counties with this behavior to seek for pre-approval of any changes to how people vote. According to an article, by Janelle Ross for the Huff Post, the argument against the act is that state rights could be seen to supersede an individual’s rights to vote. The other argument is if the act is still necessary. There should be no question of whether the federal government has the right to protect to step in to ensure state’s do not create legislation which prevents national rights from being enjoyed by all citizens of the county without due cause. Nor should it be supposed there are no longer concerns of political actions being taken to undercut the ability of minorities to vote.

According to a timeline of voter rights by the American Civil Liberties Union or ACLU black men were given the right to vote in 1869 with the passage of the 15th amendment. Then in 1896 Louisiana passed the “grandfathers clauses,” which barred former slaves and their descendants from voting. The same practice was taken up by Mississippi, South Carolina, Virginia and Alabama. In 1940 the Louisiana legislature was at it again this time with literacy tests and poll taxes. In 1964 the literacy tests were outlawed by the passage of the 24th amendment.

The passing of the 24th amendment is a clear indication of the federal government’s right and duty to prevent states for usurping national liberties.

Since the original passage of the voting rights act it has been extended four times the last time by George W. Bush who extended it for 25 years.

The second argument of whether there is still a need for the act should be dismissed immediately since as recently as 2011 the voting rights act was used to squash the passage of Voter Identification requirements in South Carolina, Texas and Florida. It was also used to counteract Florida seeking to pass cuts to early voting.

According to the article by Ross, a man named Jerome Gray was involved in a suit where his and 500 other voters’ names were removed from the voter registration lists in Evergreen, Alabama in 2008. Also in the same article there is a reference to a plan by Alaska to move a polling place 70 miles from an area primarily used by Native Alaskans. The new site would have been accessible by boat and plane.

An argument might be presented that given the fact our current president is of a mixed ethnicity the need for a measure to watch over ethnic equality can in no way be needed, but these actions should make it clear steps were taken to minimize the ability of minorities from voting perhaps because it was clear they would be the swing vote.

Another argument against the act is it uses 35-year-old data however, the states it regulates still are up to old tricks. Although the act should be updated you do not tear down an old but serviceable bridge until a new one is put in place.