Voting Rights Act: Can Congress Act to Save It?

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

President Lyndon Johnson signs the Voting Rights Act in 1965. (Wikipedia Commons)
In a 5 – 4 decision yesterday… the Supreme Court struck down Section Four of the Voting Rights Act…  the key law passed in 1965 to prevent disenfranchisement of minority voters.
The Court’s opinion in Shelby County –V – Holder was not well received by the Obama administration. 
VOTING 1 BIDEN DISAPPOINTED – 9s
Vice President Joe Biden, at White House observance of the 75th anniversary of the Fair Labor Standards Act at the White House 6/25/2013 
“I have to say that like so many across the country, I’m disappointed in the Supreme Court’s decision today."
That was Vice President Joe Biden at the White House yesterday. And Attorney General Eric Holder… who was the defendant in the case… promised that his Justice Department… would not allow this ruling to get in the way of minority voters 
VOTING 2 HOLDER NOT HESITATE – 16s
Attorney General Eric Holder, reading statement in Washington 6/25/2013 
"We will not hesitate to take swift enforcement action using every legal tool that remains to us against any jurisdiction that seeks to take advantage of the Supreme Court’s ruling by hindering eligible citizens’ full and free exercise of the franchise."
Civil rights activists and leaders are up in arms as well.
VOTING 3 SHARPTON DREAMS – 22s
Al Sharpton, MSNBC host 6/25/2013
 "What they have just done is really revoked a lot of what Dr. King’s dream was all about. We build a monument to Dr. King, and part of, at least half, of what Dr. King’s dream was about was voter rights ’65. They’ve just revoked that. They just canceled the dream. And the children of the dream are not going to sit by and allow that to happen.”
That was Al Sharpton reacting to the decision on MSNBC yesterday. The N – C – double- A Legal Defense and Educational Fund Director… Ryan Haygood warned:
VOTING 4 HAYGOOD MILLIONS – 17s
Ryan Haygood, director, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, at news conference at Supreme Court 6/25/2013
 
"There are now millions of minority voters in those places across this country covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act which are vulnerable to the types of adaptive and intense and pervasive voting discrimination that Section 5 has protected them from for more than 48 years."
Section 4 requires states and municipalities… that have a history of voting discrimination…  to go through preclearance with the Justice Department… whenever they redistrict or update voting laws. 
Those jurisdictions cover large parts of the South…. but Manhattan, Brooklyn… certain towns in Michigan and…  some counties in California and South Dakota… are all subject to the law.
In order to salvage what’s left of the Voting Rights Act… Congress will have to act… to create a new formula…. to decide which jurisdictions require preclearance on voting law changes. 
Representative Terri Sewell [soo WULL]… a Congressional black caucus member… from Alabama’s Seventh District… is with me to explain what this decision means to voters in her district.

In a 5 – 4 decision yesterday, the Supreme Court struck down Section Four of the Voting Rights Act, the key law passed in 1965 to prevent disenfranchisement of minority voters.

 

Chief Justice Roberts writing for the majority, Roberts explained:

“In 1965, the states could be divided into two groups: those with a recent history of voting tests and low voter registration and turnout, and those without those characteristics. Congress based its coverage formula on that distinction. Today the nation is no longer divided along those lines, yet the Voting Rights Act continues to treat it as if it were.”

 

The Court’s opinion in Shelby County v. Holder was not well received by the Obama administration.

 

 

“I have to say that like so many across the country, I’m disappointed in the Supreme Court’s decision today," stated Vice President Joe Biden, at White House observance of the 75th anniversary of the Fair Labor Standards Act at the White House.

 

And Attorney General Eric Holder, who was the defendant in the case, made this statement:

 

"We will not hesitate to take swift enforcement action using every legal tool that remains to us against any jurisdiction that seeks to take advantage of the Supreme Court’s ruling by hindering eligible citizens’ full and free exercise of the franchise."

 

 

Civil rights activists and leaders are up in arms as well.

 

 

"What they have just done is really revoked a lot of what Dr. King’s dream was all about," said Al Sharpton on MSNBC. "We build a monument to Dr. King, and part of, at least half, of what Dr. King’s dream was about was voter rights ’65. They’ve just revoked that. They just canceled the dream. And the children of the dream are not going to sit by and allow that to happen.”

 

Section 4 requires states and municipalities that have a history of voting discrimination to go through preclearance with the Justice Department… whenever they redistrict or update voting laws.

 

Those jurisdictions cover large parts of the South, but Manhattan, Brooklyn, certain towns in Michigan, and some counties in California and South Dakota, are all subject to the law.

 

In order to salvage what’s left of the Voting Rights Act, Congress will have to create a new formula to decide which jurisdictions require preclearance on voting law changes.

 

Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL), a Congressional black caucus member from Alabama’s Seventh District, explains what this decision means to voters in her district.

 

In a 5–4 decision yesterday, the Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act. The key law was passed in 1965 to prevent disenfranchisement of minority voters.

Writing for the majority,  Chief Justice Roberts explained:

“In 1965, the states could be divided into two groups: those with a recent history of voting tests and low voter registration and turnout, and those without those characteristics. Congress based its coverage formula on that distinction. Today the nation is no longer divided along those lines, yet the Voting Rights Act continues to treat it as if it were.”

The Court’s opinion in Shelby County v. Holder was not well received by the Obama administration.

Vice President Joe Biden said at the White House “I have to say that like so many across the country, I’m disappointed in the Supreme Court’s decision today."

"We will not hesitate to take swift enforcement action using every legal tool that remains to us against any jurisdiction that seeks to take advantage of the Supreme Court’s ruling by hindering eligible citizens’ full and free exercise of the franchise," stated Attorney General Eric Holder, who was the defendant in the case.

Civil rights activists and leaders are up in arms as well. Reverend Al Sharpton argued on MSNBC:

"What they have just done is really revoked a lot of what Dr. King’s dream was all about. We build a monument to Dr. King, and part of, at least half, of what Dr. King’s dream was about was voter rights ’65. They've just revoked that. They just canceled the dream. And the children of the dream are not going to sit by and allow that to happen.”

Section 4 requires states and municipalities that have a history of voting discrimination to go through preclearance with the Justice Department whenever they redistrict or update voting laws.

Those jurisdictions cover large parts of the South, but Manhattan, Brooklyn, certain towns in Michigan, and some counties in California and South Dakota are all subject to the law.

In order to salvage what’s left of the Voting Rights Act, Congress will have to act by creating a new formula that would calculate which jurisdictions require preclearance on voting law changes.

Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL), a Congressional black caucus member from Alabama’s Seventh District, explains what this decision means to voters in her district, and her hopes for Congressional action.

The Supreme Court's decision yesterday to strike down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act also left another section of the law defunct: Section 5.

The Department of Justice primarily used Section 5 as a tool to ensure minority populations were represented in legislative bodies. But what now? Will we see minority districts redistricted away?

Sharyn O'Halloran is a professor of international and public affairs at Columbia University. Her research suggests that the minority districts created by the Voting Rights Act have serious drawbacks, but so does the process we're left with: Long, expensive court battles that shift the burden of proof onto minorities instead of the government.

Guests:

Sharyn O'Halloran and Terri A. Sewell

Produced by:

Tyler Adams, Ally Harrison and Megan Quellhorst

Editors:

T.J. Raphael

Comments [2]

Nichelle from Charleston, South Carolina

The question that seems to be evaded is "cause and effect." The justices are touting progress, but the question under the covers is, "has progress been made because of the oversight or despite it?" Earlier evidence of the black elected official in the mostly white district doesn't necessarily underscore progress in Shelby county. What was the black elected officials' views? If his views more aligned with the white electorate, it would stand to reason that he would win. Citing this election does nothing to address last minute redistricting and gerrymandering which I have seen occur many times over. Additionally, with the added burden of having to seek counsel, how many of the previously cited wrongs would be addressed in a timely manner. I speak from the viewpoint of an African American female resident of South Carolina who thinks that if the practices are fair, then oversight will do nothing more than to highlight the fair practices. Also, it is always odd to me that persons speak of 1965 as if it were centuries ago. My parents, who are in their early 60s attended segregated schools. Those in management at my office also attended segregated schools. That is not to say that everyone who experienced segregation has not evolved his or her mindset, but are we guaranteed that everyone from the era has experienced the same evolution?

Jun. 26 2013 10:00 AM
listener

The power grabs of the segregationist Democratic Party machine was the reason
for the Voting Right Act and the power grabs of the socialist Democratic Party
today was the main concern for keeping this struck down provision.

The Democratic Party then and now cares not
for voting justice but in keeping their political power
through demagoguery and deception.

Can we focus on the real injustices taking place
at the Justice Department now?

Jun. 26 2013 09:16 AM

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