Monday, March 11, 2013

Voting Rights For All

The Supreme Court has recently heard oral arguments in a challenge to Section Five of the Voting Rights Act. I think it should be declared unconstitutional, because it does discriminate against certain areas of the country. I think the law should be changed so that every county in this country has to defend any and every change in their voting laws to the U.S. Department of Justice.
The Voting Rights Act, passed in 1965, prohibits the “denial or abridgment of the right to vote.” According to the Department of Justice website, “Among its other provisions, the Act contained special enforcement provisions targeted at those areas of the country where Congress believed the potential for discrimination to be the greatest.” Section 5 mandates that the jurisdictions covered by these special provisions could not implement any change affecting voting until the Attorney General or the United States District Court for the District of Columbia determined that the change did not have a discriminatory purpose and would not have a discriminatory effect.”
Most of these covered jurisdictions are in the South, an obvious legacy of the era of Jim Crow segregation. The covered jurisdictions include the entirety of eight southern states, plus Alaska, and a few scattered counties in North Carolina, California, Michigan, New York, and South Dakota.
In the last few years the Republican Party has blatantly tried to change voter rules to favor their candidates in state after state, many of them not within a “covered jurisdiction.” The Brennan Center for Justice, part of the New York University School of Law, has a webpage dedicated to detailing the attempts to restrict voting rights around the country. Their map shows that forty-one states introduced voter-restricting legislation since 2011, including laws requiring photo ID, shortening early voting, and making it harder to restore voting rights after a criminal conviction.
Kansas and New Hampshire now require photo IDs to vote. Wisconsin and Illinois both put new restrictions on voter registration efforts.
Perhaps the most egregious example of this effort is Pennsylvania state House leader Mike Turzai declaring on the floor of the legislature that the state’s new voter laws would deliver Pennsylvania to Mitt Romney.
But Pennsylvania, Kansas, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, and Illinois are not included in the Voting Rights Act’s list of suspicious areas of the country.
Clearly it’s not just one part of the country that tries to prevent “certain people” from voting. So toss Section 5 out, Supreme Court, and let’s pass a new law that requires every jurisdiction to justify changes in their voting laws.

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