The U. S. Supreme Court has been wading back in to revisit the Voting Rights Act of 1965 on several occasions to make revisions. And it’s rulings, while subtle and tends not blow up the headlines, tend to have wides-weeping ramifications.
The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee will facilitate a June 25 hearing on a long-stalled bill to repair the 1965 Voting Rights Act after the U.S. Supreme Court weakened the landmark civil rights legislation by weakening key provisions last year.
“It is time for Congress to act,” Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in a statement. “Just as Congress came together 50 years ago to enact the Civil Rights Act, Democrats and Republicans should work together now to renew and strengthen the Voting Rights Act, which has always been bipartisan.”
The hearing will occur on the one-year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling that knocked out parts of the voting rights act and urged Congress to revisit it, saying the law needs updating to account for how times have changed.
The Georgia Black Republican Council stands by to the Supreme Court decision in a statement to the press:
As Republicans we assert that the integrity of the system that guarantees the right tovote is of utmost importance. The south’s history of Democrat Party coordinated initiatives to disenfranchise black American citizens was very real. As such, Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act was at that time based upon Democrat Party activity consistent with Jim Crow laws, to restrict black American voting. Like the Republican Party as a whole, we wish to see all rights to vote secured and edified, and along with that, confidence in the process of electing our representatives.
To be clear, today’s ruling did not argue the necessity of the Voting Rights Act; it simply examined whether Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act was constitutional. In finding that the systemic conditions and practice of blocking blacks from voting essentially does not exist today, the act therefore is not relevant. Thus, the ruling makes Section 5 invalid. The US Congress now has to re-examine the conditions that required the VRA and whether or not the conditions that once required the VRA remain.
In function, today’s decision ends the practice in which 9 southern states, Georgia included, with a history of racial discrimination must receive pre-clearance from the federal government before changing voting laws. As Institute for Policy Innovation Resident Scholar Dr. Merrill Matthews writes:
“It simply said that Congress had not provided sufficient justification for continuing federal oversight of nine states based on a 40-year-old coverage formula that relied on obsolete statistics when it renewed the legislation.
No remedies are being imposed and no law is being made from the bench. The Court interpreted the Constitution, which is exactly what it’s supposed to do. Whether you agree or disagree with the interpretation is a different issue.” (from Liberals Now CallAny Judicial Action They Don’t Like Judicial Activism)
Put frankly, we are evaluating whether or not we’ve made progress in protecting the right to vote. It is never a bad thing to evaluate if a law is still needed. Clinging to an umbrella on a sunny day because it rained last week is not rational thinking. Without a doubt, black voting access and the election of black officials in Georgia has made great strides. Progress towards supporting the system’sintegrity and maturity should be celebrated. And so is our opportunity now to celebrate protecting the freedom to vote for all citizens. It is also important in self governance and local control, that when willing and able, we create our own checks and balances. Our Georgia legislators now have the exciting opportunity to consider local voting policies themselves. For example, requiring an ID honors the sacrifices made to secure our rights. We can think of no better way to prove our right to vote than the color blind test of having an ID. Having it is assured proof that will settle the legal requirement in cases of malfeasance.
Hindered once, states are now able to create laws that prohibit discrimination and best protect the right to vote. President Obama and Congress can indeed now re-write the VRA so that it is both constitutional as well as applicable to modern demographic and social conditions. Close to home for example, why should Clayton County, a predominately black American county, be required to absorb locally the expense and time getting preapproval to re-apportion lines? Anyway they draw it, blacks will be the majority. The constitutionality question also examined why we have restrictions on Clayton when all voting districts in Massachusetts had many more complaints. Discrimination and blocking the right to vote is abhorrent wherever it occurs. And fortunately, law’s still apply to remedy any such action. That is important to Republicans. In a party system, we should still expect, even more now, vigilance from all to make sure every valid vote counts and anomalies are swiftly dealt with when tampering occurs.