Tag: Voting Rights Act of 1965

Fixing Our Right to Vote

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

In 1965, spurred by the slaying of voting-rights activists in Philadelphia, Mississippi and numerous other acts of violence and terrorism, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act that was designed to enforce the voting rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. In June of 2013, the US Supreme Court struck down part of that act, specifically Section 4, that designated which parts of the country must have changes to their voting laws cleared by the federal government or in federal court:

The 5-4 ruling, authored by Chief Justice John Roberts and joined by Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, ruled in Shelby County v. Holder that “things have changed dramatically” in the South in the nearly 50 years since the Voting Rights Act was signed in 1965.

The court’s opinion said it did not strike down the act of Congress “lightly,” and said it “took care to avoid ruling on the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act” in a separate case back in 2009. “Congress could have updated the coverage formula at that time, but did not do so. Its failure to act leaves us today with no choice but to declare [Section 4] unconstitutional. The formula in that section can no longer be used as a basis for subjecting jurisdictions to preclearance.” [..]

The court did not rule on Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, the preclearance requirement itself, which requires those affected states to have changes to their voting laws cleared by the Justice Department or a federal court in Washington, D.C., before they go into effect. Rather, the court ruled that the current formula that determines which states are covered by Section 5 is unconstitutional, effectively eliminating Section 5 enforcement, at least for the time being.

Since the beginning of 2013, even before the ruling, over half the states have introduced or passed restrictions to voting rights.

  •    At least 92 restrictive bills were introduced in 33 states.
  •    Of those, 13 restrictive bills are still pending in 5 states.
  •    Of those, 5 restrictive bills are currently active in 2 states, [1] in that there has been legislative activity beyond introduction and referral to committee (such as hearings, committee activity, or votes).
  •    8 states have already passed 9 restrictive bills this session.

Some of these laws are being challenged in court and most recently the Pennsylvania voter ID law was found unconstitutional by  Commonwealth Court Judge Bernard L. McGinley. But there is a lot of money backing the passage of these laws mostly in states controlled by Republican legislatures mostly in the form if untraceable political donations. In an two part interview with Democracy Now!‘s Amy Goodman, the host of Moyers and Company, Bill Moyers discusses the consequences of that “dark money” on our democracy.

The transcript can be read here

The transcript can be read here