Thursday, August 06, 2015

50th Anniversary Of The Signing Of The Voting Rights Act

August 6 is also the day 50 years ago that President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act.   I find it deliciously apropos that yesterday the 5th Circuit Court struck down the Texas Voter Suppression (ID) law for the third time using Section 2 of the law.

The Voting Rights Act when it was signed into law by President Johnson, resulted in the mass enfranchisement of racial minorities across the nation.   It was markedly dramatic in the South, where the Jim Crow voter suppression and blatant disenfranchisement mechanisms in place were successful in denying African-Americans the right to vote.

The VRA was designed to enforce the voting rights provision in the 14th and 15th Amendments of the US Constitution, and has been updated and amended five times by Congress to expand its protections.  It is considered the most effective piece of civil rights legislation ever enacted by Congress, which is why it has also been under relentless attack by the conservative movement and the Republican Party..

The Voting Rights Act is not only groundbreaking legislation, it led to a dramatic expansion in the number of African-American politicians at all levels of government including four decades later the election of Barack Obama as the 44th president of the United States.

It's why I and other African Americans are still highly pissed off about the Supreme Court's racist and clueless 2013 ruling in Shelby v. Holder that gutted a key enforcement provision in the Section 4(b) 'coverage formula' , that was designed to encompass jurisdictions that had historically engaged in egregious voting discrimination at the time the VRA was passed, and was subsequently updated in 1970 and 1975.

The coverage formula was the part that made the Section 5 preclearance provision work, and while the SCOTUS didn't strike Section 5 down, by shadily declaring unconstitutional the coverage formula, they basically made Section 5 unenforceable for the time being until Congress can pass a legislative fix to update the old formula.

While this should have been fixed immediately, and President Obama called on Congress today to act on the VRA fix legislation that Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) has filed to do so, good luck with that happening in a dysfunctional GOP controlled House and Senate whose party is heavily invested in keeping the number of voter going to the polls down in order to win elections.

As a result of Section 5 being gutted and the feds having to prosecute voting rights and discrimination cases using the VRA's Section 2 , the immediate result was Republican controlled legislatures gleefully started passing voter (ID) suppression laws designed to mess with and severely restrict the ability of  non-white voters to cast their ballots.  Texas' then Attorney General (now Governor, boo hiss) Greg Abbott, despite having the Texas Voter Suppression Law being struck down in federal court twice, reinstated the unjust law within hours of the SCOTUS misguided 5-4 ruling.

It resulted in the 2014 election cycle in 600,000 predominately non-white Texans not being able to vote.

So on this 50th anniversary of the passage of this groundbreaking law, let's remember that it safeguards the voting rights of all Americans, and must be defended by all who cherish human rights in our country.

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