Voting Rights

Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act has been held by the Supreme Court as too vague with respect to why certain States are included and others not.  In most respects this is not a surprise since the Court said almost the same thing the last time this issue was contested.  What is different is that this time the Courts directive to “fix it” will fall on even deafer Congressional ears.  As a consequence, the Court has in effect struck down the Voting Rights Act without actually having to have done it.

The Voting Rights Act is needed today more than ever. Race, however, is not necessarily the reason.  The risk today is rigging the voting rules to favor one party over the other and in the process disadvantage others far beyond the State.

With political party polarization, it seems there will be no limits to what ends one party might try to disadvantage the other.  While this modern discrimination may not be racially based, it is none the less a direct effort to change voting rules and thereby advantage one party over the other.  A body as supposedly wise as the Supreme Court might have avoided this type of ruling had they not viewed this through political eyes.

Consider a State not currently covered by the Voting Rights Act, Pennsylvania.   Under a newly elected Republican majority, the legislature passed a photo ID law allegedly to prevent voter fraud.  While this justification is laughable since there have been no cases reported, the question of whether the person voting is the person registered to vote is a valid point.  To the extent that a photo ID is helpful, great.  But utility bills and signed copies of voter registration cards should also work.  Unless, of course, the real objective is to limit the vote. Hmmm.

The real rub with the current VRA is States like Pennsylvania can enact voting restrictive measures (no prior Federal review required) and unless someone sues, the law stands.  On this basis, it seems reasonable that what’s good for Pennsylvania ought to be good for Texas.  And in this light the Supreme Court (5-4) decision must be seen as both political and reasonable.

 

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