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Friday, November 9, 2012

AFJ President Nan Aron on today's Supreme Court decision to hear a challenge to the Voting Rights Act

Alliance for Justice President Nan Aron issued the following statement on today's decision by the United States Supreme Court to hear a challenge to a key provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  At issue is a provision called "preclearance." Under this provision, places covered by the Act are barred from making changes in voting laws until the U.S. Department of Justice determines that the changes do not have either the purpose or effect of discriminating against people of color.

Today’s decision by the Supreme Court to hear a challenge to a key provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 means the court will be focusing on the keystone in the arch of protection for people of color in America - the law that guarantees the right to vote.

The case will be argued before a Chief Justice, John Roberts, who has shown profound hostility to the Voting Rights Act during his legal career.  While serving in the Reagan Administration, Roberts was a driving force behind Administration efforts to significantly weaken the Act.  His push to weaken the law went beyond internal memos and other writings. He actively encouraged the Administration to publicly embrace and widely endorse his call for a weaker law – drafting numerous talking points, question-and-answer documents and op ed columns.

Opponents of the Voting Rights Act say it has outlived its usefulness. After nearly 50 years, they argue, all of the wrongs have been righted. But any claim that the wrongs that led to this Act are things of the past should have been dispelled by the concerted efforts during the campaign that just ended to deny poor people and people of color their right to vote through voter ID laws and other means of voter suppression.

On election night, according to a Hart Research Associates poll conducted for the AFL-CIO, there was racial inequality at the polling station.  The proportion of African American and Hispanic voters who had to wait on long lines before they could vote was more than double the proportion of white voters.

When he signed the Voting Rights Act in 1965, President Lyndon Johnson declared that "This act flows from a clear and simple wrong. . . . Millions of Americans are denied the right to vote because of their color. This law will ensure them the right to vote. The wrong is one which no American, in his heart, can justify.  The right is one which no American, true to our principles, can deny."

Soon, the Supreme Court will decide if America will remain true to its principles.

And see the previous post to this blog for more on the need for strong voting rights protections.

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