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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Why we still need the Voting Rights Act: One story sums it up

You know what the people who want to get rid of a key provision of the Voting Rights Act are saying: They claim it’s a relic from an era when America had just ended legal apartheid.  We’re past those bad old days, they say.
But the fact that you can’t put a “whites only” sign on a water fountain or impose a poll tax doesn’t mean racism is a thing of the past.
President Lyndon Johnson signs the Voting Rights Act 
as Martin Luther King, Jr., and other civil rights leaders look on
LBJ Library photo by Yoichi R. Okamoto
Consider this story, told by Tom Perez, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, and reported by The Huffington Post:
A county in Texas wanted to move its polling place from a school to a private club – a club that had a history of segregation.  But Texas is covered by the Voting Rights Act.  Under Section 5 of the act, the county had to get advance approval, known as “pre-clearance,” from either the Justice Department or a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. 
It never got that far.  As soon as the Justice Department asked for more information – the equivalent of raising a governmental eyebrow - the county withdrew the request.
It is Section 5 that now is under challenge, in a case to be heard by the Supreme Court during the current term.
"Section 5 continues to be necessary, and Section 5 is not over inclusive," Perez said. "And that is why we will continue to vigorously defend Section 5 in the Supreme Court."

1 comment:

John Hirtle said...

In light of the massive efforts to prevent voting in recent elections, it is obvious that we need more stringent legislation, not less.