Voting Rights and Wrongs

Too little attention has been given to the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent Voting Rights Act decision.

In this case, Chief Justice Roberts continued the judicial activism that has characterized his tenure and given us absurd results such as “corporations are people.”

Now we are told that the decision of Congress finding the need for continued vigilance to stop state laws threatening minority voters’ ability to participate in democracy is invalid. This “finding” is made by 5 members of the Supreme Court and ignores the specific work of hundreds of Congressional members and staff and the tons of evidence they considered just a few years ago.

Worse, the decision attempts to rely on the 10th Amendment under the claim that it protects “States’ Rights” (a phrase used for decades to justify segregation and discrimination in the South). The fact is that even if the 10th Amendment protects some sort of states’ rights position, it was specifically modified in the area of voting by the adoption of the 15th Amendment, which gives Congress the exact authority to adopt laws preventing states from interfering with the right to vote!

Across the nation, we are witnessing a surge in legislative efforts to restrict voting rights of people of color. These include

_gerrymandering districts to compact racial groups and reduce their impact

_voter identification laws that put a burden on the poor (and thus directly on certain racial groups) to obtain documents that are costly and logistically difficult to locate

_reduced early voting that lowers participation by the same groups who cannot get off work to stand in lines for hours to cast a vote,

_reduction in voting access in poor neighborhoods where inadequate numbers of polling places and machines are offered,

_”purging” of voter rolls, which eliminates a much larger number of minorities due to their lower rate of home-ownership and general residential stability

_such tactics as removing voters from the eligibility list based on “similarities” between the voters’ names and those of felons.

The conservative agenda has been rejected by Americans, as evidenced by public opinion polls and elections in states where fair access to the ballot box is offered. Yet that agenda is being perpetuated by this activist court in blatant contrast to their promise to defer to the legislature and abide by the Constitution.

Attention must continue to be directed to such abuses, Congress must continue to intervene, the federal Department of Justice must be pushed to take pro-active steps to act against such efforts, and we need to shed light on this campaign by the extreme right-wing to destroy our democracy.

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