My latest op-ed, title above, appeared in The Virginian Pilot Thursday. In it, I discuss the Voting Rights Act of 1965, a part of history that temporarily remains as an effort to keep discriminatory voting practices from occurring.
Section 5 of the VRA is being challenged in the Supreme Court, in the case Shelby County v. Holder. Oral arguments are to start next week (ironically, the last week of Black History Month). SCOTUSblog, the source for all things relating to cases being argued before the Supreme Court, has a special page devoted to this case and includes arguments both for and against it.
Much of what I’ve read regarding this challenge really revolves the coverage provisions in Section 4. Should those be eliminated, Section 5 will fall, anyway. And what happens without Section 5? This article, published this morning, gives a great history of the Act and concludes (emphasis mine):
It will also encourage lawmakers in states like South Carolina to “structure” their voting laws without the burden of worrying about an initial round of review by federal election officials. Logic — and history — suggest this will disenfranchise minority voters. Moreover, without Section 5, the evidentiary burden of challenging this new generation of voting laws will fall not upon the local officials seeking to implement the new measures but upon those effectively disenfranchised by them. Like the way it was before the Act was enacted in August 1965.
Are there issues with the VRA? You bet. The coverage parts need to be changed. Congress needs to get off its collective duffs and fix that. And the cost of preclearance has to be more reasonable.
But to eliminate Section 5 is to take us back nearly 50 years. I’m not willing to go back there.
Some wonder why we are always fighting the battles of years gone by, why our race problem has never been healed in this country. It is precisely because the laws set in place to make discrimination illegal are under constant challenge.The 15th Amendment should have been enough. It wasn’t enough in 1965 and it’s not enough today.
My column appears in The Virginian-Pilot on Thursdays. You can see the columns as they are published here, or navigate to them from the PilotOnline.com homepage by clicking on Opinion and then choosing my name at the bottom of the dropdown list. You can also see the columns by liking my Facebook page. Although my column appears weekly, I am not and have never been an employee of The Virginian-Pilot.Follow @vpaige