On the same-day President Obama unveiled of the Rosa Parks statue on Capital Hill, the Supreme Court of the United States was listening to arguments about overturning one of the most important bills passed by Congress; the Voting Rights Act of 1965. This law is one of the main reasons why today in America, Barack Obama won the presidency with a coalition of many minority groups and caucasians. In fact, if it wasn’t for the Voting Rights Act, many minorities (african-Amerians, Hispanic, Latino, Asians, etc) that voted for Obama wouldn’t have been able to cast their vote prior to 1965. However, the main section that could be threatened by the Supreme Court is section five of the Voting Rights Act, which mainly help minorities in the south.
I’m confident the country knows why the Voting Rights Act was passed by Congress in 1965, but many Americans don’t know about Section five of this act. Section five requires that the United States Department of Justice or a three-judge panel of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, through a declaratory judgment action pre-clear any attempt to change any voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, or procedure with respect to voting in any covered jurisdiction. (The Supreme Court gave a broad interpretation to the words any voting qualification or prerequisite to voting in Allen v. State Board of Election, 393 U.S. 544.) This allowed the Congress to write a stronger voting law against the most racist states in the Union, mainly Mississippi and other states with a history of suppressing the minority vote to keep the so-called white power in place. Congress drew the area of where this law needed to be enforced with many of these areas are in southern states.
In the meantime, this law could be struck down by a party-line vote meaning the Republican brand could take another hit in the polls. Today, the Republican party is at an all-time low with a 29 percent approval rate, and if the conservatives in our Judicial branch of government strike down section five, then this would prove our federal government is all the way broken. The Executive, Legislative and judicial branches of government aren’t representing the people but only their ideology. This would be a crisis in our country.
The history of the United States is well documented as to why we need this law. I’m sure people haven’t forgotten this country was built on slave labor or indentured servitude. In order to end this way of life, the country went into a Civil War. The North won and President Lincoln signed into law the thirteenth Amendment but what happened next wasn’t shocking after Lincoln was killed. Andrew Johnson, a southern, was sworn in as the 17th president of the United States. The south was very pleased with this. Although the south lost the war, the would soon with the war of reconstruction. President Johnson promised not to punish the south if they passed strict laws against the new residents of the country; former slaves. The KKK rose and Jim Crow was enforced throughout the south. It took another 100 years before minorities truly has the right to vote.
Why the country still needs the section five of the voting rights act:
Some Americans think we don’t need section five of the voters right act because America elected the first African American president. Well, he is part African American and part caucasian which makes him the perfect representative.
In 2012, section five of the Voting Rights Act is protection not only against certain states but now against a nation party, the Republican party. The Republican leader in the Senate Mitch McConnell stated his number one political goal was to make President Obama a one-term leader of the free world.
Although, the Voting Rights Act has been extended four times since its passage in 1965; the latest extension was in 2006, both parties in the U.S. House and Senate came together in agreement to extend it with a large bipartisan vote. But, things have changed since then, we now have a African-American President. So, everything has changed politically in the eyes of the Republican party.
Prior to the 2012 election, Republican ran state legislators went into a haste to passed legislation to keep minorities from voting at the polls. According to International Business Times:
Some of these laws were required government-issued photo ID’s (Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas); early-voting cutbacks (Florida, Georgia, Tennessee); and the permanent disenfranchisement of ex-felons (Florida, Iowa, Kentucky and Virginia) which is arguably un-Constitutional. The Department of Justice tried pushed back against those restrictions in Florida, South Carolina and Texas, but that would not have been possible without Section 5.
The SCOTUS decision:
Section five of the voting rights act could be struck down by this conservative court. Both liberal and conservative justices were asking tough questions on whether this section should be struck down. After a few of these tough questions, the people found out that Massachusetts voting record is worse than Mississippi. Who know that? So, it looks like the areas need to be re-drown.
Although the justices were asking questions in good nature, during oral arguments on Wednesday, Justice Anton Scalia reportedly he questioned whether the provision is a racial entitlement for minorities. This is very troubling to hear this from a Supreme Court Justice. He should understand that after the 2012 elections and how many Republican legislators tried to keep minorities from voting that his comment is out of touch. This isn’t black entitlement but giving the people a fair chance to cast their vote. His job should be to protect all the people rights in this United States.
To make matters worst, if section five is struck down, the 113th Congress will have to redraw the areas for sections five. It would appear to me that this Congress isn’t fit to do this considering they can’t get anything done without causing a crisis.
This is not the time to overturn section five of the Voting Act of 1965, after electing our first African-American president proves today just why we still need this section of the bill.