The U.S. Supreme Court has just announced it has agreed to hear a case that challenges the constitutionality of the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act. The Court, considered one of the most conservative in recent decades, could actually strike down a portion of the law that mandates federal restrictions and outlaws discriminatory voting practices that for years were used to prevent African Americans from being able to vote.
“The justices three years ago expressed skepticism about the continued need for Section 5 of the historic act, which requires states and localities with a history of discrimination, most of them in the South, to get federal approval of any changes in their voting laws,” The Washington Post reports:
The Section 5 requirements were passed during the darkest days of the civil rights struggle, paving the way for expanded voting rights for African Americans and greatly increasing the number of minority officeholders.
But critics say the method used for selecting the areas that require special supervision–nine states, plus certain areas in seven others–is outdated, and there is no need for imposing greater requirements for some areas of the country .
“Things have changed in the South,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote in an opinion that eventually sidestepped the constitutional question. “Voter turnout and registration rates now approach parity. Blatantly discriminatory evasions of federal decrees are rare. And minority candidates hold office at unprecedented levels.”
Clearly, the Roberts Supreme Court, which is responsible for the Citizens United decision that equates money with speech, is now ready to pretend the rampant voter disenfranchisement this country has seen over the past few weeks didn’t happen.
“Echoing the language of the 15th Amendment, the Act prohibits states from imposing any ‘voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, or procedure … to deny or abridge the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color,’” Wikipedia notes:
Specifically, Congress intended the Act to outlaw the practice of requiring otherwise qualified voters to pass literacy tests in order to register to vote, a principal means by which Southern states had prevented African Americans from exercising the franchise. The Act was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson, who had earlier signed the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law.
Image: President Johnson, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks at the signing of the Voting Rights Act on August 6, 1965.
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