by Jeremy Leaming
A party bent on pushing economic policies that did not win the day during the 2012 elections and is beholden in general to a Tea Party antigovernment agenda is now signaling it has no concern if one of the nation’s greatest civil rights laws is gutted by the Supreme Court in Shelby County v. Holder.
The Huffington Post reports that “a sampling of Senate Republicans” finds that many “are just as ready as he [Justice Antonin Scalia) is to toss the heart of the Voting Rights Act, its Section 5, which prevents states with a history of racial discrimination from altering their voting laws without federal approval.”
Although apparently difficult for the sampled senators to respond to the question, many said that "Section 5’s time has come and gone, and that Southern states should be treated no differently than then the rest of the nation.”
Senate Minority Whip John Conyer (R-Texas), The Post continued, said there should be no covered states or that all states should “not be treated differently.”
The high court’s right-wing bloc did show through some of its questioning during oral argument in Shelby County its hostility to Section 5, even in the face of vast evidence provided in voluminous briefs before the court that some states, such as Alabama, have a far higher percentage of successful challenges to claims of racial discrimination in voting.
Indeed several of the high court’s left-of-center justices pointed this out; that it was rather odd that Alabama of all places should be trying to kill the Voting Rights Act’s integral provision.
There were even more instances in 2012 in the covered jurisdictions that suggested they have a long way to go before racial discrimination in voting is eradicated, making the job of Section 5 vital.
And the Constitution’s 15th Amendment gives Congress the power to craft appropriate action to enforce its promise that no U.S. citizen should be denied the right to vote “on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”
The supporters of Section 5 – and there are many – say Congress should be allowed to complete its job and it has the constitutional duty to do so. But unfortunately we are now facing a GOP more concerned about the needs of a few powerful and ready to turn a blind eye to ongoing efforts in the covered jurisdictions to suppress the right to vote of millions.
For more on the Shelby County case, see our Voting Rights Resources Page.