Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Voting Is a Right, Not a Political Football

The Supreme Court today strike down key components of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 on the idea that the evidence is too old.  It has struck down section 4 and therefore damaged section 5 of the Voting Rights act.  Section 4 established a formula that the federal government used to determine states that had a history of voting rights violations and required the states to get preclearance before making voting changes that might impact minority voters.

Chief Justice Roberts wrote in his opinion ”Congress — if it is to divide the States — must identify those jurisdictions to be singled out on a basis that makes sense in light of current conditions. It cannot rely simply on the past,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote. “Our country has changed, and while any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks to current conditions.”

The problem is that there are problems that are not 40 years old, 30 years old, or even 10 years old.  South Dakota is one of the states that is required to get pre-clearnce and was covered under section 4 and 5 dues to issues the voting rights of Native Americans.  The Native American population traditionally votes more for Democrats.  But this is 21st Century and things like that don't happen anymore, right?  In 2008 the ACLU sued Shannon County and the State of South Dakota over the unlawful removal of several Native Americans from the voting rolls.  In 2005 the federal courts came in and order the state to redraw the legislative districts established in 2001.  Here is the description of the ruling and the rationale behind it:

Prior to this decision, which was issued yesterday by U.S. District Judge Karen E. Schreier, the court had ruled that the state of South Dakota had failed to submit its 2001 redistricting plan to federal officials for pre-approval under the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The plan was then submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice, which cleared it for implementation, but the plaintiffs claimed it was discriminatory nonetheless because it created a 90 percent supermajority of Indian voters by ""packing"" them into District 27, thereby violating Section 2 of the act. The court later agreed with this claim and in a lengthy 144 page opinion that was issued September 15, 2004, Judge Schreier gave the state an opportunity to fashion a new plan that did not discriminate against Indian voters. After the state refused to do so, the judge issued yesterday's ruling ordering new lines drawn to comply with the Constitutional principle of one-person, one vote and the Voting Rights Act. The judge's remedial order adopts one of the plans that had been originally proposed by the plaintiffs and their attorneys with the ACLU. Attorney Patrick Duffy of the Rapid City law firm of Duffy and Duffy served as local counsel on the case.

In 2004 a judge ordered the stopping of poll watchers from following native american voters and taking down their license plates numbers.

In the past election the Oglala Tribe sued the state to allow for early voting which was held to only 6 days while most counties in the state had 46 days to vote.  

It is frustrating to me when I try and encourage my students to get out and vote because voting is a right and it matters.  I don't care who you vote for as long as you take some time to get informed and vote!  This country has too long of a history of trying to prevent voters from having their right to vote for the Supreme Court to rule the way that they did.  There have been too many stories about politicians that have talked about how they can prevent certain segments to get out and vote.  We have to be vigilant against attempts to prevent minorities, young voters, Democrats, or Republicans voting rights.  

A right should not be treated as a political football.  It is pure and simple.  

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