Voting policies require continued oversight

One might think that by year 2013, the question of whether or not people of color can vote in public elections would long have been relegated to the history books. Unfortunately, it is not a matter of the past alone.

It appears that the Supreme Court is poised to strike down section five of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, according to NBC News. For those who are unfamiliar with the act, section five states that certain jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination at polls must submit for preclearance from the Department of Justice before modifying any of their existing voting laws.

This legislation has been previously reaffirmed by the Supreme Court eight times in a variety of cases. Now, however, Shelby County in Alabama is challenging the section, arguing that it is irrelevant because there is no longer any significant voter discrimination. In Shelby County’s eyes, the provision is actually a discrimination against those jurisdictions that must report to the Department of Justice.

For Shelby County, there is no longer any legislation in practice that discriminates on the premise of skin color, and all current legislation officially encourages multiracial participation in the democratic process. They are right — there is no legislation that explicitly restricts minorities from voting. Yet, the viewpoint that voter discrimination does not exist has flaws.

Last year’s election saw, for the first time, the widespread implementation of new types of laws that don’t officially discriminate but still impact certain communities and races disproportionately. Some of these laws, widely known as “voter ID laws,” were implemented in an alleged effort to reduce the rate of voter fraud (notwithstanding that the rate of present voter fraud in the United States is somewhere between zero and negligible, according to ABC News).

By and large, these laws require voters to show up to the polls with a specific form of identification; it’s often a driver’s license, which many older minority voters simply do not have. Though these individuals can usually provide some form of identification, a citizen cannot vote unless the identification is the specific sort called for by the voting region.

Other forms of voter suppression were apparent too. In Ohio, legislation was passed that severely restricted the amount of time voters could mail in their ballot or vote early. Unlike prior years, which allowed up to five weekends’ time, citizens could only vote one weekend prior to the election. Indeed, early voting opportunities are usually taken advantage of by poor, minority and elderly voters, according to U.S. News & World Report.

It seems then that, counter to what Shelby County is arguing, the existence of voter ID laws and modifications to early voting processes in the 2012 election proves the necessity of section five of the Voters Rights Act even today.

Nevertheless, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia suggested last week that the only reason the Voter Rights Act has been reaffirmed so many times in the Supreme Court and Congress is because politicians are afraid of voting against a bill of “racial entitlement.” He goes on to say in his oral arguments in Shelby County v. Holder to state that “whenever a society adopts racial entitlements, it is very difficult to get out of them through the normal political processes.”

This isn’t so much a racial entitlement as it is a human entitlement; all people should be entitled to a voice in the American democratic process. Scalia’s viewpoint is flawed insofar as it views racial entitlement in this context as being bad.

The word “entitlement” does a lot to suggest a negative connotation, but I’d be wary of saying that any U.S. citizen is not entitled to the rights outlined for them in our founding documents. Is voting an entitlement? Yes, it is. But it is one guaranteed to all Americans and it certainly is not one that should be tied to race.


Matthew Tinoco is a freshman majoring in print and digital journalism.

2 replies
    AJAY JAIN says:

    The Voting Rights Act (VRA) must be upheld by the supreme court: Discrimination is alive today unfortunately; Liberty and justice for all is openly sabotaged and the Supreme Court is inviting trouble of great magnitudnal proportions if it dares to fail its ultimate mandate: to uphold everyone’s constitutional rights. We not only need to keep the protections in the current Voting Rights Act, it should be expanded. The numerous despicable attempts to restrict voting made during the last election cycle are proof of that. Anyone who truly believes the VRA is obsolete needs to recognize, given last years voter suppression efforts, the Jim Crowe era is biding its time, lurking in the shadows waiting for an opportunity to rear its head once again. The entire nation will speak against it because the Voting Rights Act (VRA) is not about political parties; the Voting Rights Act (VRA) is about individual rights protection. Bank on it! it is time to review; the Supreme Court’s “entitlements” as, it is no longer acting as an unbiased institution and that, your magistrates , can be amended. get up and do your job or we will make it happen! count on it! Now Even if you are dumb enough to believe that all is OK with the world and there are no reasons to have the voting rights law on the books. Then why are the the parties at opposite end’s on this ? Why are the Republicans in America trying to keep people from the poles ? Well I will tell you what I think. I think there may be a dozen or two, man and women in America that have the means to buy the power it wants to call all shots in this Country. The only way they can obtain this right now is get the people they went in office. To buy them so to say. But they know they can be stopped at the voting polls.They know the more that get out and vote there chances are reduced substantially. George Will knows this and should be ashamed. He say 47 years old. Is that old ? I don’t think so. Look at the constitution, at that II Amendment a lot older right. SS, Medicare, still very new in the big picture. But look at who wants to change them. Not working men and women, no the big bosses. They do not like to mach payments that is what this is all about. They did not like it back in the 1930s and they do not like it now. So Americans do not be fooled and all of you older people that now have this little benefit fight like h— to keep it just as it is. It just might be all there is between eating and striving !!

    All the republicans crapping about The Voting Rights Act (VRA) on this board and the likes of you in the REPUBLICAN House should move aside in 2014 because the REPUBLICANS are the crux of the problem. President Obama won the elections of 2008 AND 2012 fair and square but the REPUBLICANS are not allowing him to govern through their rule of RECORD number of filibusters in the Senate and the HOUSE of REPUBLICANS has achieved nothing since it came to power in 2010. In 2014 its the REPUBLICAN’s time to go and let OBAMA our democratically elected PRESIDENT rule the country and leave a legacy behind like the achievements of the 2008-2010 years when DEMOCRATS had the House Senate and the Presidency. We want the obstructionist REPUBLICANS out of the way in 2014. We want our House and Senate back in the DEMOCRATIC hands so we can govern and achieve something. All these doomsday fiscal deadlines that REPUBLICANS keep pushing on the country will haunt them in 2014!! Mark my words. March 4th 2013. Vote Democratic always!

  2. Liberty Minded
    Liberty Minded says:

    The question is, is the federal government a better steward of the rights of people in the USA in 2013?

    An administration unwilling to protect the rights of people to travel unhindered – everyone is a suspect, noone is allowed to face an accuser, you simply get scanned, patted down and asked your business

    An adminstration that continues the policy of unlimited dentention often without hearing, lawyers or trial

    An administration that will not limit drone use or attacks to war zones – no limit to drone searches, no right to life, no trial, no jury

    What good is voting, when you have already lost these other natural rights?

Comments are closed.