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June 25, 2013

VRA Section 4 Struck Down: What Happens Next?

By Marta Steele

On the tragic decision by SCOTUS this morning to rescind Section 4 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.


Glory Old by Internet

The decision Election Integrity activists have awaited for months was published this morning by the New York Times, revealing that SCOTUS has outrageously betrayed the people again. But where Citizens United ruled against the 99 percent, the Shelby County v Holder decision is blatantly racist, ruling against the 12 percent of this country that is African American.  

      Was Jim Crow reborn this morning? No. Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act specified [generically] which states required preclearance from the Department of Justice before enacting any changes to election practices at every municipal as well as state level. That is the part of the VRA struck down, not Section 5, which requires preclearance. It may as well have been struck down, though. Without the specifications in Section 4, it is toothless.   

     Crow never died. VRA fought back, but leading EI activists have pointed out outrageous instances of electoral racism repeatedly--in Election 2000 in Florida and 2004 in Ohio (of which preclearance is not even required), for example. Florida is one of sixteen states, nine of them Southern, which up until today, partly or fully, were subject to preclearance. Ohio is not but should be (more on this below).  

      Moreover, relevant to Election 2012, courts referred to the VRA to justify block- ing voter identification requirements and cutbacks on early voting, both of which--you guessed it--work against the poorest segments of the 99 percent.  

     A New York Times blog published on February 20, 2013 reminded that "Congress has repeatedly extended the [Section 5] requirement: for 5 years in 1970, 7 years in 1975, and 25 years in 1982. Congress renewed the act in 2006 [by a huge margin] after holding extensive hearings on the persistence of racial discrimination at the polls, again extending the preclearance requirement for 25 years."

     SCOTUS supported the congressional mandate in 2009, but made the public aware that the issue would be revisited.       

       Most telling is a letter to the editor of the Times from a resident of Shelby County, Alabama [the plaintiff that won this morning in SCOTUS], testifying to the persistence of Jim Crow despite the opposition's view that the election of a black president in 2008 killed Crow, as did a new poll revealing that the number of African Americans voting has increased. A section of this LTE follows:         

      "Born and raised in Alabama, I can assure you that Alabama is a poster child for why voters still need the protections from Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which Shelby       county is now trying to gut for the whole nation.       

     There have been countless examples of politicians in Alabama trying to take away or diminish the right to vote for African-Americans.

     "In 2008, my city, Calera, Ala., tried to eliminate the only black councilman's district. The lines were redrawn so that the number of African-American voters was cut by more than half. Thanks to Section 5, the discriminatory plan was tossed out."

     Further according to the blog cited above, "in 1965 Congress based the VRA on two Reconstruction-era Constitutional amendments that protect fundamental rights of citizenship: equal protection (the 14th) and the right to vote (the 15th).            

     "Both amendments explicitly give Congress the power to enforce their guarantees "by appropriate legislation,' and both had the central purpose of giving Congress enforcement power to keep the states in line. That would seem an adequate answer to the Texas and Alabama complain[t] that Section 5 tramples on the sovereignty and dignity of the states, while other covered states, Mississippi and North Carolina, have joined a brief by New York's solicitor general, Barbara D. Underwood (several New York counties are covered, including Manhattan and Brooklyn!), asserting that Section 5 has provided "significant and measurable benefits' in helping covered jurisdictions "move toward their goal of eliminating racial discrimination and inequities in voting' and continues to do so."            

     So I threw in my own two cents to the Times, in a comment attached to the tragic news it publicized this morning:        

     "The correct step Congress should now undertake is to study racist-trending patterns throughout the country and redesignate states that require preclearance. Ohio, among other states, should require preclearance, along with the other states designated already, including the Southern ones.       

     "I wouldn't mind if all states in the union were required to preclear any election-related changes they make.       

     "Too much federalism? Should Kennedy and Johnson not have intervened in the sixties? Perhaps a HAVA should have been written, but not the one we have now. Elections among the states by 2002 were in shambles and required federal intervention.      

       Quixotic, perhaps, as the blog affirmed: "[T]he chance that Congress would overcome sectional and partisan tensions in order to produce a new formula is even smaller than the prospect of Congress raising judicial salaries."       

       The public thinks little of Congress for a good reason. Where are the DoJ and President Obama when we need them? An executive order might work to curb Jim Crow again.        

     Mr. President, as you said in your 2012 acceptance speech in reference to the too-long lines of underprivileged voters, "We've got to do something about that."

Submitters Website: http://www.wordsunltd.com; http://www.editingunltd.com

Submitters Bio:

A jack of some trades, writing and editing among them, Marta Steele, an admitted and proud holdover from the late sixties, returned to activism ten years ago after first establishing her skills as a college [mostly adjunct] professor in three subjects, then writer ("born" in the South, of course), then mother, then highly successful publishing professional (editor). In the latter context, she began to write or, more accurately, couldn't stop herself from protesting when the entire country came down with media/ Monica obsession and, stripped of judgment, turned to impeach a capable president for doing, perhaps too openly, what few presidents haven't either done themselves or wanted to. Subsequently and probably as a result, Bush was elected and Steele's venom turned against the hideous corruption that had accomplished this. She became an election integrity activist and harsh media critic, incredulous about media indifference to issues of vital importance to democracy. She also became a peace activist, serving on the board of the Delaware Valley Coalition for Peace Action and writing droves of blog entries on this subject. Even as protest against the Iraq invasion burgeoned, the media had other, yellower, red herrings to throw at us. Concerned to inform the future if not the present about the protest movement and the amazing words and events that accompanied it, she attended as many protest events as she could, ink freezing in her pen under the worst weather conditions. These writings reside in hard-copy archives of Words, UnLtd., a paper journal born in 1999, as every blog entry since its cyberspace rebirth in 2005, just when the election integrity movement burgeoned, "fooled again" by Bush's reelection in 2004. She works as a freelance editor (mostly academic) and writer, the proud mom of an ABD. Liza Gwendolyn, working to gain her PhD in public sociology at Princeton University. She still blogs regularly, mainly at Wordsunltd.com and Opednews, but writings are picked up at other sites and sent out into the blogosphere and hard-copy publications as well. At work on an 8-year history of the election integrity movement, she was stricken with Bell's Palsy and had to divert her energies. Time willing, once this monster abates (well on its way, deo gratias), she hopes to resume work on it. She has a large opus she'd like to publish in hard copy as essay anthologies, but so far that hasn't worked--the advice is to make an attracting enough name to succeed in an effort that usually follows upon more single-themed hard-copy and public visibility. Wish me luck. All leads welcome. Stage two: single-themed hard copy accomplished--advance orders welcome for "Grassroots, Geeks, Pros, and Pols." Blurb follows below: "Grassroots, Geeks, Pros, and Pols: How the People Lost and Won, 2000-2008," by Election Integrity (EI) activist Marta Steele, is a history of the Election Integrity movement from 2000 to 2008, highlighting the corrupt practices of that decade, and how the people rallied to control and ultimately overcome them, at least in Election 2008. What happened thereafter will become another book. The culprits were highly corruptible and low-quality machines and the machinery that allowed them to proliferate, defying the will of the people in favor of conservative values unconcerned with the exigent issues that drew the people to the polls. Voters turned out in record numbers in 2008. Thirty percent of those who usually sit out elections (a total of about 100 million) showed up. For their will not to have prevailed would have represented the biggest travesty in our nation's history; and yet a week before Election Day both John McCain and Karl Rove were predicting a Republican victory. Then Rove changed his mind on the eve of Election Day, predicting that Obama would win. But this occurred after the huge battle, at so many levels, ultimately boiled down to a deposition in Columbus, Ohio, on November 3, 2008, of a Rove IT operative. Once Judge Solomon Oliver found holes in the deposition, the people's will exploded and the people's choice went to Washington. Perhaps the day before Election 2008 did not become the major holiday it should have because the machinery of election corruption is up and running again and the people are still fighting. But in Grassroots, Geeks, Pros, and Pols the dramatic victory achieved was a successful revolution and in the long run may be remembered for that. The ultimate success will not be a sigh of relief and a cheer for a brief period of time, but the permanent death of anti-American activities. Our vote is our sacred right, nothing we need to acquire with a government-issued photo i.d. It is the bottom line of democracy. Without it, there is no democracy, which is not an abstract noun but continuous work. All this our founding fathers knew and passed down to us, a tough legacy and challenge but well worth our necessary efforts.