Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Lets see bipartisan action by the Congress to restore the Voting Rights Act.

Quoting Reuters:
In a 5-4 ruling with the court's conservatives in the majority, the justices ruled that Congress had used outdated facts in continuing to force nine states, mainly in the South, to get federal approval for voting rule changes affecting blacks and other minorities.
This decision will tend to disenfranchise minorities who tend to vote for Democrats, and the conservatives were nominated to the Supreme Court by Republicans. Still I find some sympathy for their telling the Congress to do its job better. Now of course, there is the question of how the Supreme Court will enforce that instruction to the Congress.

I note that the legislation as it existed allowed for governments to petition to be relieved of "strict supervision" after a decade with no reported violations of voter rights and also for new areas to be included under "strict supervision" if they had been shown to violate those rights. I also note that effective restoration of voter rights that had been violated for a century under the law -- even for decades -- does not mean that southern whites will not now seek to restore laws to violate the voter rights of blacks.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,
The right to vote is perhaps the most fundamental right in a democracy.  That right is made explicit in the 14th, 15th, 19th, 23rd, 24th and 26th amendments to the Constitution. It is the right that enables minorities to effectively demand their other rights.

Government in our democracy is obligated to protect this right, I would go further, and suggest that government has the responsibility for preparing people to vote intelligently and for encouraging them to do so.

A constitutionally defined right is a right. If it is infringed by a law, it doesn't matter if the intent behind the law was specifically to deprive people of that right or more benign. The New York law that required a non-denominational school prayer was probably well intended, but was declared unconstitutional because it deprived people of their right to freedom of religion. For a long time people didn't get court appointed lawyers in state courts (except for very serious charges); there was probably a lack of lawyers and of funds in state government to pay them, but the supreme court eventually decided that everyone charged of a criminal offense had a right to a lawyer. So too, it doesn't matter if the right to vote is denied intentionally or as a byproduct of a well intended law, it is a constitutional right that ought to be protected by the courts.

Source: Bureau of the Census
The figures above show that Hispanic and Asian Americans vote at much lower rates than do non-Hispanic white Americans. In 2010 only 33.8 percent of Hispanic Americans of voting age were registered to vote, as compared with 59.8 percent of all Americans of voting age. While too few Americans vote, the portion of white non-Hispanic Americans who vote seems comparable to the portion of black Americans who vote. Perhaps the focus on voting rights should move to focus more on the rights of Hispanic and Asian Americans.

I note that education is strongly correlated with voter registration. In 2010, only 30.1 percent of adults with 8 years or less of formal education were registered, as compared with 59.5 percent of high school graduates, and 76.8 percent of college graduates. Clearly governments that are to provide educational services to their citizens are not preparing those citizens to vote in many places; I suspect that it is especially in those places with high concentrations of poor and otherwise disenfranchised people that we find these low levels of registration.

Places With Low Turnout Now
Source: The New York Times
I quote from an MSNBC report:
In a statement issued hours after the ruling was announced, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott confirmed that thanks to the court’s decision, the state’s controversial voter ID law “will go into immediate effect,” and added that the redistricting plan that eviscerated Wendy Davis’s district “may also take effect without approval from the federal government.”
Both proposals had been stopped by federal courts under the voting rights act.


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