Wednesday April 23, 2014
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There is no doubt, none at all, that in the racially charged atmosphere of 1965 the Voting Rights Act was good legislation, and that so was Section 5 of the act, which required certain states to have the federal government pre-approve any change in their voting laws. That requirement was--while Constitutionally iffy--necessary to ensure that some Americans got to vote.
However, Section 5 has always been seen as highly doubtful because it intrudes on states rights. And now, almost 50 years after its passage, it is being questioned by the Supreme Court of the land for exactly that reason.
Anyway, why would Congress keep on re-approving an act which has so obviously outlived its time? This is not the United States of 1965. Why we even have a black president now.
The answer lies in what some of the Justices are thinking, something that Justice Scalia put into words, namely that politicians are afraid to vote against something with the “wonderful” name "Voting Rights Act."
Think about it. If you were in Congress, and you wanted to stay there, would you vote against the renewal, however unnecessary, of a law with a name like that?
In 2009, when the same issue came before the Court, it decided the case without a definitive answer, but sent a message to Congress that it was "dissatisfied with the formula used to determine which states were covered by Section 5. The decision included this comment that such an imposition on state sovereignty must be justified by currents needs; seven justices said, “The statute’s coverage formula is based on data that is now more than 35 years old and there is considerable evidence that it fails to account for current political conditions.”
Congress, however, failed to take action, and it is apparent that some of the justices have lost their patience. One justice commented that the current situation leaves the states under, “the trusteeship of the United States government.”
Another justice said that the Voting Rights Act was “one of the most successful statutes that Congress passed in the 20th century” but added the selection of jurisdictions covered by Section 5 makes no sense today.
Arizona, by the way, is one of the states controlled by the provisions of Section 5; that is why we had to get federal approval of redistricting in the last election.
So? What's your feeling on all this?
Remember all that flack about redistricting we had last year? And how lousy the whole mess came out? That's because the feds had to approve what we did, so we had to meet every fluff head rule in the universe, and that's what this string is all about: Should we divide up the state according to some set of rules that are designed to fit a perfect universe, or should be just do the best job we can--without drawing ridiculous lines that run all over the place?
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