A Modest Proposal

5 comments April 30th, 2009at 10:56pm Posted by Eli

So, as I understand it, the Voting Rights Act may be in trouble:

[T]he Voting Rights Act… among other things, requires a federal judge or the Department of Justice to “pre-clear” any changes to voting procedures in parts of the country that have a history of excluding voters on the basis of race.  White racists who try to exclude minorities as minorities have to justify their decision to do so, and their plans are frequently thwarted by the good folks in the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division.

If early reports from yesterday’s oral arguments in the Supreme Court are accurate, however, that may soon be changing.  Apparently, the five conservative justices are upset that the Voting Rights Act singles out a handful of largely southern states, while allowing states like Michigan and California to escape supervision under the pre-clearance provisions—so they look ready to strike the whole thing down.

If the problem is that southern states are being singled out when there are racists everywhere, how is that an argument for eliminating the VRA entirely?  If the conservative justices are so worried that northern racists are getting away with murder, then why not simply expand the pre-clearance requirement to all states?  I mean, their objective is to eliminate racially discriminatory election laws, right?


Entry Filed under: Constitution,Elections,Judiciary,Politics,Racism,Republicans


  • 1. Charles  |  May 2nd, 2009 at 3:03 pm

    To be fair, Eli, they can’t extend legislation to other states. They can only strike it down in whole or in part and force Congress to re-legislate.

    And there are questions as to exactly how long the Voting Rights Act is supposed to go on. The southern racists who committed mass voting abuses in the 1960s are now in their sixties and seventies. Actual discrimination, as opposed to pre-clearance is (theoretically) covered by other laws. Isn’t there some day when we can say that the need for the Voting Rights Act has passed?

    One can make a good case for extending the VRA for twenty years or so, possibly narrowing the jurisdictions where pre-clearance is required. But I am not sure this is the best way to go. Congress has failed to pass legislation that would prevent the worst abuses, such as blocking disparate voting systems, electronic voting/counting, arbitrary purges and so on. If they would do that, it would be much, much harder for racists to target African Americans.

  • 2. Charles  |  May 2nd, 2009 at 3:04 pm

    Adding… one of the reason voting rights are poorly enforced is because they are seen as a Black thing. Make them a universal and they should get better treatment.

  • 3. Eli  |  May 2nd, 2009 at 3:50 pm

    Probably so, but it sure doesn’t sound like anyone is saying anything other than “There are racists in the North, so we should abolish pre-clearing altogether”, which seems perverse to me.

    As for the appropriate life expectancy for pre-clearance and the VRA, I would suggest that it becomes unnecessary when state GOPs stop trying to take minority votes away.

    Or if Congress actually does pass legislation to block it more directly rather than leave it up to a potentially corrupt DOJ like the one we had for the last 8 years.

  • 4. Charles  |  May 3rd, 2009 at 2:13 pm

    I guess my apathy about VRA emanates from what Janet Reno’s Justice Department did about Florida 2000, Eli. You know: nothing. If I thought that they would do their jobs, I would be very much in favor of VRA extension, since it’s very obvious that denial of the franchise goes on, based largely around race (although the intent is to make the Democatic Party lose elections). But when Democrats are not willing to enforce the law, it seems like a no-hope situation to me.

    The DoJ being potentially corrupt for the last eight years? I think one might have said it was potentially corrupt from 1993-2001. For the DoJ under Bush, “potentially corrupt” seems like saying that the Pope is “potentially” a Catholic.

    As for Republican arguments being illogical and hypocritical, well, at night it’s dark, and during the day, it’s not, y’know.

  • 5. Eli  |  May 3rd, 2009 at 2:16 pm

    Well, I meant potentially corrupt *again*. I agree that the VRA isn’t much use if no-one enforces it, but I’d still rather it be available to block abuses than not.

    In other words, better to have it in place and enforced some of the time than not in place and enforced none of the time. Half a loaf, and all that.

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