It its latest report on minority voting rights in America, published this month, the bipartisan United States Commission on Civil Rights reports that a range of restrictive voting measures have been enacted by states in recent years. They range from laws demanding that voters produce specific forms of identification to reductions in the number of locations where people can cast their ballot. These laws have a disproportionate effect on the ability of minority groups to exercise their voting rights. And thanks to a 2013 Supreme Court decision that weakens federal authority to restrict such laws, they are remaining on the books. The 1965 Voting Rights Act and its extensions helped dismantle generations of rules and regulations that had disenfranchised minority voters—and in particular black Americans. One of the act’s major provisions mandated that jurisdictions with a history of voter rights discrimination, including Texas, North Carolina, and seven other states, had to “pre-clear” new voting requirements. This involved persuading the federal government or a three-judge panel that the requirements would not be discriminatory in impact. But in 2013, the Supreme Court struck down the pre-clearance process.
The majority opinion suggested that the act had worked, and that it was hard to find continuing evidence of discrimination. In 1965, when the act was passed, the black-white enrolment gap in Mississippi, for example, was 7% to 70%. By 2004, that had reversed—the black enrolment rate was nearly 4% higher than white enrolment. The majority on the court took this as evidence that the pre-clearance process was no longer required.
But critics at the time noted that the court’s argument that the act had worked was instead strong evidence of the risk to voting rights if it was dismantled. Their fears were quickly realised. Within two hours of the Supreme Court decision in 2013, Texas’s attorney-general said the state would reinstitute a strict voter ID policy that had failed pre-clearance. A day later, North Carolina revised a bill to tighten its own ID laws.
Full Article: America’s unfair voting laws – Voting wrongs.