Editorials: The Scalia Court and Voting Rights Act | Doug Kendall/Huffington Post

With Justice Antonin Scalia’s controversial statement that the Voting Rights Act represents the “perpetuation of racial entitlement” continuing to reverberate across the media landscape, it’s hard to believe that the Supreme Court is poised to hear another seminal challenge to a federal law protecting Americans’ right to vote. But next Monday, the Court will hear Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, a challenge by the state of Arizona to the protections of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA). The NVRA, also known as the Motor Voter Act, was enacted in 1993 with the goal of boosting voter participation and streamlining voter registration. At stake in both the challenge to the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder, and the challenge to the NVRA in the Arizona case, is whether the federal government will continue to have the power to beat back efforts by the states to suppress the vote. As anyone who was watching the 2012 elections knows, one of the key voter suppression methods employed by conservatives was the enactment of ever more burdensome voter ID laws. Those laws were an issue in Shelby County because the Voting Rights Act was used in 2012 to block or delay the implementation of voter ID laws in Texas and South Carolina.

Editorials: From Rosa Parks to the Voting Rights Act: making equal rights a reality for all | Barbara Boxer/theGrio

I will never forget watching President Obama unveil the statue of one of my personal heroes in Statuary Hall last month – allowing civil rights icon Rosa Parks to take her rightful place in our nation’s Capitol. At the same time, just across the street, the fundamental promise that Rosa Parks spent her whole life fighting for – equal treatment for all Americans under the law – was under attack at the U.S. Supreme Court. While Parks was being celebrated for helping to bring down “the entire edifice of segregation,” as the President eloquently put it, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was busy declaring that the basic protections provided to the American people by the Voting Rights Act were a “perpetuation of racial entitlement.” His stunning remark shows clearly that our dream of justice and equality for all is still unfinished – even 57 years after Rosa Parks courageously refused to budge from her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama.

Editorials: In the defense of our voting rights | Clyde Hughes/Journal and Courier

It is hard to imagine in a country built on the idea of democracy and one person/one vote, that there would be such a debate today over voting rights. Yet, here we are in 2013, and there is a debate over the rules of the voting game that has the potential of curtailing those rights. It seemed too ironic that we celebrated the 100th anniversary of a historic Washington, D.C., march for women’s suffrage on March 3, when days before the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on stripping the 1965 Voting Rights Act of a key provision that protects minority representation in much of the South. The National Women Suffrage Parade was held in 1913, the day before the inauguration of President Woodrow Wilson, in an effort to bring attention to the issue. It would take seven years before the 19th Amendment would pass, guaranteeing women the right to vote.

Editorials: We’ve Known How to Fix Voting Since 1975—We Don’t Need Another Panel | J. Ray Kennedy/The Atlantic

Many Americans learned a valuable lesson in 2000: The technologies that emerged over the previous century for casting and counting votes are not always as reliable as they need to be, especially in close elections. Those tools — mechanical lever machines, punch cards, optical-mark readers and, most recently, touch-screen and push-button electronic units — emerged as urban populations grew and as pressure intensified for rapid tallying of results, largely from candidates and broadcasters. For years, they were widely accepted as accurate. But as early as 1975, Roy Saltman, an engineer at the National Bureau of Standards (now the National Institute of Standards and Technology), undertook a privately funded study of voting and vote-counting technology and recommended that punch-card systems be dropped as soon as possible due to problems like hanging chads. Alarm. Yawn. Hit the snooze button. A 1988 update had the same reaction. In 1990, after extensive public hearings, the Federal Election Commission’s Office of Election Administration issued voluntary guidelines regarding the testing and certification of voting and vote-counting technologies. America was beginning to wake up. Around the same time, the House Subcommittee on Elections of the Committee on Administration held hearings on emerging voting technologies. The report of those hearings was a cornucopia of information. Another sign of awakening. Yet in 1994, one of the first actions of the new Republican majority was to eliminate the Subcommittee on Elections. Big yawn. Hit the snooze button.

Editorials: Voting rights: Americans died for it, the free world admires it, the Supreme Court should preserve it | Brent Budowsky/The Hill

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy recently made an important and wise comment when he said that with gridlock plaguing our political system, “A democracy should not be dependent for its major decisions on what nine unelected people from a narrow legal background have to say.” Considering the controversial history of recent Supreme Court decisions regarding elections, and the pending case regarding the Voting Rights Act, the nine unelected justices should uphold the Voting Rights Act, which was not passed under gridlock but was passed by overwhelming majorities of both parties, in both the House and Senate, including those representing states covered by the act. In my view the act should be upheld, period. For conservative justices who might be inclined to overturn the act or Section 5 of the act, I would suggest they consider that this would violate the conservative principle against extreme judicial activism. It would violate the conservative principle of avoiding political decisions. It would violate the conservative principle against the unelected judicial branch negating overwhelming agreement of the elected executive and legislative branches, which have substantially more expertise regarding free elections than those of “narrow legal background.”

Editorials: Ohio election law needs an upgrade | The Columbus Dispatch

Four or five months ago, Secretary of State Jon Husted probably would have been grateful for people to forget about Ohio elections for a while. Now, however, he needs the attention of state and federal lawmakers. When in-state and out-of-state partisans are done besieging this swing state during presidential-election years — trumping up charges of widespread voter fraud or voter suppression to rally their troops across the country — it seems they forget all about the importance of smooth, valid elections in Ohio. But Husted’s job remains the same: ensuring that every election is well run. The General Assembly should do its part to help, by enacting the common-sense reforms for which Husted has asked, starting with allowing online voter registration and establishing uniform days and hours for voting.

Editorials: Supreme Court: Uphold the Voting Rights Act! | Ari Berman/The Nation

On Sunday, March 3, Representative John Lewis locked arms with Luci Baines Johnson and Vice President Joe Biden and marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge here. Forty-eight years earlier, on “Bloody Sunday,” Lewis was badly beaten by Alabama state troopers at the foot of the bridge while attempting to march from Selma to Montgomery in support of voting rights. Eight days later, Luci’s father introduced the Voting Rights Act before a joint session of Congress. “When Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act on August 6, 1965,” Lewis said, “he helped free and liberate all of us.”  At the time of Bloody Sunday, only 393 of the 15,000 black voting-age residents of Selma’s Dallas County were registered to vote. Today Selma has a black mayor, a black congresswoman and six black city council members. Since 2000, Lewis has led a congressional pilgrimage to Selma for every anniversary of Bloody Sunday, paying homage to how the VRA transformed American democracy. This year’s march had special significance.

Editorials: Scalia scorns vote protections | Verna Williams /Cincinnati.com

On my constitutional law exam this year, I invited students to comment on a quote from a scholar – Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. What he said is worth considering in light of his gasp-inducing comment during the argument in the Voting Rights Act of 1965 case, Shelby County v. Holder: “Originalism seems to me more compatible with the nature and purpose of a Constitution in a democratic system. A democratic society does not, by and large, need constitutional guarantees to insure that its laws will reflect ‘current values.’ Elections take care of that quite well. The purpose of constitutional guarantees (especially those guaranteeing individual rights) is precisely to prevent the law from reflecting certain changes in original values that the society adopting the Constitution thinks fundamentally undesirable. Or, more precisely, to require the society to devote to the subject the long and hard consideration required for a constitutional amendment before those particular values can be cast aside.” This is Justice Scalia in his element. Originalism as protector of constitutional values against the vagaries of electoral politics. Requiring us to think “long and hard” before casting aside those foundational notions. And yet.

Editorials: The Voting Rights Act Isn’t a Racial Entitlement | Politic365

“Come, listen, all you girls and boys, I’m just from Tuckahoe; I’m going to sing a little song, My name’s Jim Crow.” These are the two opening lines to a song entitled “Jump Jim Crow” made famous by a prominent minstrel actor named Thomas Dartmouth “Daddy” Rice in 1828. When Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia made his derogatory, insensitive comments last Wednesday about Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act from his bench, this was the first thing that popped up in my mind. What Justice Scalia and his fellow justices may need is a history lesson on why Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act was put there in the first place and why it must remain there. Scalia is known for hurling verbal bombs from his seat in the chamber, but last Wednesday he crossed the line. Under Section 5, parts of the country with histories of discriminatory election practices have to ask for preclearance from the Justice Department before making any changes to their voting rules. Scalia declared, “I think it is attributable, very likely attributable, to a phenomenon that is called perpetuation of racial entitlement. It’s been written about. Whenever a society adopts racial entitlements, it is very difficult to get out of them through the normal political processes.”

Editorials: Voting Rights Act still needed | South Florida Sun-Sentinel

A case before the U.S. Supreme Court once again asks the justices to change the Voting Rights Act of 1965, arguably one of the nation’s most effective civil-rights laws. Since its inception, the number of blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans in the political process has grown almost to the point of parity with white voters. Such progress was cited last week when attorneys representing Shelby County, Ala., asked the justices to strike down a key provision in the law because they believe it has served its purpose. Granted, a lot has changed since blacks in the South were denied the right to vote due to rigid laws and societal norms that denied them basic rights because of the color of their skin. The days of Jim Crow have passed. But the need for strong federal oversight to protect against discriminatory voting practices has not. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 is still needed, as is Section 5, the key component that requires a select group of states, counties and other jurisdictions with the worst history of racial discrimination to obtain approval from the U.S. Department of Justice before implementing any change to their voting procedures.

Editorials: Bloody Sunday, the Voting Rights Act, and the Movement of History | The New Yorker

Forty-eight years ago Thursday, five hundred or so activists gathered to march from Selma, Alabama, to Montgomery to protest the denial of voting rights to blacks in the state. They didn’t make it. The march was attacked by state and local police, who were cheered on by crowds of white onlookers in an assault so brutal that it has come to be known as Bloody Sunday. Seventeen people, including future congressman John Lewis, were hospitalized. Last weekend, an array of activists and elected officials gathered in Selma, as they have for many years, to commemorate that march. But this year, the commemoration had a special significance: it came just days after the Supreme Court heard arguments in Shelby v. Holder, a case that threatens to eviscerate the Voting Rights Act, which might never have passed were it not for the aborted Bloody Sunday march and the chaotic, violent tableau playing out in Alabama. If we take nothing else from this anniversary, it’s a reminder that the history of race in this country resembles a pendulum, not an arrow.

Editorials: Iran’s Elections to End All Elections | US News & World Report

Iran’s presidential campaign is well under way. The unprecedented public attack by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad against Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani, in which Ahmadinejad accused Larijani of trying to control Iran through a family-run mafia, attests to a deep divide within the Iranian regime. But unlike in most real democracies, the likely contenders for the presidency are not trying to woo reluctant voters with snazzy TV ads or get-out-the-vote drives. Indeed, many regime officials would prefer that many Iranians—especially liberal urbanites—not vote at all. The June election will not be about mobilizing the Iranian public. It is instead the culmination of a years-long evolution in Iranian politics: the transformation of the Islamic Republic from a mildly representative theocracy into a Revolutionary Guards-controlled kleptocracy. Ultimately, the election is meant to fulfill Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s ambition of wielding absolute authority. But far from strengthening his rule, the election could actually erode the credibility and legitimacy of a fading regime. Elections in Iran have never been a truly democratic affair. Sure, Iranians have had the opportunity to vote for president and parliament every four years. But the elections have always been held within the accepted “framework”of the Islamic Republic. Only candidates who adhere to the Islamic theocracy are allowed to run.

Editorials: ‘A Big New Power’ | Linda Greenhouse/NYTimes.com

Years from now, when the Supreme Court has come to its senses, justices then sitting will look back on the spring of 2013 in bewilderment. On what basis, they will wonder, did five conservative justices, professed believers in judicial restraint, reach out to grab the authority that the framers of the post-Civil War 14th and 15th Amendments had vested in Congress nearly a century and a half earlier “to enforce, by appropriate legislation” the right to equal protection and the right to vote. How on earth did it come to pass that the Supreme Court ruled a major provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 unconstitutional? You will have noticed that I’m making a premature assumption here about the outcome of a case, Shelby County v. Holder, that was argued just last week. Although I’m willing to bet that Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. has already drafted his 5-to-4 majority opinion, I’d be nothing but relieved if the court proves me wrong when it issues the decision sometime before the end of June. But except for a few wishful thinkers, everyone who witnessed the argument, read the transcript, or listened to the audio now expects the court to eviscerate the Voting Rights Act – and seriously harm itself in the process. As I made clear in my most recent column, I wasn’t expecting anything good to come out of this argument. But neither did I anticipate the ugliness that erupted from the bench. While Justice Antonin Scalia’s depiction of the Voting Rights Act as the “perpetuation of racial entitlement” quickly went viral (40 screens of Google hits, by the time I checked earlier this week), that was not even the half of it.

Editorials: Voting Rights in Massachusetts and Mississippi | Cato @ Liberty

During last week’s oral argument in Shelby County v. Holder – the challenge to Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act – Chief Justice Roberts questioned the Solicitor General concerning the rationality of the VRA’s coverage formula (Section 4(b)) by comparing non-covered Massachusetts with Mississippi, which remains subject to federal preclearance based on registration and voting data from 1964.  As the Chief Justice pointed out (page 32 of the transcript), Massachusetts has the “worst ratio of white voter turnout to African American voter turnout” while Mississippi “has the best.”  Massachusetts likewise “has the greatest disparity in registration between white and African American” while Mississippi is third best in the nation, “where again the African American registration rate is higher than the white registration rate.” The Chief Justice’s remarks apparently angered the Massachusetts Secretary of State.  According to a Politico story, Secretary William Galvin found it “just disturbing that the chief justice of the United States would spew this kind of misinformation” and that the “2010 numbers don’t support what Roberts is saying.”  Galvin continued: “He’s wrong, and in fact what’s truly disturbing is not just the doctrinaire way he presented by the assertion, but when we went searching for an data that could substantiate what he was saying, the only thing we could find was a census survey pulled from 2010 … which speaks of noncitizen blacks … .  We reached out to academics at many institutions … and they could find no record either, they were puzzled by [Roberts’s] reference.” But it’s Secretary Galvin who has his facts wrong—a mistake he could have avoided simply by reviewing the lower court decision that the Supreme Court is considering.

Editorials: Another attempt to rig presidential elections | Philadelphia Inquirer

The latest attempt to manipulate Pennsylvania’s presidential vote provided another opportunity for Democrats to howl about cheating Republicans. And they had a point. But if state legislators from both parties want to do something more useful – and, yes, that’s a big if – they should back a politically neutral proposal to end all such attempts to rig presidential elections. State Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R., Chester) recently introduced a long-threatened bill to award most of Pennsylvania’s presidential electors in proportion to the state’s popular vote. Sounds reasonable enough. But because Pennsylvania and most other states currently award all their electoral votes to the statewide popular-vote winner, and because the Keystone State has gone Democratic for half a dozen elections, the effect would likely be to steal a chunk of the commonwealth’s electoral votes for the GOP.

Editorials: Voting Rights: Scalia v. minority protection | David Dante Troutt/The Great Debate (Reuters)

It’s rare to reach a point in our national sense of humor that a sitting Supreme Court justice emerges as the butt of popular jokes for comments he made during an oral argument. That’s what happened last week, however, after Justice Antonin Scalia asked lawyers defending Congress’s extension of Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act whether maintaining the pre-clearance formula for nine “covered” states, which are subject to federal oversight, was really just a “racial entitlement” program and not a constitutional necessity. The media filled with guffaws about the justice’s audacity. Cartoonists ridiculed his racial insensitivity. MSNBC talk show host Rachel Maddow, dismissing Scalia’s words as mere willful provocation, called him a “troll.” We’d be wise to watch the name-calling. Insulting as Scalia’s words sound, there’s more to the justice’s comments than political incorrectness. For those who care about more than full and fair voting rights for minorities, responding to the perceived slight with more name-calling misses the point. Scalia was talking about far more than the Voting Rights Act. He was talking about whether the Constitution affords minorities any real protection for a range of discrimination anymore.

Editorials: Barbour is right: Apply Voting Rights Act to all | The Sun Herald

Here we go again. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 is on stage once more. This time a case emanating from Shelby County, Alabama, serves as the vehicle for challenging the constitutionality of Section 5 of the act. This section requires any change in any aspect of voting procedures of a jurisdiction must be approved by the United States Justice Department before such a change can go into effect. The catch is that Section 5 applies only to certain states or parts of states with significant minority population and a history of racial discrimination. These include most states of the “old Confederate south” and certain counties in a few other states such as California, Florida, New York, North Carolina and South Dakota. With each passing year the resentment of many in those states known as the Voting Rights Act States seems to increase. Being singled out and ridiculed for conditions they believe have sufficiently changed is wearing thin with many in the affected states. Former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour said as much recently when he was quoted in USA Today as stating that in “over 50 years, we’ve gotten that behind us.” Barbour went on to make a case for equal treatment of all states when he said, “The same rules ought to apply to Massachusetts, Minnesota and Montana that apply to Mississippi.”

Editorials: Voting Rights Act still needed; court should let it stand | Evansville Courier & Press

It is the misfortune of Shelby County, Ala., to challenge a key provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, a landmark piece of civil rights legislation, following an election when political partisans tried new ways of suppressing minority voting participation. Voter surveys showed Republicans trailing badly among blacks and Hispanics. Certain Republican-run jurisdictions tried a number of tactics to hold down minority voting: restrictions on early voting, bans on same-day voter registration, or understaffed or inconveniently located polling places that led to frustratingly long lines. Shelby County was seeking to get out from under the 1965 law’s requirement that nine states and parts of seven others with egregious histories of denying or hindering the minority right to vote get pre-approval from the federal government before changing their voting laws.

Editorials: How a Supreme Court Defeat Could Save Voting Rights | Kiran Moodley/The Atlantic

George W. Bush said the first decision the president of the free world makes is which carpet to get in the Oval Office. When Barack Obama moved into Bush’s vacated space, the carpet he chose had five quotes running around its border. They came from Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, and Martin Luther King Jr. The latter’s chosen phrase was: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Although wrongly attributed to King (the quote was actually the work of Boston preacher Theodore Parker), the message was clear. The U.S. had been through a long struggle — from Civil War to Civil Rights, through Reconstruction and Segregation — and America had ended up with an African American in the Oval Office. What is appealing about the story of the Civil Rights movement is its simplicity: its arc, while long, bends into a neat narrative. It can be plotted through major events that are etched into our consciousness: Brown v. Board, 1954; the Montgomery Bus Boycott, 1955; Little Rock, 1957; the Sit-Ins, 1960; the Freedom Rides, 1961; Birmingham and the March on Washington, 1963; the Civil Rights Act, 1964; and finally, Selma and the Voting Rights Act, 1965. Remember those events, remember those dates, and you’re sure to pass your exam. Yet if, as widely predicted (by veteran reporter Lyle Denniston and Atlantic correspondent Andrew Cohen), the present Supreme Court strikes down section 5 of the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder, what does that mean for the civil rights narrative? Does 1965 lose its significance? Does the arc bend away from justice?

Editorials: Roberts, Scalia and the Voting Rights Act | Christian Century

There is a wicked irony that as the United States marks the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Movement, the country’s highest court is edging closer to gutting one of the movement’s greatest victories. As Americans everywhere celebrate the marches, martyrs, and nonviolent courage of Civil Rights activists in Selma, Birmingham, Atlanta and elsewhere, the Supreme Court seems poised to rollback the Voting Rights Act of 1965, or at least, eviscerate key provisions that make it functional legislation. The very thing for which men and women braved snapping dogs, fire hoses, lynch mobs and murder might not exist by the time this country finishes its yearlong national commemoration of the Civil Rights Movement. It is a racist country that can whitewash its civil rights heroes with celebrations while, at the same time, uprooting one of its most important legacies. Much attention has been given to Justice Antonin Scalia’s incendiary comment framing the Voting Rights Act as legislation that perpetuates “racial entitlement.” His comment drew gasps from those listening in and even a response by Justice Sonia Sotomayor from the bench. Her insight bears repeating: Voting is not a racial entitlement.

Editorials: Voting Rights Act not a ‘racial entitlement’ | Leonard Pitts Jr./The Herald-Sun

One day, many years ago, I was working in my college bookstore when this guy walks in wearing a T-shirt. “White Power,” it said. I was chatting with a friend, Cathy Duncan, and what happened next was as smooth as if we had rehearsed it. All at once, she’s sitting on my lap or I’m sitting on hers – I can’t remember which – and that white girl gives this black guy a peck on the lips. In a loud voice she asks, “So, what time should I expect you home for dinner, honey?” Mr. White Power glares malice and retreats. Cathy and I fall over laughing. Which tells you something about how those of us who came of age in the first post- civil rights generation tended to view racism. We saw it as something we could dissipate with a laugh, a tired old thing that had bedeviled our parents, yes, but which we were beyond. We thought racism was over.

Editorials: Voting Rights Act is still needed in Texas, other states | Standard-Times

It is the misfortune of Shelby County, Ala., to challenge a key provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, a landmark piece of civil rights legislation, following an election when political partisans tried new, more subtle ways of suppressing minority voting participation. Voter surveys showed Republicans trailing badly among blacks and Hispanics, a gap that could potentially cost them the election, and ultimately, combined with disparate support for the Democrats among women and the young, did. Certain Republican-run jurisdictions tried a number of tactics to hold down minority voting: unnecessarily strict voter-ID laws, restrictions on early voting, bans on same-day voter registration, or understaffed or inconveniently located polling places that led to frustratingly long lines. Indeed, one Pennsylvania GOP official boasted — prematurely and mistakenly, as it turned out — that the state’s new voter-ID law had handed the election to Mitt Romney.

Editorials: Challenge to Voting Rights Act ignores reality | Donna Brazile/CNN.com

On Tuesday, President Barack Obama was at the Capitol, joining leaders of Congress to dedicate a statue in honor of the “Mother of the Civil Rights Movement,” Alabama’s Rosa Parks. About the same time, across the street at the Supreme Court, an Alabama lawyer was arguing that a key provision of the Voting Rights Act — the consequence and legacy of the Civil Rights Movement — was unnecessary and unconstitutional. The irony lies not only in the timing or juxtaposition, but the institutions. On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat when a white bus driver ordered her to move. Twelve years earlier, the same driver had grabbed her coat sleeve and pushed her off his bus for trying to enter through the front rather than the back door. This time he said, “Well, if you don’t stand up, I’m going to have to call the police and have you arrested.” She replied, “You may do that.” Her arrest led to a 381-day boycott of Montgomery buses by the black community. The boycott propelled the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to prominence as a civil rights leader. And the arrest of Parks and the boycott she inspired led to a civil law suit, Browder v. Gayle, in which the Supreme Court declared the Alabama and Montgomery laws requiring segregated buses unconstitutional. It took Congress 10 years to catch up to the Supreme Court, when it passed the Voting Rights Act in 1965.

Editorials: Voting Rights Act still necessary | Kansas City Star

The U.S. views itself as a nation progressing ever toward the ideals of justice and liberty. In many ways it’s true. The egregious violations of civil rights that kept so many from voting are sins of another era. Long gone are poll taxes and forcing black people to recite the Declaration of Independence before being given a ballot. The bodies of those who dared register minorities to vote do not wind up in a burning car. Yet these horrors did happen, and in living memory. There is danger in congratulating ourselves too readily on the progress we have made since. It tempts us to overlook what is being done today to deny those same civil rights. In the case of certain members of the Supreme Court, the attitude has ossified into a brittle arrogance. Justice Antonin Scalia called the Voting Rights Act of 1965 a “perpetuation of racial entitlement.” One can almost hear the sneer of one who believes that it is he who is the victim of discrimination.

Editorials: Voting Rights Act appeal prods us to take up mantle of naivete | Leonard Pitts Jr./Houston Chronicle

One day, many years ago, I was working in my college bookstore when this guy walks in wearing a T-shirt. “White Power,” it said. I was chatting with a friend, Cathy Duncan, and what happened next was as smooth as if we had rehearsed it. All at once, she’s sitting on my lap or I’m sitting on hers – I can’t remember which – and that white girl gives this black guy a peck on the lips. In a loud voice she asks, “So, what time should I expect you home for dinner, honey?” Mr. White Power glares malice and retreats. Cathy and I fall over laughing. Which tells you something about how those of us who came of age in the first post civil rights generation tended to view racism. We saw it as something we could dissipate with a laugh, a tired old thing that had bedeviled our parents, yes, but which we were beyond. We thought racism was over.

Editorials: How to make the Voting Rights Act work better for everyone | Bangor Daily News

Forty-eight years ago, exasperated with the persistent abuse of black voters, Congress put most of the American South in a timeout. Now the Supreme Court appears poised to end those sanctions. It shouldn’t. But that doesn’t mean the selective scrutiny applied to Southern states is necessarily fair. As the justices consider the case of Shelby County v. Holder, which was argued before the court Wednesday, they should keep in mind one goal above all others: protecting the right to vote, regardless of region or other circumstances. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 bans discriminatory voting procedures nationwide, codifying the 15th Amendment’s guarantee of the right to vote regardless “of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” The law has stricter requirements, however, for jurisdictions with a long history of disenfranchisement.

Editorials: Voting Rights Act: Conservatives trying to have it both ways | NewsObserver.com

It’s been a week of big events in the voting rights world, and I’ve been privileged enough to witness much of it first-hand. On Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Shelby County v. Holder, a case challenging the constitutionality of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Even Justice Samuel Alito has acknowledged that this law is “one of the most successful statutes that Congress passed in the 20th century and one could probably go farther than that.” And earlier in the week, a three-judge panel of North Carolina state judges heard oral arguments in the case challenging the constitutionality of the state legislative and congressional redistricting plans enacted by the General Assembly in 2011. Listening to discussion of the Voting Rights Act in both cases, I was struck by contrasts between the arguments advanced by lawyers for Republicans in the North Carolina case and what the conservative justices were concerned with the Shelby case.

Editorials: Let Kentucky voters decide voting rights for former felons | The Courier-Journal

Kentucky lawmakers in the state Senate should take a cue from Thomas Vance, a retired Air Force master sergeant from Campbell County. Vance called it correctly after participating in the latest Courier-Journal Bluegrass Poll on a proposed constitutional amendment that would restore some felons voting rights after they served their full sentences. “It’s just not fair. If I did my time, that should be the end of it,” said Vance, whose views were in the majority, according to the poll conducted Feb. 19-21 by SurveyUSA. The poll found that 51 percent of 616 registered voters favored the potential amendment, while 38 percent were opposed and 11 percent were unsure. It was even close among Republicans, which split 45-45, with only those who identified themselves as “conservative” opposing it, though narrowly, 47-44. Yet Kentucky remains one of only five states that bar all felons from voting unless their rights are restored through a pardon by the governor or another agency.

Editorials: Welcome to Italy, where nobody knows what will happen next | Maria Laura Rodotá/The Observer

Last Monday, for the first time in my memory, nobody celebrated after a general election. No celebration from the Democrats, who were the projected winners but came out sore losers. Nor from the seven million voters (down from 13 million in 2008) who still chose Silvio Berlusconi and then became invisible – almost no one admits to having voted for the disgraced former prime minister. There was not even any celebration from the real winners, the militants and voters of the Movimento 5 Stelle (Five Stars? How did Italy end up with a populist party whose name sounds like a luxury hotel chain?). Without securing a parliamentary majority, it is now the leading party in the Camera dei Deputati, and the second in the senate. But, contrary to national tradition, the movement’s supporters did not meet in piazzas, they did not take to the streets honking their car horns, they did not gather outside the party’s headquarters opening bottles of sparkling wine. Beppe Grillo’s movement voters are recession-stricken and don’t find a great deal to celebrate. Also, nobody knows, or much cares, where the party headquarters are actually based.

Editorials: The threat from within — the ironic challenge to the Voting Rights Act | Rep. Terri A. Sewell/al.com

After almost 50 years of expanding and protecting voting rights, a new threat comes from an unlikely place – the U.S. Supreme Court. On Wednesday, the justices heard oral arguments in Shelby County, AL v. Holder, a case that will decide the survival of preclearance provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that require federal oversight of voting practices in 16 covered states including Alabama. The Voting Rights Act, which was passed as result of the Selma to Montgomery march, provides legal protections for individuals, primarily minorities, in states with histories of discriminatory voting practices. Since its passage in 1965, the act has been critical in ensuring that millions of our nation’s minority citizens are guaranteed the right to vote. I feel compelled to write this essay because I am deeply concerned about the erosion of voting rights that sadly still exist in our state and in this nation. Perhaps the biggest irony is that the current threat to this legislation comes from the very state (Alabama) that was the impetus for its passage almost 50 years ago.