Let’s talk turkey. In San Antonio, Texas, I’m thankful for Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. I know. If it comes up at my Thanksgiving table, my answer to the traditional question — what are you thankful for — will surely get me some puzzled looks. There is a good chance, however, I’ll be unable to give the same answer next year. Section 5 requires certain jurisdictions with histories of discrimination — Texas among them — to get preclearance for any changes to voting or election laws. The burden is on those jurisdictions to prove they did not act with the intent to discriminate. The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to look at claims that this section is anachronistic, though Texas has just demonstrated that attempted discrimination against minority voters is as trendy as breakfast tacos.
In San Antonio and Bexar County, we will have delegations in the state Legislature and U.S. House that look a lot like each of their populations.
That folk were able to elect representatives of their choosing is not just because of the inevitability of demography. There are ways to turn back that census clock or slow it considerably.
Section 5 is a check against plans hatched with discriminatory intent but more importantly as the best legal tool available when discrimination occurs anyway. You know, much as transparently occurred in Texas redistricting and with its voter ID law.
If there were no Section 5, a slightly smarter Texas — arguably the Wile E. Coyote on these matters this time around — might have gotten away with its electoral larceny.
The court agreed about two weeks ago to hear an Alabama case, a broad ruling which could eviscerate Section 5 everywhere. And that’s the point. Texas’ end game lies in what its Attorney General believes will be a more welcoming reception from the uber-conservative U.S. Supreme Court majority.
Yes, that would leave intact Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination outright in election and voting law.