On the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, the country can take pride in progress made toward the guarantee of equal rights for all. Yet it is disheartening to watch the continuing battles over the right to vote, a core goal of the civil rights movement and the foundation of any functioning democracy. The latest fights, over harsh new voting restrictions in Texas and North Carolina, have only made the need for comprehensive and lasting protection of voting rights that much clearer. In June, the Supreme Court hobbled the Voting Rights Act of 1965, one of the most effective civil rights laws in American history. A central element of that law required certain states and jurisdictions with a history of discrimination to obtain federal permission before making changes to their election laws. Finding that “things have changed dramatically,” the court struck down that part of the act.
Within hours, it became clear that things had not changed as much as the court seemed to think. Texas, one of the states covered by the act, was first out of the gate, announcing it would immediately begin enforcing a photo-identification requirement for voters that a federal court had blocked last year. Defenders of that state law — which accepts a concealed-handgun license for identification but not a student ID card — said it was necessary to prevent in-person voter fraud, even though state officials have identified only a handful of such cases. The new North Carolina voter ID law, enacted earlier this month, is similarly disconnected from reality.
These laws, supported by Republican lawmakers trying to suppress Democratic votes, may not be uniquely targeted at racial minorities — they also burden the poor, the elderly, students and others — but that does not change their racial effect. Either way, what reason is there to keep eligible citizens from voting unless you are afraid of the outcome?
Full Article: The Fight for Voting Rights, 50 Years Later – NYTimes.com.