Last week the Department of Justice denied preclearance to Texas’s law requiring voters to present photo identification under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Section 5 requires states and jurisdictions with a demonstrated history of passing discriminatory election laws to get approval from the DOJ for any change to laws governing the time, place or manner in which an election is conducted. Within days Texas filed a challenge in federal court arguing that Section 5 is unconstitutional. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott maintains that the federal government exceeded its authority and violated the Tenth Amendment when it passed the measure. Conservative opponents of civil rights are eager to see that challenge succeed. Writing in National Review—which opposed the civil rights movement—vice chairman of the US Commission on Civil Rights and conservative scholar Abigail Thernstrom argues that Section 5 is outdated. National Review’s evolution on the subject is the standard conservative slither on civil rights. First you oppose it. Then, when society has evolved and you look like a bigot, you accept it. Then, as soon as humanly possible, you argue it was necessary at the time but no longer is.
“The Voting Rights Act was absolutely essential in ending the brutal regime of racial subjugation in the South, but it has become a period piece—anti-discrimination legislation passed at a time when southern blacks were kept from the polls by violence, intimidation, and fraudulent literacy tests,” writes Thernstrom. “Those disfranchising devices are as unlikely to return as segregated water fountains.” Thernstrom focuses most of her argument on the question of redistricting, and she argues that increasing residential integration and ethnic and socioeconomic diversity within minority communities makes the creation of majority-minority districts either unnecessary or impossible. “The notion of a ‘black community’ as the foundation of a black legislative district is also becoming an anachronism.”
There are two separate arguments being advanced by civil rights opponents: that Section 5 is unconstitutional because it falls outside the federal government’s enumerated powers, and that it is bad policy. Both are bogus. Section 5 is clearly constitutional, and we very much need it to protect the right to vote.
Full Article: The GOP Assault on the Voting Rights Act | The Nation.