Every time we enter a voting booth, we collectively make a national statement that each of us matters, that we are free and independent and control our destiny. That we choose to be part of a community that engages in peaceful political engagement. Voting is to democracy what praying is to religion: an expression of a belief system. Voting is how we the people have actually formed a more perfect union. It defines who we are and what we aspire to be. It marked our evolution from a country dominated by white, male landowners to one that included — in every sense of the word — women and, ultimately, minorities. Sometime this month, perhaps as early as today, the Supreme Court is expected to issue a decision that could be pivotal for voting rights. Shelby County vs. Holder may become as much a part of our popular lexicon as Roe vs. Wade and Brown vs. Board of Education.
Alabama’s Shelby County alleges that Congress overstepped its authority in 2006 when it reauthorized the Voting Rights Act — specifically Section 5, the teeth of the act. Section 5 identifies states and localities with a history of discriminatory voting patterns and requires them to submit any election changes to the Department of Justice or a federal three-judge panel for “pre-clearance.”
When it comes to voting, the question has always been: Who gets to vote? And how do you ensure that they can exercise that right?