With all of the anticipation followed by celebration centered on the Supreme Court case concerning DOMA and Proposition 8, the news media did not publicize the Voting Rights Act case ruling. As rights were granted to gay couples, protection against discriminatory voting was withdrawn.
The Voting Rights Act was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on August 6, 1965. It prohibited discriminatory voting practices like poll taxes and literacy tests. Now, 47 years later on Tuesday, June 25, 2013 section four of the voting rights act was overturned. Section four only applied to nine states that had a history of discriminatory voting practices. The justice department needs to approve any changes made to voting procedures. The nine states that were subject to the provisions of section four wanted to be able to change their election laws and procedures without need for the approval of the justice department. The nine states in question are Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia. They argued that the country has changed, that there is no need for these laws preventing discrimination. So with a 4 to 5 ruling, section four of the voting rights act was declared unconstitutional. Now that these states are free of federal supervision, early voting practices have changed and voter ID laws have been implemented.
Section four of the voting rights act prevented gerrymandering when electoral districts were redrawn.
“Gerrymandering (noun): US Politics. The dividing of a state, country, etc., into election districts so as to give one political party a majority in as many districts while concentrating the voting strength of the other party into as few districts as possible.”
Now states like Texas are free to redraw electoral districts without the seal of approval from the justice department. The state of Texas has the second largest Latino population in the United States, a state that used to be solidly Republican, is now getting more and more purple. After section four was overturned, Texas introduced four new districts. These four congressional seats were gained by Texas in the 2010 census, mainly due to the increase in Hispanic population. What makes this situation ironic is that come the next congressional election in 2014, it is predicted that three out of the four new districts will vote Republican. It is not to say that all Hispanics vote Democratic, it’s just that they are more likely to. In the 2012 presidential election, 73% of Hispanics voted Democratic. It is clear that the Hispanic population in Texas continues to grow and there will come a time when Texas Republicans cannot continue to draw district lines to stay in power.
The Supreme Court ruling creates another issue. Before section four was overturned, it was the federal government’s job to prevent discriminatory voting practices. Now the burden lies on the person who is being discriminated against. Now the victim has to prove he or she is being discriminated against. The civil rights movement has come so far, but the Supreme Court ruling on the voting rights act shows that the fight is not over.
– Basya Kasinitz