In Shelby County, AL v. Holder, the Supreme Court found Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional. Section 4 included the coverage formula for Section 5 of the Act which required certain jurisdictions to seek approval of any and all voting changes prior to implementation from the United States Attorney General or a federal trial court in Washington, DC. The court held that the coverage formula was unconstitutional, which essentially means that jurisdictions do not have to submit voting changes.
The Supreme Court’s opinion effectively put Section 5 on life support. While it did not rule on the constitutionality of Section 5, finding that Section 4 was unconstitutional means that no previously covered jurisdictions are mandated to submit changes. Those jurisdictions can now implement changes without federal oversight. Within hours of the Shelby decision, many of them did.
- Texas announcedthat it would now require a strict voter id requirement to vote in person. This is the same requirement that was stopped under Section 5 and a federal court found intentional discriminatory and harmful to African Americans and Latinos in the state.
- Mississippi’s Secretary of State announced that it would implement its voter id law that was pending before the Department of Justice immediately.
- Virginia’s governor has already signed a restrictive voter id law that requires proof of citizenship that no longer needs federal approval.
While entire states were covered, so were the counties, cities, school boards and other elected bodies therein. Changes made to those bodies were also required to seek federal approval before implementation. Unless Congress acts, these jurisdictions can implement changes without federal authorization.
You have the right to vote. The Supreme Court cannot issue an opinion that takes away the right to vote. It is protected in the United States constitution. The Fifteenth Amendment provides that the state cannot deny a citizen the right to vote based on race or color. More constitutional amendments have been added that address the right to vote, for example, changing the age of eligibility and expressly adding women, than any other right. The right to vote is safe.
- Unless Congress devises a new formula for coverage (I’ll have another post on what that formula should include), then Section 5 is dead. Only Congress has the power to resuscitate.
- As concerned citizens, we must demand that Congress act. State and local legislatures are making it harder to vote and Section 5 protection is desperately needed.
- Contact your Congress person and tell them to Restore Section 4. Here’s a link to find out email and other contact info: http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/