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As if the forces of voter disenfranchisement were not out in sufficient numbers already, the Supreme Court opened a door and posted a welcome sign over it.
They issued several rulings last week, and those regarding gay marriage dominated the resulting media coverage. Those rulings are important, but because far more Americans are voters than are gay, we respectfully draw your attention to their 5-4 striking down of a formula key to the implementation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
The formula was used to determine which states or counties had to have any new election laws reviewed to determine if they would prevent legitimate voters from exercising that civic obligation.
The court’s rationale was that data supporting the formula is old and doesn’t reflect current conditions. Congress relied on 1975 evidence of racial discrimination in voting laws when it renewed the act then and again in 2006. That means, according to a New York Times report published Tuesday, Congress used “40-year-old facts having no logical relationship to the present day,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote.
That reasoning is difficult to argue against, but one need only to take a brief look around to see efforts to deny Americans their right to vote are ongoing today.
The portion of the Voting Rights Act dependent upon the formula is useless after the court’s ruling. Congress could replace it with current data, but until it does – if it does – the duty to keep a watchful eye on every legislative effort regarding elections belongs to every American who cares that his or her right is respected.
We often urge our readers to exercise the right to vote, and now implore you to go further. Today’s technology makes it easier to exercise the watchful eye. Internet searches on terms like “voting irregularities” result in lists of efforts the Voting Rights Act was intended to prevent. The Indiana General Assembly maintains a Web site at http://www.in.gov/apps/lsa/session/billwatch/billinfo that makes it easy to see what laws are being considered.
As we also occasionally do, we again urge you, our readers, to communicate with elected officials when you see anything in proposed state or federal legislation that concerns you.
Expressing an idea often attributed to Thomas Jefferson, John Philpot Curran said in 1790, “The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt.”
The Voting Rights Act and every American are important components in protecting the civil rights of every other American. We all should work to ensure they are respected.
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