Judge the South by current conditionsPublished 10:24am Monday, July 15, 2013
We’ve watched through the years as redistricting plans, voting booth transfers and other election-related issues were debated in our local governing bodies.
Each time, even after the tough business of compromise was completed, there was always a final step — preclearance by the Department of Justice.
In one Elmore County town, the church which hosted a polling place folded, with its congregation disbursing among the other neighborhood houses of worship. And even with pre-election deadlines looming, Washington D.C. was going to get its say.
The preclearance requirement, Sections 4 and 5 of the 1968 Voting Rights Act, was a key tool in eradicating race-based discrimination against voting in the South.
But in the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling in Shelby County vs. (Attorney General Eric) Holder, Section 4 of the VRA — which classifies which jurisdictions are required to preclear elections changes — was struck down as unconstitutional. The majority opinion held that a better criteria must be devised to determine which states and areas have to check with the DOJ before making a change.
We support the decision. If discrimination is suspected, then preclearance is warranted. But each reauthorization of the law left the criteria unchanged, meaning Elmore County and the rest of the South were still being judged by conditions from 50 years ago.
We support every citizen’s right to vote, and also every jurisdiction’s right to be treated equally under the law. Should minority voting in Elmore County ever appear in jeopardy, it won’t take an attorney in D.C. to say so.
We’ll be shouting it from the rooftops, as we believe citizens and leaders should, regardless of race.