A skeptical Supreme Court appeared likely to strike down Section five of the Voting Rights Act after oral arguments Wednesday in a law suit filed against the federal government by Shelby County, Alabama.
Section five requires that several listed states and localities, primarily in the south, receive “preclearance” from either the Department of Justice or a panel of Washington D.C. judges before making any changes to their voting laws. Jurisdictions covered by the law must prove that the proposed change does not have the purpose or effect of discriminating based on race. Lawyers for Shelby County argued that the law is an unconstitutional intrusion on the sovereignty of states under the Tenth Amendment and Article four of the Constitution.
Simply put – It’s about time America finally does away with Section five. Typical swing-vote Justice Anthony Kennedy put it perfectly: “Section five was utterly necessary in 1965. No doubt about that . . . but times change.”
When the Voting Rights Act was passed nearly a half-century ago, many states were actively engaged in widespread racial discrimination. Today, many of the jurisdictions presumed to be racist under the Act have a more recent history that suggests otherwise.
Virginia, the home of the Confederacy’s capitol-city Richmond, elected a black governor nearly twenty years before the state gave its electoral votes (twice) to a black president. South Carolina’s Indian-American Governor Republican Nikki Haley recently appointed black Republican Tim Scott to fill the state’s vacant Senate seat. Texans, who are occasionally smeared as racists for their desire to strengthen the border fence between their state and Mexico, nonetheless elected Hispanic Republican Ted Cruz to the Senate. Louisiana’s Indian-American Governor Bobby Jindal continues to be mentioned as a potential presidential nominee.
Need more proof that the Voting Rights Act is absurdly outdated? Hyper-liberal and overly politically correct Manhattan is still required to receive preclearance from the feds, but sister boroughs Queens and Staten Island are exempt.
Chief Justice John Roberts seemed particularly struck by the arbitrary feel of the law today. “Is it the government’s submission that the citizens of the South are more racist than the citizens of the North?” Roberts asked before noting that black voters in Massachusetts, which is not covered by the Act, are less likely to be registered and less likely to vote than black voters in Mississippi, a state that is covered by the Act.
Civil Rights leader Al Sharpton, well-known for his inflammatory rhetoric on racial issues, overreacted and mislead after the oral arguments, telling journalists that “to take away Section five is to take away the ability of the Justice Department to in fact stop discrimination and stop the unfair changes in voting patterns.”
Contrary to Sharpton’s assertions, Section two of the Voting Rights Act, which permits the Justice Department to sue jurisdictions who engage in voter discrimination, is unaffected by the case.
If Section five is struck down, the only change to the Voting Rights Act would be a shifting of the burden of proof. Under Section five, a handful of presumably discriminatory states have the unenviable task of proving that they are in fact not racist. Under Section two, states are presumed to be innocent of racism and the Department of Justice is required to prove otherwise. That’s a fair standard in modern America.
Even if one buys into the Left’s narrative that America is a perpetually racist nation, it’s hard to argue that Section five is anything more than a legislative antique left-over from the prior century. Today, an African American Senator from South Carolina sits in a seat previously occupied by notorious segregationist and “Dixiecrat” Strom Thurmond.
Welcome to the 21st century, Mr. Sharpton!