Friday, January 27, 2012

A Voting Rights Act for the 21st Century

Because I think highly of representative democracy, I think mighty highly of policies like the Voting Rights Act. But it's time to update and expand it.

One feature of this 1965 federal law says that states and counties that were using a device to disfranchise voters and had low rates of voter registration must obtain preclearance from the Justice Department before redistricting or implementing other changes to voting. (Kentucky is not among these states, incidentally, so it doesn't affect the ongoing gerrymandering war.) But that only applies to places that were disfranchising voters almost 50 years ago. What about the states that have begun doing it again?

What I'm talking about here is states that have recently instituted rigid voter ID requirements that have the same intent and effect as the hated laws of old. I think the preclearance provision of the Voting Rights Act should be expanded to cover these states. I'd suspect that some of them were among those already covered, but I'd wager there's also some new states on this list.

In fact, why were states that were already covered given clearance to pass the new voter ID laws? Why is this tolerated from any state? I also think the Voting Rights Act should be updated to halt these laws.

I've taken voting very seriously ever since I became old enough to vote, because I had already become too familiar with affronts of basic rights. What's shocking is that there's more states disfranchising voters now than in 1965! That's not exactly good testimony about the hard frost of rightism that began in the '80s, is it?

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