The Supreme Court is hearing arguments on whether or not to strike down a key part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The part is Section 5, which requires states, counties, cities, townships, etc. get permission from the Justice Department or a federal court in Washington before changing any voting procedures, no matter how small they seem. That might not seem like a big deal, but, trust me, it is.
I’m from one of the nine states where this is a requirement. I’m from a state that has a history of racist ideas and, though Shelby County claims that my state is no longer racist, I can assure you that the state of Alabama is still full of bigots. We need that section of the law because we cannot be trusted. I don’t think we’ll ever be able to be trusted, and I know that that is pessimistic, but it is honest.
The only reason that the state does not continue to get in trouble for blatant voter intimidation is that we have this law that helps to prevent it. Even with the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in place, the state and local governments manage to find ways to disenfranchise minority populations by manipulating districts so that they do receive the representation that they should be guaranteed in this country. In arguments, Justice Elena Kagan said that Section 5 is working well, and that under another part (Section 2–which bans voting procedures that discriminate based on basis of race, color, or membership and applies to all fifty states) the state of Alabama still violates the law more than any other state in the nation. Her exact words were, “If Congress were to write a formula that looked to the number of successful Section 2 suits per million residents, Alabama would be the number one state on the list.” I shudder to think what will happen if this Section ends up being struck down.
I know that many of the members of the Supreme Court are leaning toward the side of Shelby County, but these are justices who are not from my state. These are justices who don’t see, on a daily basis, the blatant acts of ignorance and hatred perpetrated on any minority. I do. This state cannot be trusted, and I have a feeling that many of the other states have yet to prove that they can be trusted.
I would love to be able to say that this state could have Section 5 struck down and nothing bad would happen, but that isn’t the case. Things will get worse here. People would see the law being struck down as a way to legitimize their hate. People would justify racism and hate crimes on the fact that the federal government said it was okay. That is not the kind of message that needs to be sent to these people.
John Roberts argued that because the southern states involved in Section 5 have a higher rate of voting by minorities than states like Massachusetts, we don’t need the law anymore. I have a feeling that if there were no guarantees from Section 5, Alabama would see a decrease in the number of minorities voting and registering to vote. When a person no longer has his or her safety and rights protected properly, that person might choose to no longer exercise his or her rights. By striking down the law, the Supreme Court would essentially be infringing upon the rights and protections of minorities.