On June 27, 2013 a miscellaneous order was issued by the Supreme Court in light of Shelby County v. Holder, 570 U.S. ___ (2013). In Texas V. United States, ET AL. the judgement was vacated and remanded to the U.S. District Court for further consideration by the District of Columbia.
Earlier this week the Supreme Court ruled that a proven effective piece and key section in the 1965 Voting Rights Act was unconstitutional. The ruling refers to the requirement that certain states must gain pre-approval before making changes to their voter laws and requirements.
The provisions of section 5 were initially enacted to efficiently ensure no discriminatory voting laws could be put in place. All changes to to the laws required pre-clearance.
However, the Supreme Court’s ruling abolishes that requirement. What this means for voters in the deep south and eventually all over the country is, discriminatory voting requirements can be put in place, exercised, and effectively enforced well before complaints can be made and justice pursued.
This issue is immediately critical for minority voters in the southern states where there is known existence of an extraordinary history of discrimination.
Common voter discrimination policies in deep southern states such as Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina required only Black voters to pass virtually impossible literacy tests. One such test consisted of 30 questions written deliberately confusing and unfair. Participants were given only 10 minutes to complete the test and were allowed no wrong answers. An example of a question from one of the literacy tests follows:
20. “Spell backwards, forwards” Louisiana Voter Literacy Test, circa 1964. (click the link to see a full copy of the literacy test)
If a Black person spelled “backwards” but omitted the comma, he/she would be flunked. If a Black person spelled “backwards,” he/she would be flunked. If a Black person asked why, he/she would be told either “you forgot the comma,” or “you shouldn’t have included the comma,” or “you should have spelled ‘backwards, forwards'”. Any plausible response by a white person would be accepted, and so would any implausible response. How exasperating this must have been.
However, most often in other deep southern states, white voters were not even required to take the test. See also a copy of the voter registration application and citizenship test required here: Louisiana Voter Literacy Test, circa 1963.
This history serves to remind us and affirms that the Supreme Court’s decision sets our country back 50 years as the ruling allows reestablishment of the barriers that historically kept the “people” from exercising their inalienable rights. Essentially the Courts opinion is that the pre-clearance requirement interferes with the states ability to make “harmless” changes to voter laws by hindering them with delays and financial burdens in waiting for pre-clearance approvals or requests for clarification. However, the Courts also acknowledged a history of:
“entrenched racial discrimination in voting, “an insidious and pervasive evil which had been perpetuated in certain parts of our country through unremitting and ingenious defiance of the Constitution.” (Scandal fans might note use of the term “defiance.”)
Yet the Courts still countered that voting standards have now reached equality and obvious discrimination’s against voters is rare. Further the courts conclude that since the number of Black people in elected positions is higher than ever before in history, it is indicative that no unfair or discriminatory practices continue to exist. (That really sounds like a slap on President Obama’s wrist. How dare he argue the potential of racial discrimination towards Black voters while he holds position as the highest elected official.”) Read the entire Opinion of the Court here: 570 U. S. ____ (2013)
The People must decide if agree with the courts decision, if not actions should be taken immediately to secure the inalienable rights of all Americans:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes;
Read in full “The Declaration of Independence.”
You can read what the President had to say immediately after the ruling here: Statement by the President on the Supreme Court Ruling on Shelby County v. Holder.