July 21, 2014
Lately, the voting rights world has made the sharp distinction between voting rights before the Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby v. Holder dismantling section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, and after. It’s a distinction second perhaps only to B.C. and A.D., and for good reason. Those who applaud the Supreme court’s decision are relieved that the Justice Dept’s overly racialized paranoia about the smallest election decisions of state and local jurisdictions will cease and the federal governments’ tight grip on state sovereignty loosened. On the other hand, opponents of the decision rile at the blank check the court has given to states and local legislatures to victimize minority candidates and voters through electoral maneuvering and voter suppression tactics.
The reality of the before and after was on display at this Senate Committee on the Judiciary hearing last June 25th on the need for a proposed Voting Rights Amendment Act (VRAA), Congress’ stalled attempt at reinstituting section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Several recognized experts on the issue of elections, minority voting and redistricting testified on the ruling, its effects, and whether the VRAA is the answer.
The 2-hour hearing was a good review of the current debate on whether Shelby was a good or bad thing for minority voters. Witness Dr. Abigail Thernstrom of the American Enterprise Institute announced to the committee that “Black politics has come of age” hence section 5 should not be revived under the VRAA. Sherrilyn Ifill, President of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, countered that notion with a laundry list of dirty election deeds both before and after Shelby; a clear call for passage of the Act.
Watch the full video of the hearing here.
The Honorable Sylvia Garcia ,State Senator, Texas State Senate, District 6,Houston , TX
Michael Carvin , Partner, Jones Day, Washington , DC
Reverend Dr. Francys Johnson, State President, Georgia NAACP, Statesboro , GA
Dr. Abigail Thernstrom, Adjunct Scholar, American Enterprise Institute, Washington , DC
Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. Washington , DC