America has celebrated another birthday. Americans, all over the country, hung up flags and fired up grills. We drunk ice-cold beer, ate, and laughed with friends and family. We enjoyed parades and fireworks. Pride in our country was evident, and rightly so. I hope the day was enjoyed by all.
While Independence Day is over, the fight for those founding ideals rages on. We are left to deal with this. The Supreme Court of the United States, in a 5-4 decision, dismantled the Voting Rights Act of 1965. This will now allow problem states, mostly southern, to alter voter laws without obtaining advanced federal approval.
The majority (Justices Roberts, Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, and Alito) held that Section 4 is unconstitutional, as the formula used is out-dated.
Regardless of how one looks at that record, no one can fairly say that it shows anything approaching the “pervasive,” “flagrant,” “widespread,” and “rampant”discrimination that clearly distinguished the covered jurisdictions from the rest of the Nation in 1965.
The minority (Justices Ginsberg, Breyer, Sotomayer, and Kagan) held that while there has been improvement, the legislation is still necessary.
Early attempts to cope with this vile infection resembled battling the Hydra. Whenever one form of voting discrimination was identified
and prohibited, others sprang up in its place.
Technically, both the majority and dissenting opinions have some validity. The majority is correct. There is no longer blatant violence keeping minorities from the polls. The intelligence tests and poll taxes are a thing of the past. The dissenting opinion, which I strongly suggest reading, is also correct. Atrocious methods of the past gave way to all-white primary attempts and racial gerrymandering.
Think Voter ID. Since last year, 41 states have introduced some form of restrictive voting legislation, and of those 18 passed laws. Among the most popular are those that require voters to show a photo ID in order to vote, which proponents say helps to counter fraud — a phenomenon that almost never happens, analysts say.
Both opinions clearly state that it falls to Congress to legislate a formula that discourages this type of strategy.
While it is up to Congress to come up with a formula that takes into account the types of racial voter discrimination we face today, it is up to us how we react to the Court’s decision. One thing we can do is to contact our representatives. We can let them know that we expect them to get off their asses and do something. We can send letters and emails. We can pick up the telephone and voice our demands.
That being said, if you have been paying attention the past few years, you know that train will be slow to leave the station. I am not convinced that Congress can decide what to have for lunch. I don’t hold out much hope that they can come to an agreement here. Do you?
The best way to combat what we know to be disenfranchisement attempts is to…
Vote when you are inspired by a particular candidate. Vote when you are not. Vote when you have a much-needed day off from work. Vote when it takes your entire lunch break. Stand in line, proudly, when the sun is shining. Stand, defiantly, when it is raining. Exercise your right, whether it takes fifteen minutes or five hours.
No matter which hydra head comes at you,…Stand and be counted.
I am committed because of scenes like the one above. My ancestors, and their freedom-loving allies, fought, bled, and died so that I could vote.
Water hoses didn’t work. Biting dogs didn’t stop them. Baton beatings didn’t deter them. Jail cells could only hold them for so long.
Burning homes and lynchings…Did. Not. Stop. Them.
I am not about to let a little redistricting stop me. Nor am I about to wait around for Congress to pull its head out of its ass.
Voting is my right, my duty, and my privilege.
I will go to the polls because our power is in the ballot. But, I will also go for my fellow citizens.
My thoughts will be with my children, and all children, who we encourage to participate in our democracy. My thoughts will be with the working poor, who risk their jobs to cast their ballots. And, with those who wait hour after hour to have their say. I will stand in solidarity with immigrants, who have also been subject to discrimination and intimidation.
Inequality for one is inequality for all.
I will stand and be counted, or the sacrifices made on my behalf were in vain.