Vote to restore Voting Rights Act to its past

Vote to restore Voting Rights Act to its past
May 05
06:00 2016

The federal judge ruled last week against the organizations and citizens seeking justice regarding the 2013 North Carolina law that strips away voting rights and adds voting problems.

Judge Thomas Schroeder of the U.S. District Court in Greensboro held two trials in Winston-Salem to consider lawsuits challenging the changes. Republicans who control the General Assembly orchestrated those changes.

In a post in Progressive Voices on the N.C. Policy Watch website, Steve Ford, former editorial page editor at The News & Observer in Raleigh, says the judge doesn’t think the changes prove an undo burden on minorities.

Schroeder’s ruling “that upholds changes in North Carolina election laws, despite their effect of making it harder for some citizens to vote, seems to rest on his conclusion that, well, there’s no reason to get all upset about a little inconvenience.”

Ford says the “raft of provisions” clearly weigh more heavily against minority voters – “whose right to have an equal say in elections is protected under federal law and ultimately by the Constitution.”

Schroeder’s exhaustive, 485-page opinion was released on April 25.

Ford says “Schroeder found that the legislature had acted within its proper authority, and that whatever negative effects the changes might have on minority voting don’t rise to a level of legal or constitutional concern.

“He was dismissive of the notion that racial bias could still play any sort of noticeable role in the state’s policy-setting.”

Schroeder says:  “There is significant, shameful past discrimination. In North Carolina’s recent history, however, certainly for the last quarter century, there is little official discrimination to consider.”

The plaintiffs, who seek freedom, justice and constitutional rights appealed the ruling immediately.

Ford says:

“It’s doubtless true that the 1965 federal Voting Rights Act and the passage of time since the segregationist outrages of the Jim Crow era have worked in minority residents’ favor. But it’s also true that the legislature approved the contested election law changes in 2013 only after a key protection in the Voting Rights Act was rashly lifted by the U.S. Supreme Court.”

North Carolina regained its place as part of the United States of America after seceding generations ago, although it hasn’t acted like part of the Union much lately. North Carolina snubbed its nose at the Constitution again when it passed the 2013 restrictions and voter ID law.

Schroeder says:  “In sum, Plaintiffs established that some segment of the State’s African-Americans endure socioeconomic disparities that can be linked to State discrimination and this may make it more difficult for them generally to participate in any electoral system.

“Plaintiffs, however, failed to show that such disparities will have materially adverse effects on the ability of minority voters to cast a ballot and effectively exercise the electoral franchise …within the multitude of voting and registration options available in the State, especially given that the 2014 turnout data show increased participation among African-Americans” under the law enacted the previous year.

The key to this voting rights drama lies with the federal government.

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in 2013 that Congress remained free to try to impose federal oversight on states where voting rights were at risk, but must do so based on contemporary data, the New York Times reported. To date, no such action has been taken by the Republican-controlled Congress.

Let’s change that phrase, Republican-controlled Congress. Let’s vote despite the obstacles for people who will get to Washington and work on restoring the Voting Rights Act to the level it needs to be to really serve the citizens of the United States. Then, there will be no more need for appeals.

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Donna Rogers

Donna Rogers

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