SCOTUS Voting Rights Ruling: Back to the 1950s We Go!

Twice in one day, the Supreme Court released decisions that rolled back decades of hard work and dedication to making America more equal. We might as well just go back to the 1950s since none of things that were fought for during the Civil Rights Movement seem to matter anymore. Last week, the Supreme Court released decisions regarding Affirmative Action and Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

SCOTUS did not strike down Affirmative Action, but they did strike down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In the process, they have endangered the rights of American citizens to make their voices heard through their vote. Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 requires nine states in the South and areas of other states to get pre-clearance from the Justice Department regarding changes in voting procedure. The Supreme Court allowed Section 5 to stand, but without identifying what states are required to get pre-clearance, the whole idea is moot. In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court struck down Section 4.

Justice Roberts wrote the majority opinion, as quoted in Supreme Court Ruling on Section 4 of Voting Rights Act of 1965, and said: “In 1965, the states could be divided into two groups: those with a recent history of voting tests and low voter registration and turnout, and those without those characteristics, Congress based its coverage formula on that distinction. Today the nation is no longer divided along those lines, yet the Voting Rights Act continues to treat it as if it were.”

I beg to differ Justice Roberts, there may be a Black family in the White House, but there are many across the nation not okay with that fact. One only needs to look at the 2012 Election Results and they will find that most of the states aligned with Section 4, with the exception of Florida went red. These states are the ones with the history of poll taxes, literacy tests, and attempts to deny minorities their constitutional right to vote. Sections 4 and 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were designed to keep these states from ever being allowed to discriminate in that way again. Sure, Section 5 is still constitutional, but that does not really matter since no state is subjected to its requirements anymore.

I worry that states in the Deep South will revert to their old ways. Mississippi only just this year ratified the 13th Amendment due to “glaring oversight.” Florida, which is not directly one of the nine states, but is subject to some scrutiny, had ridiculously long lines and tried to reduce early-voting periods during the 2012 presidential election which directly affects minority voters Lawmakers in Mississippi, Florida, or Alabama will say they are not trying to take away the rights of minorities but their actions tell a different story. Texas’ harsh voter ID law 'Immediately' goes into effect following Voting Rights Act ruling. Please explain to me how that is not a move to keep minorities from the polls to ensure that they are disenfranchised and Texas stays red.

Twice in one day, the Supreme Court acknowledged that discrimination exists and chose to not only ignore it, but also to create ways for it to continue. A return to 1950s America could be coming our way. The Supreme Court has spoken, and it has been resoundingly conservative in its speech. All of the steps taken towards making America more fair and equitable for all of her citizens, well minus on the Gay Rights front, are on the chopping block lately. That is something everyone should be afraid of. We have not come as far as a nation as we think we have. 

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Gabrielle Hickmon

Gabrielle is an undergraduate at Cornell University interested in using the law and government to make the world a better place. She is obsessed with fashion, travel, books, and other things. She hopes to achieve her goals stylishly.

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