Texas Defends Its Voting Laws With the Weirdest Reason Ever

In 1965, the Voting Rights Act was passed, essentially guaranteeing the elimination of discrimination in the voting process by forcing states with histories of prejudice to preclear any changes to voting laws. However, less than two months ago the Supreme Court voided the preclearance formula, causing an uproar across the nation and causing Attorney General Eric Holder to demand a fix to the situation. Holder has asked that states like Texas be required to preclear once again, particularly given that state's latest redistricting attempts, which many view as discriminatory. A fierce battle is brewing between the Justice Department, led by Holder, and Texas, led by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott.

The Lone Star State certainly has a lot to answer for in this case considering its rich history of intentional race discrimination, particularly in the area of voting, dating as recently as 2011. But the state has just now delivered one of the most shocking responses possible to the Justice Department's allegations of discrimination. Essentially Texas believes that its intents are not racially motivated, but simply partisan and meant to attack the Democratic Party as a whole instead of focusing in on certain minority groups. One passage from the state's 54-page response says:

"DOJ’s accusations of racial discrimination are baseless. In 2011, both houses of the Texas Legislature were controlled by large Republican majorities, and their redistricting decisions were designed to increase the Republican Party’s electoral prospects at the expense of the Democrats. It is perfectly constitutional for a Republican-controlled legislature to make partisan districting decisions, even if there are incidental effects on minority voters who support Democratic candidates."

Bypassing the argument over whether or not Texas' redistricting is truly based off racist sentiments, the fact that the state believes it has the power to redistrict for an ulterior motive is completely absurd and an abuse of the process. This kind of a procedure is essentially a gerrymander and shouldn't by any means bring Texas out of the Department of Justice's scrutiny. The whole concept of disenfranchising certain voters simply because of what political party they are affiliated with is preposterous and simply shouldn't be allowed in a nation that claims to give every citizen the right to an equally counted vote.

Even if blacks or Hispanics are just "collateral damage," as some have described it, Abbott seems to think that the VRA has entitled his state to restrict certain voting rights as long as it's not classified under the umbrella of racial motivation. Considering that exit polls from the 2012 election showed 71% of Hispanics and 93% of blacks supporting Obama, it would certainly make sense to disenfranchise minorities and assume that a large portion of them are liberals.

Author and journalist Jon Fasman probably best analyzed the argument, saying: "Rarely does one see political gamesmanship admitted so openly, and I have to admit it's kind of refreshing to hear a politician decline to even pay lip-service to fairness. Mr Abbott seems to think that the VRA allows him to abrogate minority voting rights as long as he does so for partisan rather than overtly, provably racial reasons." 

Will the court accept this argument? Only time will tell, but hopefully, for the benefit of the whole country, they will see the ethical problems with allowing a party to silence its opposition simply because it has a legislative majority.

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Alessandro van den Brink

Alessandro van den Brink is a senior at Horace Mann in the Bronx and currently is the Editor of Opinions and Editorials for The Record, Horace Mann's weekly newspaper. He has been writing for The Record since 2012 and is also the editor-in-chief of Amplified, Horace Mann's music publication.

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