Our Rights Will Not Be Taken Away Shout Voters In The 2012 Election!

November 15, 2012 § Leave a comment

Did your state enact new Voter ID laws prior to the 2012 election? If so, yours was one of 19 states that attempted to revise and/or narrow voting rights. However, “many of the attempts at voter exclusion went just too far,” writes Tova Wang in post election analysis on impacts from the ID laws that threatened to disenfranchise people of color, those in low income lifestyles, and voters from older generations.  The drive to suppress voting instead spurred Latinos and people under thirty to vote in greater numbers and motivated African Americans to turn out in force matching 2008 enthusiasm.

The ID laws, discussed in an earlier post, were largely weakened, blocked, and postponed before the election. In the case of Minnesota, 2012 voters overturned voter ID requirements. The Justice Department used section 5 of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1962 to block laws and maneuvers in Texas, Florida, and South Carolina. That effort was successful in stopping changes before the 2012 election but now, in a new threat to voting rights, the Supreme Court has agreed to hear a challenge to section 5 brought by Shelby county, Alabama.  Section 5 authorizes the Federal Government to require states with a history of discrimination to request clearance from the government before they make changes to their voting laws.

In a May 2012 speech, US Attorney General, Eric Holder, stated that section 5 is a “powerful tool in combating discrimination…”  He noted, “It has consistently enjoyed broad bipartisan support – including in its most recent reauthorization, when President Bush and an overwhelming Congressional majority came together in 2006 to renew the Act’s key provisions – and extend it until 2031.”

However, recognizing this section’s importance to enforcement of voting rights, attacks on section 5  increased as voter ID laws swept the country. Holder states that more suits were filed to challenge section 5 in the past two years than in the past 50! Lower courts have upheld section 5 but early next year the Supreme Court will hear arguments against it. By June 2013 the Supreme Court will decide on this important issue. Their ruling will dramatically impact our nation either by striking down the core of the Voting Rights Act or supporting this law in recognition that it’s as relevant today as it was in ’62.

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