Monday, July 1, 2013

I Ususally Don't Post Political Things Here, but Shame on Us

I have registered as an Independent for a while now, and I have major problems with both of the primary political parties in the United States.  I try to vote for individuals, and I never vote based on straight party line.  I write this blog in order to record for my children and others "the things of my soul" - so nearly all of the posts deal with religious topics, particularly those that deal with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, of which I am a member.

Sometimes, however, something happens in the political arena that bothers me so much that I simply can't help but write about it, because it deals directly with the things of my soul and the heart of the Gospel in which I believe - a Gospel that is just as "social" (in the sense that it strives to embrace and serve people in the here and now, especially those who are marginalized and despised) as it is "theological".  Last week, such an event happened, and it appalled me.  I understand the justifications that were used, but the decision appalled me, nonetheless.

The Supreme Court decided in Shelby County v. Holder to overturn a section of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, one of the most important acts in our American history.  That section required federal oversight of changes to voting procedures in areas that historically have used a “test or device” to deny the right to vote, and the Supreme Court's decision removed that requirement.

The following is a link to a sample test that was used in the 1960s, prior to the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.  I highlight it here in part as a result of being a history teacher by training and a social scientist by nature.  I hope everyone who reads the questions understands how impossible the test was and also recognizes the "fail safe" built into the test by making the registrar (who always was white) the official scorer of the test. 

 "Take the Impossible "Literacy" Test Louisiana Gave Black Voters in the 1960's (Slate) 

My point is nothing more than to express my sorrow that our Supreme Court would strike down federal oversight of a civil right so fundamental to our current form of democratic expression, that had been abused so egregiously for so long, after only two-three generations of the passing of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.  In terms of history, that is like parents lifting restrictions on parental oversight of a seventeen-year-old child with a history of alcoholic abuse and drunk driving, complete with multiple cases of vehicular manslaughter, after a year of sobriety.  It is stupid, and it is wrong. 


Anonymous said...

I share your feelings. It is so easy for those of us who have never been discriminated against, who've never been "encouraged" not to vote, to think this is all behind us, but I predict that we will now see a revival of voter intimidation in some of these states where some people to this day do not accept blacks and other minorities as full citizens.

nonrandom set said...

I don't think you've done a fair job of summarizing the decision. What the Supreme Court said was that it was unconstitutional to base the federal oversight on statistics from the time when the Civil Rights Act was originally passed (1960s). The states/counties that were required to clear changes in voting laws with the federal government were set by the voting history from then, and even though Congress has renewed the act several times, they have never updated that. Congress is free to amend the act to continue requiring clearance so long as it is based on more recent statistics.

So your example would be more accurate if you said it would be like parents still punishing a 60 year old for something that happened when he was 17.

Also, your post seems to imply that such tests or devices like the one you linked to are now allowed, which isn't the case at all.