Restrictions on voting are restrictions on freedom
In the year since the U.S. Supreme Court foolishly eviscerated a crucial section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, politicians eager to shape the electorate to their own liking have not wasted the opportunity.
A study by the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law has found that 22 states have imposed more restrictive voting laws in the year since the court invalidated Section 5 of the landmark civil rights law.
Section 5 had required certain states and some smaller jurisdictions with records of discriminatory voting laws, to seek pre-clearance from the Department of Justice or a three-judge panel in federal court, before implementing any significant voting changes.
Some politicians in those jurisdictions naturally bristled at the requirement. And the Supreme Court majority bought the argument, in a case from Alabama, that Section 5 no longer is necessary to protect equal access to the polls.
The ensuring year has shown that the protection remains necessary.
In Texas, for example, the Legislature passed a Voter ID law that likely will disenfranchise thousands of older and poor voters. It sought pre-clearance from the DOJ, which rejected the measure, and then from a federal court, which also rejected it. On the day the Supreme Court overturned Section 5, the state implemented the law.
That implementation has produced a flood of litigation under other laws and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. Federal courts now will hear from more than 300 lawyers who have filed suits, on the same issues that resulted in the original rejections of the law under Section 5.
Section 5's protections clearly are needed. Congress should re-establish them.