The Voting Rights Act

The renewal passed the House yesterday. The vote was 390-33, with two Alabama Representatives – Jo Bonner (R. Mobile)  and Terry Everett (R. Dothan) – voting no. Renewal was the right outcome.

The fuss is about the section of the act that requires certain states, counties, and cities to get “preclearance” from the Department of Justice before changing any of their voting procedures. DOJ will allow the change so long as it does not adversely affect minorities. Hardly a major burden, it is nothing more than filing some paper work.

The biggest gripe from the opposition is that the preclearance requirement is discriminatory – it only covers some areas of the country

Of course the law is discriminatory, the question is whether or not the discrimination is justified. When the law was passed, these areas were far and away the worst offenders; more than anyone else, they routinely denied blacks the right to vote. Hence, they were the areas subjected to the law.

But, says the opposition, all is well now, so we don’t need the law anymore:

The Voting Rights Act is like a “scarlet letter because of the actions of our grandparents,” said Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, R-Ga.

Rep. Charlie Norwood, R-Ga., said the law “punishes the innocent for another quarter century.”

Rep. Westmoreland is an idiot, so you can disregard anything he says. This is the guy who told Stephen Colbert that the Ten Commandments were an essential part of our national heritage, the foundation of our laws and society, yet could not name even half of them. Watch this dimwit in action here.

As a factual matter, Westmoreland and Norwood are putting too much distance between today and the date of the original act. The folks involved in the civil rights movement are still alive. We are talking about contemporaries, not ancient history:

Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., spoke before a huge picture of the March 7, 1965, melee at the Edmund Pettus Bridge, in which he was injured.

But the real answer to Westmoreland and Norwood’s objection is that the VRA already has a procedure in place whereby covered areas – even individual counties within a covered state – can get out from under the law. If they clean up their act, they can escape the preclearance requirement. Several jurisdictions have successfully escaped. What does that say about those who have not?

In addition, Congress held hearings on whether or not preclearance was still needed in places like Georgia:

“Let’s go down in history as the House that did the right thing,” said Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wisc., and chief defender of the bill. He listed by state the number of times the Justice Department has objected to voting procedures over the last 24 years, including 46 in Alabama. Mississippi had 112 objections, Texas 105 and Georgia 82.

“These figures ought to make it clear we need this bill without these amendments,” Sensenbrenner said. His committee heard evidence about the continued threat of discrimination over 12 hearings and 12,000 pages of testimony, which he dramatically plunked on the table during a floor speech.

Finally, I can’t speak for Georgia, but Alabama is the state in which six years ago 40 percent of the voters opposed eliminating this language from the state constitution:

The legislature shall never pass any law to authorize or legalize any marriage between any white person and a negro, or descendant of a negro.

And don’t forget that our state senator is Jeff “I liked the Klan until I found out they were pot smokers” Sessions. And that Larry Darby came thisclose to being the Democratic nominee for Attorney General.

So is the VRA still needed in Alabama? The evidence certainly supports that conclusion.

Another major gripe was that preclearance ought to be extended to more areas. That is probably a good idea. But it is not a reason to delay renewing the current law. Renew this one, and then let’s have a patient and informed debate on whether or not to extend it. If further coverage is needed, pass an amendment later.

There are other arguments about state’s rights and that sort of talk, but those don’t even merit a response. Especially not if those making them also supported the federal anti-fags amendment.

So, all in all this was the right move.

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10 Comments on “The Voting Rights Act”


  1. […] Wheeler at Alablawg shares his innermost thoughts on the issue as well. […]

  2. Kathy Says:

    Wow! What happened to Sensenbrenner? Did he get a transfusion of brain cells?

  3. wheeler Says:

    kathy,

    i had to read that several times before i was satisfied that i was not imagining it.

  4. Humpty Dumpty Says:

    Your argument that the candidacy of Larry Darby, etc, justify a renewal of the Voting Rights Act is fallacious. The two things have nothing to do with one another. The electoral results of Darby relate to public opinion, or the electorate’s response to current events. The VRA has to do with claims that ‘minorities’ aren’t being lawfully allowed to vote. You are offering ad hominem attacks against conservatives, and other red herrings, to justify renewal.

    Do you have an actual argument? Or any evidence that unlawful discrimination in voting patterns is happening in those areas covered by the VSA? Or will you continue to single out the most egregious right-wing candidates, who lost anyway, as phony moral justification?

  5. wheeler Says:

    mr. dumpty,

    i pointed out sessions/the racial marriage amendment/darby to emphasize that race relations are not all well and good among alabamians. alabamians being the people who both 1) run for public office, and 2) vote for public officials, i am leary of claims that we never again need fear that white folks will try to hinder black folks ability to vote.

    no things are not as bad as they were twenty five or thirty years ago, but they are not yet as good as they ought to be. that “egregious right wing” candidates and ideas often find a sympathetic audience in this state undermines any argument that this state can be trusted to protect minority voting rights.

    as for the evidence you request, i point you to the quotes within the post showing that congress has investigated the matter and concluded that the facts do justify extending the act.

    finally, don’t use terms the meaning of which you do not understand. the only thing in the post approaching an ad hominem attack or red herring was my comment about rep. westmoreland and the ten commandments. i am well aware of that, and so i included additional paragraphs of relevent arguments.

  6. Kathy Says:

    I think Mr. Dumpty and his friends spend their days googling Larry Darby and dropping in to leave happy comments about him. His buddy “Jane Green” left me a bunch of links to white supremacist websites so I could get the truth about him. I doubt she recognized the irony.

  7. Lee P Says:

    I thought that Rep. Westmoreland gave a very reasonable argument for his opposition to renewing Section 5. However, if you’re not willing to listen to him because he’s an “idiot”, there are lots of other mainstream conservatives – some of whom could viably be called “intellectuals” – who have made similar arguments. See this web page over at the Heritage Foundation, for example.

  8. Humpty Dumpty Says:

    I do know what ‘Ad Hominem’ means. It is latin for to the man, meaning the person and not the argument is attacked. So your first assertion, that I dont know its meaning, is wrong.

    And you did use the fallacy. You refered to the Senator by associating him with the ‘Klan’, which is ridiculous in the extreme. It is not a response that was deserved. It made no real argument, other than to attack someone and paint them as a rabid, lynchin, extremist.

    And the ‘race relations’ allegation is unproven. How do you know race relations is bad? Because you are left wing and need to believe it is bad to justify governmental programs (and white guilt?)

    In any case, the US Senator for Alabama doesn’t determine local voting guidelines; that is done at the state and county level. You see, we live in federalism, and states conduct their own elections.

    As far as Darby, it is a red herring. Yes I know the term’s meaning. it is not something you eat. It is a sensational point that distracts from the real issue. Darby ran on an extreme platform. He lost the nomination, and even had he won it be only because the voters did not know of his platform. He had no advertisement budget at all. The GOP nominee, the incumbent AG, would have almost certainly won had Darby been nominated.

    Nor does it really matter. We get it–someone who is very politically incorrect ran for an office. He had no money and no press support and lost the nomination. Therefore, we need another twenty-five years of federal supervision for the targeted jurisdictions to jump through bureaucratic hoops? You have simply not made your case that more federal supervision is needed. There are existing avenues of recovery, such as federal civil rights suits.

    To summarize, repeating the phrase ‘white supremist’ and ‘KKK” is not an argument. Try again.

  9. wheeler Says:

    humpty,

    the evidence that alabama still has racial issues is the fact that forty percent of voters supported keeping the anti-miscegenation law in the constitution; jeff sessions is our senator; and larry darby almost became ag.

    i am not saying that these facts alone justify the vra. i am saying that these facts combined with congressional hearings on the matter, and the existing mechanisms for covered areas to escape the vra justify continuing it. congress held hearings and decided based on their investigation that it is still needed. and if they are wrong? then the covered areas can petition to escape. if they do not do that, there is no-one to blame but themselves.


  10. […] No word on whether Alabama’s anti-VRA representatives will join in one of the lawsuits. […]


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