Friday, December 10, 2010

Voting Rights Act

In recent news, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has proposed that the state should be exempt from the redistricting laws of the Voting Rights Act of 1964. This portion of the act requires that certain southern and western states must go through a review of all redistricting plans by the Department of Justice before they can be applied in order to ensure that the districts are fairly divided both racially and socioeconomically. Cuccinelli’s reason for this proposition is that Virginia has “outgrown” its previously notorious institutionalized racism. Despite his questionable reasoning, Cuccinelli is not alone on this proposition. Other conservatives have brought this idea to the Supreme Court in the case Namundo vs. Holder in which the court ruled 8-1 against the proposition. Virginia and the other states that face Federal review have a long and detailed history of racial discrimination in application and enforcement of voting laws, which is why they are subject to Department of Justice oversight. Congress passed Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act specifically because of that history. It's impact is undeniable and to lose those protections would have the effect of sending this country backwards into Jim Crow era voting laws where minorities faced little opportunity to participate in democracy. The most disturbing part of Cuccinelli’s argument lies in his claim that Virginia has “outgrown” institutionalized racism. The fact that any politician could even suggest that possibility raises suspensions itself. At this point no state can remotely make that claim due to the fact that there is no concrete evidence to support that argument. Also, if Virginia has outgrown racism, then why worry about a nearly 40 year old procedure? It leads one to believe that there are other motives behind the change. Although American has made significant strides regarding race relations, it seems irrational to abolish one of the main pieces of legislature that got us to this point.

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