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A centrist’s perspective on the Supreme Court overruling parts of the Voting Rights Act


Yesterday, the US Supreme Court struck section 4 of the Voting Rights Act which created the formula for when localities and states would have to submit voting law changes to Congress for approval before instituting them. It retained the ability for Congress to re create the formula and impose the pre-clearance requirement under Section 5 of the Act, but effectively gutted it too temporarily until Congress comes up with a new formula.

I seem to be the only who thinks that at the point when minorities continue to have superior voter turn out in all jurisdictions despite voter suppression efforts, that the basis for the Voting Rights Act was put in place has subsided a bit.  That trend will eventually curb any sinister efforts to change laws for the purpose of disfranchising folks.

The current provision and formula struck would never have empowered Congress to loop in Northern states and others that changed their laws recently (or attempted to). The only way to catch new means of suppression would be to offer up a new formula.

Congress conveniently avoided updating it for political reasons perhaps or because it took it for granted it would always be there. They could have done so in 2006. Did our lawmakers not set it up for today’s conclusion?

But for the court overruling that old formula today, Congress may NEVER have updated the formula for the times, and such to include newer states and methods that would ALWAYS never been caught under the current formula.

Remember, those efforts were not meant to obliterate certain voting blocs turn out to to trigger Fed inquiry but just enough to fall below it.

An updated formula could address this issue. Not sure why more are not welcoming this opportunity.

There are no more poll taxes or literary tests as in the old formula, but there are changes to voting hours, shortening of early voting periods, and limits on time to turn in voter registration ballots.

By retaining section 5, the deterrent effect argued by the federal government is maintained. Those jurisdictions changing their laws now in reply to the court could still be subject to an updated version of Section 4 via Section 5. It isn’t dead dead, forever.

And despite all the voting law changes before the 2012 election (many of which that were thwarted just in time), African Americans still had the highest Voter turnout rate than any other race in that election.

As the court noted today, the black-white vote gap in 6 of the current 11 pre-clearance states dropped from 22-63.2% to -3.8% -10%. In Mississippi black turnout rate was 76.1 in 2004 to Whites 69.9%.  Obviously, all the effortst to reverse the 1965 Black turnout rate of  6.7% has worked!

I believe the grassroots mobilization that will start today and continue after today will work to ensure that trend continues. Nothing like someone trying to steal your vote to embolden you to retain it.

Of course racism is not dead but voter turnout has increased substantially among groups the initial act was created to protect, and so much so that nationally Blacks have the highest voter turnout rate compared to their population!

Also, the nation is becoming majority minority by the minute to a point when in areas where that is the case, there will always be high turnout from people of color. Though blacks make up only 13% of the current population they were 16% of voters in 2012. By 2026, Latinos are estimated to be 17% of voters. That is 33% for just two minority groups if the black rate stays stagnant….and that is in a country where the overall voter turn out is 58%!

I still think people are reacting as if voting turnout in most places among minorities were as it were in the 1960s. That is NOT the case.

The reaction so far to me just seem enflamed more so because of what the Act stood for when it was enacted in 1965 all who fought and died to enact it.

The overruling and much of the inflammatory things the Justices like Scalia wrote today in the opinion, to many, are being considered an affront to the work of the civil rights leaders of the past.

They are too busy feeling the sting from the opinion to focus on the reality of the true turnout rate today.

I know people will say the laws are needed to prevent future disenfranchisement efforts but I am not certain all the changes attempted this last cycle would have turned the turnout back to what it was pre-Voting Rights Act.

Sorry. JMHO. Of course, all is free to disagree. :-)

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Jeneba “JJ Ghatt”,is editor at, an online hub where she helps social media butterfly who empowers digital entrepreneurs and professionals to create great things online at her online learning platform Digital Publishing Academy.  She is an editor of tech blog and founded the annual 200 Black Women to Follow On Twitter List. Read her bio, then get all of her online & digital biz startup advice and tools in one spot here!

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