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groovedaddy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Nov-18-11 12:28 PM
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Disenfranchise No More
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Mississippi voters just approved a new law requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls. But that law will not go into effect immediately, thanks to the Voting Rights Act. Instead Mississippi will get in line behind Texas and South Carolina as the Department of Justice examines each states voter ID laws, in a process known as preclearance. The Justice Department will allow each law to go into effect only if the state can show its law will not have a racially discriminatory purpose or effect. Such proof may be hard to come by: a recent study by The Associated Press found that African-American voters in South Carolina would be much harder hit by that states ID law than white voters because they often dont have the right kind of identification.

But this important preclearance procedure may not be around much longer. Before the next election season rolls around, the Supreme Court could well strike down this provision of the law as an unconstitutional infringement on states rights, leaving minority voters essentially unprotected from efforts to diminish their voting power. Congress needs to act before then to protect voting rights everywhere.

Back in 1965, Congress enacted the preclearance provision to prevent states with a history of discrimination from making changes in voting practices without first getting permission either from the Justice Department or, at the states option, from a three-judge federal court in Washington. In determining which jurisdictions should be covered, Congress used a formula based in part on voter turnout in 1964. The formula was reverse engineered to make sure it covered the states with the worst records of discrimination. The original provision was to last five years and covered much of the South. Congress renewed it twice in the 1970s, adding coverage for language minorities, including Hispanics and American Indians in all or parts of other states, including Arizona, California and Texas. It renewed the law twice more, most recently in 2006, to last until 2031.

Following renewal, an obscure Texas utility district backed by ideological opponents of the act challenged the constitutionality of the preclearance provision, claiming that it went beyond Congresss power because Congress could no longer show that the law was necessary to prevent racially discriminatory voting.
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