Now it can be told: The weakening of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 is the crowning achievement of GOP partisans who detested the lawBreaking News
tags: civil rights movement, Voting Rights Act
[Lyndon] Johnson called the [Voting Rights Act] legislation “one of the most monumental laws in the entire history of American freedom,” and not without justification. By 1968, just three years after the Voting Rights Act became law, black registration had increased substantially across the South, to 62 percent. ... [Over the ensuing decades legislators] built on the promise of the Voting Rights Act, not just easing access to the ballot but finding ways to actively encourage voting, with new state laws allowing people to register at the Department of Motor Vehicles and public-assistance offices; to register and vote on the same day; to have ballots count even when filed in the wrong precinct; to vote by mail; and, perhaps most significant, to vote weeks before Election Day. All of those advances were protected by the Voting Rights Act, and they helped black registration increase steadily. In 2008, for the first time, black turnout was nearly equal to white turnout, and Barack Obama was elected the nation’s first black president.
Since then, however, the legal trend has abruptly reversed. In 2010, Republicans flipped control of 11 state legislatures and, raising the specter of voter fraud, began undoing much of the work of Frye and subsequent generations of state legislators. They rolled back early voting, eliminated same-day registration, disqualified ballots filed outside home precincts and created new demands for photo ID at polling places. In 2013, the Supreme Court, in the case of Shelby County v. Holder, directly countermanded the Section 5 authority of the Justice Department to dispute any of these changes in the states Section 5 covered. Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., writing for the majority, declared that the Voting Rights Act had done its job, and it was time to move on. Republican state legislators proceeded with a new round of even more restrictive voting laws.
All of these seemingly sudden changes were a result of a little-known part of the American civil rights story. It involves a largely Republican countermovement of ideologues and partisan operatives who, from the moment the Voting Rights Act became law, methodically set out to undercut or dismantle its most important requirements. The story of that decades-long battle over the iconic law’s tenets and effects has rarely been told, but in July many of its veteran warriors met in a North Carolina courthouse to argue the legality of a new state voting law that the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University Law School has called one of the “most restrictive since the Jim Crow era.” The decision, which is expected later this year, could determine whether the civil rights movement’s signature achievement is still justified 50 years after its signing, or if the movement itself is finished.
comments powered by Disqus
- Raw Fish and Tapeworms: Ancient Latrines Reveal the Diets of Our Ancestors
- Sam Houston Could Soon Be Getting His Own Presidential Library
- Trump delays release of some JFK assassination files until 2021, bowing to national security concerns
- A Lynching Memorial Is Opening. The Country HasNever Seen Anything Like It.
- Gina Haspel’s CIA Torture File
- Historian Erik Loomis makes the case for a federal jobs guarantee
- Michael Beschloss says this isn't the most politically divisive time in America
- This is what happened when a historian with a rural background wrote favorably about gun control in the Washington Post
- Is Economics Going Back To The 1800s? Maybe So.
- Historian: Why destroying archives is never a good idea