Right To Vote: The Struggle Continues
In the 2012 U.S presidential elections, President Barack Obama acknowledged the long lines that forced many voters in Florida to wait as long as 9 hours.
Recently, while the nation was celebrating the legacy of Rosa Parks on her birth centenary, another drama was playing out in the Supreme Court. A challenge to the Voting Rights Act from Alabama.
We look at the heart of this issue, especially in a year that also marks the 100th anniversary of the march for Women's Suffrage Rights.
What is the Voting Rights Act?
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed during the U.S Civil Rights era. It was a time when segregationist policies in many Southern states had led to African-Americans rising up and demanding equal rights. We had written here about Rosa Parks and her act of defiance that sparked the civil rights movement.
Back then, the U.S Congress had identified areas of the country that had a record of intimidating and suppressing voters. This included six Southern states (Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Virginia, and South Carolina), Alaska, and parts of Arizona, Texas, California, Florida and New York which have a large immigrant population.
Section 5 of the Voting Act required these states (or regions) to submit any changes to their voting laws to the Department of Justice for approval. This was to ensure that the changes did not discriminate against people based on their color or ethnicity. In 2006, Congress did extensive research before extending the Act for another 25 years.
What does each side believe?
Alabama's argument to the Supreme Court is that the U.S has come a long way from the 1960s, and that African Americans have equal rights today. An African-American President would have been unimaginable back then.
Supporters of Section 5, however, claim that recent voting changes in states to reduce early voting days, early voting hours and voter ID laws are discriminatory. This would disenfranchise the very people whom Section 5 is trying to protect. With Supreme Court justices at odds with each other, and a divided Congress, it is unclear how much will change. The nation will be closely watching the outcome.
Courtesy CNN, US News, Wikipedia