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Opinion

February 28, 2013

Voting Rights Act shows SCOTUS' divide

Conservatives and liberals couldn’t seem to agree Wednesday in Washington.

We’re used to that, of course, when it comes to Congress, but if the public was looking for any relief from partisan differences at the Supreme Court, the public was disappointed.

Whether a key provision of the Voting Rights Act will be struck down by the generally conservative court was the question at hand.

Section 5 addresses “pre-clearance,” requiring jurisdictions in all or part of 16 states to get the OK of the federal government if they want to change any voting procedures. These jurisdictions, mostly in the South, are singled out because of a history of violating the voting rights of minorities.

The Voting Rights Act has been around since 1965. It prevents district lines from being drawn to the disadvantage of minorities and helps discourage such dastardly things as last-minute changes to voting places or hours.

The law has been reauthorized several times, with the last two being signed by Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. The Supreme Court, for that matter, has upheld it four times.

So, what’s the problem?

Conservative Justice Antonin Scalia on Wednesday said that in 2006, the last time the law was renewed, that Congress did not want to change what he said was a “racial entitlement.”

“I think it is attributable, very likely, to a phenomenon that’s called perpetuation of racial entitlement,” Scalia said. “When a society adopts a racial entitlement, they are very difficult to get out of … through the normal political process.”

What he meant was that lawmakers were and are so afraid of being called racist that they would pass the law even if they didn’t think it was the right thing for the country.

Liberal Justice Elena Kagan made it a point to mention that Alabama has no black statewide officials.

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