Instead of ensuring that voting rights are extended to all Americans, many state legislatures are engaged in efforts to shut out voters in this election year, taking aim at young people, immigrants and minorities.
Last week, a panel of judges on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia heard a case that could eviscerate the ability of the federal government to prevent racial discrimination in voting. The issue in Shelby County v. Holder involves Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which requires that jurisdictions with flagrant histories of racial discrimination in voting must get permission from the Justice Department or a federal court before making any changes in their voting rules or laws.
Shelby County, Ala., one of those jurisdictions, contends that Section 5 intrudes unconstitutionally on the sovereign authority of states. It argues that while the preclearance rule was justified when the country, especially the South, was ending legal segregation, it is no longer needed. That argument was properly dismissed in a 151-page opinion by Judge John Bates of Federal District Court, who ruled that the discrimination that led to passage and extensions of the Voting Rights Act endures. The appeals court should uphold his decision.