On June 25, 2013 something historic happened. Not historic in the sense that we should be proud of, but historic to the point of anger and distrust. I openly inquire, why is the citizens ability to vote so often in peril? I have done my best to previously analyze this topic in a semi-grey area. Some how, in so many ways, some persons attempt to limit an individual’s ability to speak their voice through a democratic process. As I had pondered before, and shall continue to ponder, “I had no idea that so many people were voting.”
To be fair to anyone reading, allow me to quote the majority opinion from Chief Justice John Roberts, cast on June 25, 2013, in Shelby County v. Attorney General Eric Holder, as it pertains to the 1966 Voting Rights Act,
” State legislation may not contravene federal law. States retain broad autonomy, however, in structuring their governments and pursuing legislative objectives. Indeed, the Tenth Amendment reserves to the States all powers not specifically granted to the Federal Government, including “the power to regulate elections.”…The Voting Rights Act sharply departs from these basic principles. It requires States to beseech the Federal Government for permission to implement laws that they would otherwise have the right to enact and execute on their own. And despite the tradition of equal sovereignty, the Act applies to only nine States (and additional counties)… The tests and devices that blocked ballot access have been forbidden nationwide for over 40 years. Yet the Act has not eased §5’s restrictions or narrowed the scope of §4’s coverage formula along the way. Instead those extraordinary and unprecedented features have been reauthorized as if nothing has changed, and they have grown even stronger. Because §5 applies only to those jurisdictions singled out by §4, the Court turns to consider that provision. Section 4’s formula is unconstitutional in light of current conditions.” The opinion goes on to state that, “But a more fundamental problem remains: Congress did not usethat record to fashion a coverage formula grounded in current conditions. It instead re-enacted a formula based on 40-year-old facts having no logical relation to the present day.”
In summation, the ability of the federal, to enact laws on the state, based on grounds that no longer exist, is inherently unconstitutional, as those states also have the right to enact their own election laws, and while abhorrent voting conditions existed fifty years ago, these conditions cease to exist because some high water mark has been met. Yes, a high water mark met because key conditions existed in the Voting Rights Act.
We should not be so daft to assume that long periods of ignorance suffered by this great nation occurred in such a time frame as to forbid recollection. In the great span of history, fifty years is blink, and old habits die hard. From opinions on persons of color, and how those opinions shape our laws and principles, we are not that different from those who came before us. Just because we “cannot” publicly act on hateful urges, does not mean the unrequited hate does not exist. Whether it be discussions on immigration (See Mexican/South American immigration only), voting rights, human rights violations (See Homosexual Rights) or the shaped message of pop culture (“Racism’s still alive, they just be concealin’ it”), bigotry exists, it just carries shinier messaging these days, broadcast in 1080p.
The idea that politicians, be it local, state or federal, get to control how elections are carried out, or who gets to vote in these elections, seems tilted to me. In essence, the prisoners run the prison. No matter the party, or the locale, any regulation or practice, engineered to elicit a result in an election, is inherently against the American ideal. Of note, I did not mention inherently unconstitutional, as voting is not a constitutionally guaranteed right. Today’s ruling exists because this is the case.
Voting, as an act of democracy, is free speech in action. If SCOTUS can rule that corporations are people, and people have a protected right to free speech, then a person’s vote should also be protected under that right. Read, no government edict shall ever restrict the ability of any citizen to vote ever. It does not matter if they have an ID card or if they are registered to vote, at no time should the ability to vote be restricted. If we wish to only have votes count if they are made by adults, then tie that to the age of 18, as so many of our regulations are. If we worry about establishing citizenship then look no further than the social security office. Major elections should not be held on one day, they should be held over a period of days, we have a large country, and everyone eligible to vote should have the opportunity to, without considerable restriction to their livelihood. Congressional redistricting should be handled by non-elected officials and subject to scrutiny. In short, the process of election should be removed from the hands of those elected. SCOTUS could have handled just that by issuing opinion that tied voting to free speech. Congress could enforce this through legislation. The President could push the issue by campaigning for it. Neither body of the triumvirate has, and this is a true shame.
If the Citizen’s United decision was a historic day for ignorance, today’s ruling on the Voting Rights Act is the historic double-down bet against democracy, and while we consistently imprison ourselves within this ignorance, I should at least be able to expect a better meal…at least that’s the ideal.