When the Voting Rights Act was signed into law in 1965, it was considered a cornerstone bill for civil rights. After all, what wasn’t to like? Minorities could now be equally represented in their governments, could vote without having to pay a ridiculous poll tax or take a literacy test, and helped end institutional racism. Plus, Martin Luther King Jr. himself was present at the bill signing, so it must’ve been good right?
At least that was what I originally thought, until I saw how the Justice Department has interpreted the VRA in a recent case declaring the election procedures of Kingston, North Carolina unconstitutional. The error – ballots were going to be non-partisan.
Since it was a community covered under Section 5 of the VRA – which mandates that areas with a history of voter discrimination must pre-clear any changes in election laws with the Justice Department – the measure was brought before the Justice Department by the ACLU as a discriminatory measure against blacks and minorities. The judge ruled that having local elections that were non-partisan is unconstitutional because it “will likely reduce the ability of blacks to elect candidates of choice”, and was therefore struck down.
Just wrap your head around that for a second. According to the courts, it is critical for minorities to know what party their candidate belongs to or else they can’t vote, or would vote for the wrong person. Essentially, it’s to make sure that minorities vote for the party that they are told to vote for, not the person they want. Now I understand the importance of party affiliation to some voters, but is it really so hard for anybody to do a little research on their potential elected officials so they can vote with their brains? Is it now discriminatory to take partisanship out of politics, especially on the local levels, and vote for the best person? Apparently according to this interpretation of the VRA, it is.
This is one of the reasons why I believe the VRA is past its usefulness. The original reason for the legislation is to ensure that a majority of adults in the Section 5 areas were registered to vote, which was not the case throughout the Deep South. Now, with many of the areas above the 50% threshold, it should no longer be required, but it is kept around so civil rights groups can sue governments they don’t like for the dumbest reasons, like having no parties listed on a ballot. It is nothing short of an opinion that minorities practically need to be told who to vote for, and anything that keeps them from blindly supporting the party machine needs to be prevented, even if that party’s candidate is the worst candidate to get up on a stage. It harkens back to the old Tammany Hall machine of the 1800’s, when politicians would exchange favors for immigrants’ votes, which serves as the crowning example of cronyism in American politics.
This decision hopes to revive those days, and prevent people from voting with their brains and hearts rather than just voting for the Democrat or Republican because you were told to. It does nobody any favors, and perpetuates political ignorance that allows corrupt politicians and interest groups to fleece the American public out of their hard earned incomes and grow the size of Washington at the expense of states’ rights and state sovereignty.