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Supreme Court Strikes Down Part Of 1965 Voting Rights Act

(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Bud Gillett
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FORT WORTH (CBS 11 NEWS) - The United States Supreme Court on Tuesday struck down a portion of the 1965 Voting Rights Act on pre-clearance.   Nine states, including Texas, and a few scattered municipalities are under the rule.  The High Court ruled while there might’ve been state laws in the ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s to keep down minority participation, it’s not the case today.

“Now it’s going to apply to either no states or all states, which is fundamentally fair,” said Dallas County Republican chair Wade Emert.  Republicans and conservatives in Texas argue that federal oversight of elections and laws here is no longer needed.

“In 2013, for example in many of these states there are the same percentage minority voters as there are Caucasian voters, so the fundamental premise of the Voting Rights Act no longer applies,” Emert claimed.

His counterpart in Tarrant County didn’t see it that way.  “This is a group of narrow-minded people trying to force an agenda on us,” Democratic chair Deborah People claimed.   Because today is judicial activism at its absolute worst and it’s the work of cowards, basically.”

The ruling does not throw out the law, saying only the pre-clearance aspect needs to be consistent in all states… that Congress needs to update the law.  And individuals unhappy with election laws can still sue.

But that may be difficult, according to UTA Professor Allan Saxe.  “Somebody could still challenge it, but again that would take a lot more, it would take lawsuits and everything more to challenge it,” he told CBS 11 News.

Effects from the ruling are already being felt.  The Texas photo voter ID card law was held up by pre-clearance, as were numerous redistricting maps.  Attorney-General Greg Abbott claims they can now go into effect.  But political consultant John Weekley isn’t sure that’s so wise.   “So if the Attorney General says, ‘okay, we’re going to have Voter IDs tomorrow,’  the day AFTER tomorrow they’re liable to have a slew of lawyers in from Washington, D.C. saying, ‘Go right ahead. And you’ll be paying our fees.’”

The Democrats’ Peoples was even more direct.  “For him to say the court’s ruling is correct or makes things right is an insult to every Texan.  Not just those of minority descent but every Texan.”

The GOP’s Emert disagrees.  “I think that’s a logical conclusion (Voter ID law).   If Washington D.C. no longer has authority to pre-clear Texas voting laws,” he said adding, “There are still certain objections and certain issues that can be raised, but you no longer have the Voting Rights Act, which was the cornerstone for many of the objections.”

Texas Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson released the following statement on the Supreme Court decision:

“Today, the Supreme Court dealt a devastating blow to those who have fought to restore the integrity of the electoral process.  The Court’s decision will turn back decades of sacrifice by civil rights leaders and legislators who have continuously fought to preserve equal voting rights for minorities.  Despite much progress, there is still a mountain of evidence to suggest that present-day disenfranchisement and suppressive tactics are still being used at polling places.  During the 2012  election cycle, many states enacted oppressive voting laws that aimed to alienate, intimidate, and ultimately discourage minorities from exercising their right to cast their ballots at the polls.  In the state of Texas, the strictest voter ID laws in the country were struck down because of the protection under the Voting Rights Act.

Now is the time for Congress to put aside partisan politics, and truly work in a bipartisan manner to ensure we are protecting all American citizens’ voting rights.  As we move forward, I will continue to work with my colleagues, on both sides of the aisle, to develop an updated formula for determining which states must seek preclearance. We must not delay on something so crucial as protecting the inalienable American right to vote.”

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