While the U.S. Supreme Court gutting the 1965 Voting Rights Act (VRA) can probably be strictly legally supported, minorities in this country have even more to fear. The decision – questionable or not – throws their future access to the polls into the hands of the most do-nothing, divided, regressive and inoperable congress in recent history. And that ain’t good.
The challenge to the VRA was based primarily on Section 5 – that portion requiring certain states and other government entities holding elections to get U.S. Justice Department approval of their election rules if they appeared on a list of locales where previous election discrimination had been proven. In the 1960′s. The plaintiff’s argument was basically “We’ve changed and what we intentionally did wrong before we don’t do now so we shouldn’t be forced to comply with decisions based on 50-year-old data.”
While the Justices bought that claim 5-4 – apparently believing previous discriminatory practices had likely ended – the question is: have they? Some new serious statistical evidence suggests – they haven’t.
In May, law professors Christopher Elmendorf and Douglas Spencer (University of California Cal-Davis and University of Connecticut) published a study arguing “the list of states required to obtain federal approval under VRA ‘remarkably mirrors the geography of anti-black prejudice’ in the United States today.”
“What we generated,” Elmendorf said, “is an answer to the question (whether racial voting conditions in specific states had really changed) asked by the chief justice during oral arguments. Defendant was unable to answer.”
Using a 2008 National Annenberg Election Survey, the professors asked non-blacks to rank their own racial group against blacks regarding intelligence, trustworthiness and work ethic. Respondents ranked their racial group above blacks by an average of 15 points in each category.
The results were striking. Their mathematical model suggests, of the states with the highest percentage of people biased against blacks, six are Southern: Lousiana, Mississippi, Texas, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina. All have been previously required to seek fed approval for election law changes under the VRA based on past bad practices. But no longer.
Two other states – Arizona and Alaska – also were required to get government approval of voting changes. But Elmendorf and Spencer note, while those two ranked much lower in black bias, their data indicates Arizona’s bias is against Hispanics and Alaska’s is anti-Native American. (more…)