The Republican assault on democracy continues, this time with a challenge to one of the most critical pieces of civil rights legislation of all times, the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
Specifically, Florida Secretary of State Kurt Browning filed a challenge to Section 5 of the Act which requires those jurisdictions that have a historical, demonstrated, and systemic effort to disenfranchise minorities from having any proposed changes to their voting laws precleared by the federal government before those changes may go into effect. It’s an effort popular among the entire wave of neo-Confederates leading the right these days, and it would appear that Florida has decided to take the lead.
Browning argues that Section 5 is unconstitutional and not proportional to enforcing the provisions of the 14th and 15th Amendments which ensure equal protection and due process to all citizens.
The challenge coincides with a host of changes to state voting laws, including new restrictions on third-party voter registration drives, a shortened “shelf-life” for collecting signatures on ballot initiatives, new registration on voters changing their registered addresses on election day, and a reduction in the number of early voting days. Currently 62 Florida counties are not covered by the preclearance requirements of Section 5, and in those counties those changes have already gone into effect.
The Roberts Court has been itching to get rid of Section 5, but it is not clear that this challenge will be the way to go. Florida completely ignores the fact that there is a process in the Voting Rights Act that allows counties to end preclearance obligations. Browing is either unaware of that process or does not believe the counties in Florida currently covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act can meet the requirements to end preclearance.
It’s worth noting all these challenges reflect Republican attempts to make voting harder, more expensive and burdensome for Americans. Participation in our democracy, it would seem, falls into the realm of privilege rather than right for conservatives, and if we are not careful, that is exactly what will happen.
Photo from hjl via flickr.