If you’ve read one “threats to voting rights” story, you’ve read them all. (I recall hearing rumors years ago that the Voting Rights Act of 1965 would expire, and blacks would lose the right to vote. Seriously.)
Such stories read in similar ways. The authors typically attempt to make common-sense voter ID requirements sound like back-in-the-day poll taxes and literacy tests. Who doesn’t have a state-issued photo ID or can’t go to the DMV and obtain a free one if he can’t afford it?
Voting rights alarmists usually cite the uncertain fate of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to support their claims. The provision required mostly southern states like Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, and South Carolina to seek U.S. Department of Justice approval, or “preclearance,” to change voting procedures. In 1975, Congress added Texas to the list of states covered by the provision. A utility district that came into existence in 1986–not 1956–challenged the law and contended that after over 40 years of racial progress, the preclearance requirement was based on outdated evidence.
The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case. In Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District No. 1 v. Holder (2009), the court declined to rule on the constitutionality of the section but held that the Texas utility district was eligible to apply for an exemption from preclearance.
Last year, the court ruled in Shelby County v. Holder that Section 4(b) of the act, which lays out the formula for determining which districts are subject to Section 5, was unconstitutional. The data used in the formula was over 40 years old – outdated. Although the court didn’t strike down Section 5, it’s essentially rendered moot until Congress creates a new formula.
Any law-abiding American citizen, regardless of race, sex, or creed, can vote in U.S. elections (and anecdotes about “disenfranchisement” don’t change the general fact). In rare and strange cases where they don’t have a state-issued photo ID (which presumes they also don’t have a bank account, don’t travel by airplane, haven’t applied for welfare or a job, don’t buy alcohol or cigarettes, etc.), aspiring voters can sign an affidavit attesting to their identity.
Implying that Jim Crow is rearing his ugly head in 2014 is demeaning and silly.