Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Voting Rights Act up for Reappraisal

The 1965 Voting Rights Act required states with a history of discrimination at the polls to submit all legislative redistricting to the federal government for final approval.

On November 9th, the Supreme Court will respond to state petitions which request for rescission of this clause.

The plaintiffs contend that the legislation has outlived its usefulness. Demographic and cultural changes have transformed a previous impulse of segregation into more thriving communities of diversity.

The NAACP challenged the redistricting in Shelby County, AL, which would removed the safe district certainty for a black legislator.

Inevitably, state force to assert civil rights will only create discrimination of a different sort. Yet the political power of state legislatures to gerrymander safe districts for incumbents remains a nettlesome issue.

The Framers of the Constitution were  naive in one respect: that the factions in society would so disperse the elected mandate, that no one party would gain prominence for any period of time in our history.

From the moment that the Philadelphia Framers provided a new framework of government, superior in its more centralized security compared to the Articles of Confederation, two factions emerged: Federalists and anti-Federalists. This essential division broadened itself further with the establishment of Federalists and Democratic-Republicans, and so on throughout the course of American Political history.

Instead of permitting the federal government to intervene in the face of potential racism, or discriminatory gerrymandering, the several states should adopt the Citizens Commission reform enacted by California this past year.

Granted, finding the proper number of committed Democrats, Republicans, and Independents still indicates that political positioning will create partisan outcomes, a citizen delegation to redraw districts will eliminate the cries and hues of racism still so rampant in our political culture.

Perhaps more frequent censuses and reapportionment would dissuade voters from claiming discrimination. Yet no matter what the outcomes from decade to decade, the voters in this country cannot rely on experts and political elites to respect the power and authority of the individual voter. The checks and balances in the federal government, followed by the ongoing tensions between the states and Washington, to the push and pull between cities and statehouses will better distract the interests of political elites to the better interest of the voters. The diffusion of power, not the encapsulation in populist sentiment, better protects the people.

I hope that the Roberts Court will strike down the federal oversight provisions in the Voting Rights Act. This country has advanced all too far in race relations, as well as the cultural conflicts which assured political hegemony in previous eras.

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