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Voting Rights: Our Democracy Will Suffer

The Supreme Court of the United States must be criticized for blindness, perhaps even willful ignorance of reality, in their recent decision gutting the Voting Rights Act.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 and its amendments through 2006 set up special rules for the states of the Old South, and a few other jurisdictions that had discriminated against people of color with regard to voting laws. Because they had a proven history of discrimination with regard to our precious right to vote, these jurisdictions were submitted to thorough scrutiny every time they tried to change their voting laws.

This requirement is known as “preclearance” and is supported by the sorry history in so many places where segregation, Jim Crow laws and other obstacles were implemented in order to keep people of color from voting.

Last week’s Supreme Court ruling eliminated this key tool that the Justice Department had used hundreds of times to prevent states and localities from enacting discriminatory voting laws. Small towns and counties all across the South will feel the effect. Individual voters, and our collective democracy, will suffer.

Now, denials of the right to vote will be remedied only after the fact, and the Voting Rights Act can no longer be used to systematically prevent such abuses before they happen. We shouldn’t have to tolerate any official acts that turn people away from voting.