Justice Department should oversee voting law changes nationwide: not just for racial equality.

First of all, let’s get this out of the way: even in the supreme court’s majority (barely) decision, there is some ambiguity:

“…voter turnout and registration rates […] now approach parity. Blatantly discriminatory evasions of federal decrees are rare.”

ImageRare, you say? Officials within state Republican party organizations (and voting regulations are traditionally, even in this supreme court case’s opinion, delegated to the state level) have declared, 1) less accessible voting results in more republican victories and 2) republicans generally do not benefit proportionally from minority votes. While that is not a direct association, it can be reasoned that limiting voting rights will result in more republican victories. This disproportionately affects certain minorities- or more accurately, it affects socioeconomically disadvantaged people- and poverty is racially associated. I am also troubled by the idea of “approaching parity” rather than “achieving parity”. I want to achieve parity in voter rights. 

The court’s ruling mainly centers on the notion that regionally concentrated racism is less significant than in the past. In other words, if a rural town in Mississippi wanted to postpone an election because they found out a number of people of color were likely to win, they would have had to clear this with the Justice Department first. The same motion in a rural Pennsylvania town would not need such clearance. The decision says that these two are no different, and I agree. Unfortunately, in both cases, discrimination must now be remedied after the fact. The Daily Show’s John Oliver pointed out that 74 cases of such an intervention have occurred since 2000. The Voting Rights Act does allow a state to get out of the defined territory, by not having an incident for 10 years. Justice Ginsberg, in her minority opinion, illustrated a few of the more heinous recent incidents. I can direct you to some of the news outlet websites in such regions and encourage you to read some of the comments, if you want to see examples of rampant racism in public opinion (example) (another example). 

Whether you agree or disagree with the notion (or actual research) that racism is still significantly more prevalent in certain geographical areas, there are other disadvantaged groups caught in the wake of this decision. I am talking about people with disabilities. 

A number of states have policy which keep people with psychiatric and developmental disabilities from voting. Physical disabilities pose another disadvantage in many cases as well. For example, in 2012, an adult with Down Syndrome in Arizona had to go before a judge in order to argue for his right to vote. His right had been automatically taken away by sweeping legislation which categorically disqualified thousands of people in 14 states, with no due process. Due process is guaranteed to all citizens by the US Constitution. From my perspective, the upside of this recent ruling is that geographical areas are no longer treated differently from one another- but the downside is that people’s rights to vote are less safeguarded than they were before, and can be lost without due process. 

The Supreme Court left the decision to protect voting rights across the board to Congress. Whether our legislators take up this matter is another question. Evidence based decisions on this matter are imperative, and I believe the evidence will show that people with disabilities are as important a demographic as any other group of citizenry in this nation. 

One thought on “Justice Department should oversee voting law changes nationwide: not just for racial equality.

  1. It would be amazing if political groups actually tried and cater to groups rather than exclude them. If they said, let’s open a drive through voting place for citizens with disabilites, or make sure people wit hdisabilities can vote by mail. There are some many oportunities to win voters but many people are in fear of how new voters will vote that they create rules to prevent them from voting. What kind of a crazy situation is that?

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