Lee: Congress like Wolf guarding Red Riding Hood

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Tuesday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of Shelby County, Ala., in a case challenging the 1965 Voting Rights Act drew mixed emotions across the nation and the state.

The high court overturned the portion of the act that sets a formula used to which jurisdictions including Alabama are required to get federal government permission for election changes.

Count Hazel Lee among those who were disappointed.

But Lee, an African American member of the Florala City Council, said she was not surprised.

“The court was asked to strike down two sections of the Voting Rights Act. The first was Section 5, which requires jurisdictions with a history of discrimination in voting to obtain pre-approval from Washington before enacting any changes to voting procedures. The other was Section 4 of the Act.

“Section 4 provides a formula that Congress devised in the 1960s and 1970s to determine which states and other jurisdictions would be subject to the requirements of Section 5.

“By striking down section 4, the Supreme Court has principally gutted the Voting Rights Act,” Lee said. “Asking this particular Congress to devise a formula that would insure fair voting rights to all people is like asking the the Big Bad Wolf to guard Little Red Riding Hood.

“I worry, particularly in our state, that the right to vote process will be so manipulated to as to effectively negate the vote of blacks and Latinos,” Lee said. “We must not let this happen. Who can change this? The people, just as we did in the 60s. We must get involved, we must speak up and we must vote!”

Alabama is one of nine states that has had its voting procedures reviewed by the Justice Department as a result of the Voting Rights Act.

Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange said he has concluded that the state is no longer subject to the preclearance requirement.

“We expect significant savings for Alabama taxpayers because neither the state nor local governments will have to expend time, money and effort on submitting routine changes to voting laws to Washington, D.C., for approval,” Strange said.

Secretary of State Beth Chapman, a Republican, praised the decision by the conservative majority of the court.

“We are not the same state we were decades ago, and I am glad that the majority of the Supreme Court recognizes that fact,” Chapman said. “Alabama has made great progress in our elections process.”

Chapman said a provision of the Voting Rights Act still exists where issues of discrimination can be prosecuted.“If there is a time or circumstance where a voter feels there has been any discrimination regarding the elections process, then Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act will provide a way for that case to be heard as it should,” Chapman said.

President Barack Obama said Tuesday he is “deeply disappointed” by the ruling and will call on Congress to enact legislation protecting the right to vote for all.