Things have changed, but race still factor

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 26, 2013

You may say that the South has changed in the past 50 years, and that there is no longer a need for Voting Rights Act to ensure that people in power don’t use discriminatory practices to disenfranchise minority voters.

And you may be partially right.

Discrimination is not an ill borne only by Southerners in the nine states affected by yesterday’s SCOTUS ruling that threw out Section 4, which provided a formula to determine which states must abide by Section 5. The court suggested that Congress should revisit that portion, a suggestion not likely to be acted upon.

But if you think there’s no longer a need for the VRA, consider these points:

• In 1990, Dallas County, Ala., tried to purge voter rolls of people who hadn’t returned a voter update form, but the courts struck it down.

The Department of Justice called the measure discriminatory, saying it would disqualify people from voting, “simply because they failed to pick up or return a voter update form, when there was no valid requirement that they do so.” (

• In 1993, Millen, Ga., proposed delaying an election in a predominantly black area.

When the Department of Justice blocked the proposal, the city then tried to move a polling place for the predominantly black neighborhood to outside of the city limits. (

• In 1995, Mississippi sought to reenact a dual voter registration system.

The measure, “was initially enacted in 1892 to disenfranchise Black voters,” and for that reason, was struck down by a federal court in 1987. (

• In 2001, the mayor of Kilmichael, Miss., and the city’s all-white board canceled the town’s election after “an unprecedented number” of African-Americans announced they were running for office.

The Department of Justice required the town to hold an election, and they ended up electing their first black mayor and three black aldermen. (

• In 2011, there were 12 redistricting plans and two new photo identification requirements brought up in South Carolina that were ultimately struck down.

There were also 21 new lawsuits seeking judicial review of redistricting plans and other complex voting changes. (

• In 2012, a Texas redistricting plan was struck down in federal court because it was designed with a “discriminatory purpose” to limit Latino voters. (

• In 2012, Florida tried to reduce the minimum number of early voting hours.

The courts struck it down saying it could disproportionately impact black voters in certain parts of the state. (

Members of predominately white bodies of government should consider that national trends show they will soon be the minority race in America. Perhaps that might make them look at the need for legislation differently.