Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Voting Rights

Excellent article by Louis Menand in the New Yorker about voting rights and the possible repercussions of the recent Supreme Court decision:
King believed that defending the voting rights of minorities was the responsibility of the executive branch. For years, while civil-rights workers were being beaten, jailed, and murdered across the South, King begged the White House to send federal authorities to protect voter-registration drives. Presidents and attorneys general always found reasons to refuse. Finally, with the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Congress gave the executive branch the tools and the authority to enforce the law. 
With the decision in Shelby v. Holder, the Supreme Court has taken much of that authority away. Claims of Fifteenth Amendment violations must again be pursued through the courts, a lengthy and expensive process that shifts the burden of proof to the plaintiffs. As Richard Pildes, a voting-rights expert at the N.Y.U. School of Law, and others have argued, some of the blame for the decision should go to Congress. In 2009, the Court sent Congress a signal, in a case called Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District v. Holder, that it needed to revisit the act’s definition of which areas were covered by the requirement that they clear changes in voting regulations with the Justice Department. That provision had not been revised since the mid-nineteen-seventies. But it has been politically expedient for Congress to renew the act, rather than add places where discrimination is a problem today. 
“Our country has changed,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., said, a sentiment echoed by Justice Thomas. They could not mean that race is no longer an issue. The Times reported that one place eagerly awaiting the Court’s ruling was Beaumont, Texas, where the Justice Department has blocked several attempts by a group of white citizens to change voting regulations for the explicit purpose of unseating a black-majority school board. What’s so changed about that? 
This August 28, 1963 marks 50 years since the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and King's "I Have A Dream" speech. I expect one or more organizations will sponsor some kind of commemoration and I hope to participate.

The article mentioned the important documentary series Eyes on the Prize which I haven't seen for a long time - and now it's available on Youtube. I will definitely be watching the series on the 4th of July.

Part 1:

But also the article clued me into this little-seen documentary.