ACLU of Florida blasts SCOTUS decision overturning provision of Voting Rights Act as radical conservatism

06/25/13 Janelle Irwin
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Tuesday the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that had been used as recently as last year to ensure voting laws don’t discriminate. During a phone conference today, the ACLU of Florida condemned the high court’s decision as radical conservatism. Howard Simon is the group’s executive director.

Under section five of the Voting Rights Act certain states and localities, including Hillsborough County, are required to get approval from Washington before making changes to voting laws. The Act was re-authorized in 2006 for another 25 years. That provision was upheld by the court, but rendered useless when section 4 was struck down – it determines how states and counties are placed into the system of added protections.

The high court ruling called attention to the fact that criteria for implementing pre-clearance requirements hadn’t been changed. In the court’s 5-4 decision, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote, “There is no denying, however, that the conditions that originally justified these measures no longer characterize voting in the covered jurisdictions.” The protections under section five of the Voting Rights Act can be continued if Congress comes up with a new formula. But Simon, among other critics of the high court decision, doubts that will happen anytime soon.

The law affects five Florida counties, including Hillsborough and Hardee. In Tampa, a group called Mi Familia Vota is challenging Florida’s so-called voter purge where inaccurate and out of date information was used to remove people from the voter rolls. Those people were then charged with the burden of proving their eligibility. Julie Ebenstein is a staff attorney for the ACLU of Florida.

Secretary of State Ken Detzner said today the decision will allow the state to streamline its election process and save money on legal fees associated with upholding its laws. He added that there are still ways to challenge potentially discriminatory laws. Ebenstein said section 2 under the Voting Rights Act does make that possible, but it’s not necessarily a cheaper way to handle challenges.

President Barack Obama said in a written statement today that voting discrimination in the U.S. still exists. He called the decision a setback, but promised that efforts to end voting discrimination will continue. Vice President Joe Biden said the decision “upset a well-established practice.”

Supreme Court Voting Rights Decision by WMNF News

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