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Prune Juice Media | July 26, 2014

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Supreme Court Axes Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act

| On 25, Jun 2013

U.S. Supreme Court justices 2013

Today is a sad and shocking day in the world of American civil rights.

The U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-4 to strike down the entire Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In short, this means that the practice of using extra scrutiny with specific states and jurisdictions to ensure they offer fair voting access will not happen any longer. It seems that the Supreme Court thinks that some of these racist and discriminatory states are magically able to offer access to voting in every election.

Were five members of the Supreme Court asleep last year when we received dozens of stories of attempts to block voter access in battleground states? It seems so…

Here’s what changed with the Tuesday’s ruling:

  • Communities don’t have to provide ballots and voting information to citizens who do not speak English as their first language.
  • Citizens who do not speak English as a first language are not guaranteed the right to register to vote and participate in elections.
  • States will not be under scrutiny any longer to ensure equal voting based on past practices. For example, if a state was in the wrong five years ago and discriminated against Spanish-speaking residents, they will not receive extra scrutiny moving forward. (This used to be the way the Justice Department determined the states that needed more pressure).
  • The U.S. attorney general will not have to send federal examiners to keep an eye on elections in questionable areas.

The ruling guts a significant portion of the law that leveled the playing field of voting access across the United States. Many of the people reading this post, including me, probably don’t remember literacy tests, etc. at the polls several decades ago. Tuesday’s ruling essentially stripped away the protections that took us away from that dark time in history.

Of all this news, the part that appalls me the most is that Justice Clarence Thomas, a black man, voted to abolish Section 4 of the VRA. This is a man who was born in Georgia in 1948 and earned the right to vote one year after the Act was passed. He saw blatant racism first-hand in the Deep South. He cannot possibly think that voting practices will improve from moving forward considering how Republicans are cracking down on voter access to steal elections. Yet, Thomas continues to side with conservative thinking.

Let the discrimination begin! *sigh*

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