Congresswoman Terri Sewell

Representing the 7th District of Alabama

Blue Nation Review: Someone Forgot Tell Alabama Racism Is Over

Oct 6, 2015
In The News

Can you remember all the way back to June 25, 2013? That was the day John Roberts, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, declared racism to be not that big of a problem. Not gone entirely, but not nearly as bad as it used to be. Siding with the 5-4 majority in Shelby v. Holder, Roberts wrote that passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965 and its renewal in 2006 helped assure that:

“voting tests were abolished, disparities in voter registration and turnout due to race were erased, and African-Americans attained political office in record numbers.”

To be fair, Roberts acknowledged that voting discrimination still exists but in taking the teeth out of Section 5, he and the majority turned over elections to many of the states and local governments who were doing the discriminating in the first place. The existence of Section 5 meant that nine states, all in the South, had to clear any changes to elections or election procedures with the Department of Justice. Since the Supreme Court found for Shelby, attempts to restore Section 5 have gone nowhere.

While the Voting Rights Act was being gutted of one of its strongest provisions, many of the same states who were affected by it, started pushing for and passing voter ID laws. Surely a coincidence.

Voter ID laws were passed to preserve the “sanctity of elections” so their advocates like to say, which ignores the sanctity of the right to vote. The push for voter ID laws came despite the fact that a study of one billion votes found thirty-one credible examples of voter impersonation.

The logic in support of voter ID laws–if you need ID for cough syrup, you should need it to vote–would seem intractable. Until you put your cerebrum to use. The fact is, there are lot of poor people who live in rural areas who don’t have ID. A lot of these people are African-American who live in the south.

Which brings us to Alabama. Due to budget cuts, state officials announced last week they would have to close many drivers license centers–or places where people would go to get an ID. Would you care to guess where many of the shuttered offices are? Well, of the 10 counties in the state with the highest percentage of African-American voters, eight of them will lose their drivers license center. Surely a coincidence.

Rep. Terri Sewell, whose constituents are among those affected, did not take this news kindly and fired off a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch, which read in part:

“The renewed assault on our sacred, constitutionally protected to vote must be stopped. I look forward to working with Attorney General Lynch to stop this latest assault on our voting rights.”

BNR BOTTOM LINE: Rep. Lynch is correct to refer to Alabama’s actions as “the latest assault.” In the 1950s and 1960s the assaults were much easier to detect. The fact that they are less violent and harder to detect makes them no less pernicious. So hard to detect, that they even escape the notice of the Supreme Court.