By Derek T. Dingle
In two months, we will officially commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington. It was a historic moment in which more than 250,000 citizens – predominantly African American – flooded our nation’s capital to call for jobs and freedom while paving the way for nation-changing civil and voting rights legislation. The Supreme Court, however, has decided to recognize this milestone by delivering a devastating blow to five decades of progress. Through one judicial act, the high court effectively compromised the promise and protection of the vote for every citizen.
With the 5-4 decision in Shelby v. Holder, the court struck down on Tuesday a key provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA). The majority ruling stripped the law’s formula that Congress has repeatedly reauthorized to determine all or jurisdictions of states – many of them located in the South – that would be required to gain federal approval before changing election laws. Hours after the Supremes’ decision, Mississippi and Texas announced plans to move forward with controversial voter ID laws – and expect more to follow. Eleven states in the past two years have approved laws that would mandate voters to show identification at voting booths. But the 48-year-old law required some with a history of voter discrimination to get “pre-cleared” by the federal government before making any adjustments to voting laws.
The ruling, which Congressional conservatives will attempt to use to overturn the entire law, comes during a week in which the high court punted a seminal case on race-based college admissions – Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin – back for review by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit for “strict scrutiny” and, in turn, will spark future challenges of similar diversity policies. Earlier this week, it also issued two decisions that will make it tougher for workers to prove they’ve suffered from employment discrimination.