Outdated legislation serves no purpose in modern American society
In the eyes of some, America “seemingly” decided to turn back the clock of time. That’s because on Tuesday, in a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court declared Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 unconstitutional, the very same act that helped to combated encoded bigotry head on. And while in its heyday, it was a momentous and much-needed piece of legislation, that doesn’t mean we mustn’t readjust it to better serve our modern needs.
Before the Voting Rights Act, it was nearly impossible to safeguard the right to vote for all Americans. Due to a discriminatory legal code in many places across the United States, many, particularly disenfranchised minorities such as African-Americans in the Deep South, found it difficult to exercise their right to vote before the Voting Rights Act of 1965. It sought to make America a better home for all, and should retain its foundational elements.
However, one section of this act has outlived its usefulness. Section 4 required that certain, often southern, states were required to gain pre-clearance or “permission” from federal authorities before changing their voting laws based upon a certain formula that has not been updated since 1965. On paper, this makes just as much sense as it did back then. If a state has a history of discrimination towards a particular group when it comes to voting, it should always have to gain a stamp of approval from the federal government before it alter its voting laws, right?
But unfortunately, the formula laid out in Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act that decides which states “should” have to seek permission and which states “don’t,” doesn’t take into account how radically our society has changed in just a few decades. Contrary to the all too prevalent stereotypes that persist in America, states that were traditionally covered under the formula are no longer the hotbeds of bigotry and intolerance they once were. It should be blatantly evident that these states, along with the rest of the country, has drastically changed for the better.
Despite recent debates regarding the legality of several new “Voter ID” laws that have been introduced in so-called “discriminatory” states that seem to invoke the need for the formula proscribed in Section 4 — including right here in South Carolina — it doesn’t negate the inherent unfairness that such a formula dictates. You cannot justify subjecting one group of states to a vastly different standard than another group of states simply based on historical record. As a nation, we cannot continue to live and scrutinize each other based upon our past mistakes; eventually we all must move forward.
In fact, instead of focusing our attention onto states that have traditionally been cause for a concern, wouldn’t it be better if we put each and every state under scrutiny of a national eye? After all, bigotry knows no boundaries and it would be foolish to think otherwise.