The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed to end discrimination at the polls by banning literacy tests of blacks and limiting states’ power to make special provisions to voting requirements.
The Act is now in question, at the same time as the number of minority voters is increasing and more politicians are people of color than ever before.
According to the Pew Research Center, in 2012, blacks voted at a higher rate than whites due to President Barack Obama’s candidacy, increased diversity of the electorate and also because of a declining turnout rate among whites.
Blacks are voting more and other minorities are voting more due to population increase, but are we ready to abolish the Act that made this possible?
While many argue the Act is outdated, the NAACP has noted that it prohibited Texas from requiring photo ID cards at the polls and Florida from reducing its early voting period.
On the surface, Texas and Florida of course denied that these provisions would prohibit voting based on race or ethnicity, but in reality the potential to do so was beyond obvious.
Who lacks ID cards such as a driver’s license or passport? The poor. Who makes up the majority of this group in America? Minorities.
Early voting is a particularly important policy for young voters, which includes college students who are studying in other states. If Florida had changed its policy, many students would have been denied access to the polls.
Early voting is also important for black voters. According to the NAACP, in 2008 more than 32 percent of early voters were black. A criticism of the 2008 election was prohibiting voting on the Sunday before the election because many black congregations traditionally organize group transportation to the polls following Sunday church services.
Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act prohibits states from changing voter requirements without federal permission. It covers nine southern states as a whole, along with particular counties in other states, because of their history of racial discrimination regarding voting rights. Some states argue that this is unfair, that times have changed enough in the South and Section 5 limits state power.
But what is more important—state power or civil rights? The importance of every vote to be counted?
We propose that every state should be covered under Section 5 because nothing is more important than the civil liberties of American voters. As the greatest democracy in the world, how could we settle for anything less?
Call it the Voting Rights Act of 2013.