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Monday, December 22, 2014

A monumental week for the Supreme Court
(Page 2 of 2)
Speaking of voting, the Supreme Court also struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act. According to the Washington Post, “Section 4 creates a formula that determines what states should be subject to Section 5, which requires states to submit any changes to election or voting laws, or alterations of state legislative or congressional lines, to the Justice Department for approval.”

The problem is that the current formulas used to determine which states are subject to the requirements of Section 5 are based on statistics dating back to the 1950s and the Jim Crow era. The four liberal dissenters on the court cited a fear that the country was heading back to that time.

But those formulas are discriminatory and no longer relevant. For example, states can have a ballot test, such as a literacy test, to determine whether someone can vote, or use a formula based on whether less than 50 percent of eligible voters were registered to vote by November 1964. Basically, any state or county that had a history of racial discrimination when it came to voters’ rights was forced to seek pre-clearance for alterations to district lines.

Clearly, things have changed in this country since the 1960s. These statistics were based on 40-year-old voting data that does not reflect the current political conditions of states or district lines in the U.S.

Unfortunately, it will now be up to Congress to devise a new formula to replace Section 4, and since Congress is divided, it looks like the Justice Department will be responsible for drawing district lines.

President Obama was among those who sided with the dissenters in this decision, and publicly expressed his disappointment. Mr. President, as the Wall Street Journal rightfully pointed out, this country twice elected you, the first African-American president. We have surely come a long way toward racial equality since the 1960s.

Let’s unite, not divide.

Al D’Amato, a former U.S. senator from New York, is the founder of Park Strategies LLC, a public policy and business development firm. Comments about this column? ADAmato@liherald.com.

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