Texas GOP fights post-civil war federal tactics
Government voting suits seen as reconstruction-era strategy
The conflict is of the traditional nature of states' rights in opposition to federal powers
Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act requires states and localities with a history of voting discrimination to “pre-clear” changes in voting districts with the Justice Department – or with a federal court.
Texas conservatives in the census year 2010 Legislature elected to skip the Department of Justice and go straight to Court.
They knew they would wind up there, in any case.
Though the Supreme Court stopped short of ruling on the constitutionality of Section 5 in 2009 and in a recent ruling, they could return to the issue, an issue over which the most radical elements of the Texas GOP are spoiling to tangle with the Chicago-bred Attorney General Eric Holder in court.
The politics of confrontation extends to Mr. Holder's corner office at Justice, it seems.
In a recent speech, he cited “extraordinary risks” taken by civil rights activists in the 1960's to secure voting rights in the Jim Crow states of the former Confederate States of America, Arizona and Alaska as they “willingly confronted hatred, bias and ignorance – as well as billy clubs and fire hoses, bullets and bombs.”
The list of Justice Department actions backs up his rhetoric. In October, a Louisiana Parish was forced to return to the map-making department when they approved a new set of districts without input by African American officeholders that diminished the voting strength of blacks. The Justice Department also rejected a new requirement in South Carolina for voters to show photo ID before casting their ballots. They said it makes it harder for minorities to vote.
Though the actions of the Justice Department ignore abuses in other states above the Mason-Dixon Line, the Congress voted overwhelmingly to reapprove for an additional 25 years the Section 5 requirement of the Act. The conservative take on the situation is that the requirement stigmatizes the former Confederate states and dozens of localities forced to submit to what they view as punitive treatment by officials of the Justice Department and the federal court system.
There is a fundamental schism in conservative and liberal thinking on the matter, and it shows in the law, both constitutional and judge-made.
While the Voting Rights Act implies that there is an explicit right to vote for U.S. citizens, the reality is that the holding in Bush v. Gore, (U.S. 98 2000) plainly states “The individual citizen has no federal constitutional right to vote for electors for the President of the United States.”
Nevertheless, the Voting Rights Act and three Constitutional amendments have established in Supreme Court jurisprudence that there is a “fundamental right” of the voting franchise, though voting rights are granted by the states.