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Voting rights act

Posted: February 28, 2013 5:09 p.m.
Updated: March 1, 2013 5:00 a.m.

Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court are considering a challenge to the nation’s signature voting rights act, which was passed in 1965, during an era when many states did whatever they could to deny the right to vote to blacks. The issues are complex, but the cogent question is whether or not Congress, in reauthorizing certain provisions of the act in 2006, were correct or incorrect in using a formula based on historic practices and voting data from elections that were held decades ago.

There aren’t many people left here in Kershaw County and across the South who would argue that the Voting Rights Act of 1965 wasn’t needed. Of course, there was an uproar at the time, and yes, it was a valid point that there were probably states outside the South that carried on the same discriminatory voting practices and should have been included in the act’s provisions. But that doesn’t change the fact that protection for African-American voting rights was sorely needed at the time.

There has, of course, been a sea change in the 48 years which have passed, and the central argument among those challenging the validity of the extension is that states have the right to control their own voting practices without intervention from the federal government, and that states shouldn’t continue to be held accountable for things that occurred a half-century ago. But we still must admit that while discrimination raged across the country at that time, it was especially virulent in the South. Like most people of all ethnic make-ups, we are thankful that things have changed.

We tend to see little evidence that the same discriminatory practices continue today. But at the same time, the right to vote for every American must be zealously safeguarded, and it will be interesting to see whether the country’s top jurists believe that right exists today throughout the South or whether the continued supervision of Uncle Sam is required.

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