New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand sent this e-mail today, hoping that the citizens of her state, and citizens around the nation, will take action:
The Supreme Court’s oral arguments on the Voting Rights Act begin today.
We have to speak up in support of this landmark civil rights act now. There’s no time for silence. Not when a strike to this civil rights law would cause serious harm to our democracy.
In this case, an Alabama county is arguing that a provision of the Act – requiring local governments to get the Justice Department’s approval before making changes that affect voting – has outlived its use.
I only wish it were so.
In reality, too many states are cynically passing restrictive voter ID laws and forcing some voters to wait hours just to cast a ballot. We have to do better. We can’t go backward.
President Obama has spoken out. We have to join him.
The entirety of the Voting Rights Act remains critical. Undermining it could lead to citizens being egregiously and unfairly denied their right to vote.
That would be unacceptable.
Senator Gillibrand isn’t unnecessarily sounding an alarm. Think about it this way: 1965 isn’t that long ago. Many things in the nation have changed; today, for example, on this February 27th, the tail end of Black History Month 2013. Rosa Parks, nicknamed the first lady of civil rights, was honoured with a statue at the US Capitol — the first black woman to be honoured with a statue in that location. The statue’s unveiling today should remind us of how far we’ve come. But we still have a long way to go.
As the Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments on whether provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 should remain intact, Justice Scalia fired his shot when he stated that the Section 5 provision that some seek to see stricken from the Voting Rights Act is the “perpetuation of racial entitlement,” and the conservative justices are skeptical that the federal government should still require pre-clearance of voting system revisions in those states that have a dishonourable history of racial discrimination in elections.
Yes, some things have improved — but it’s either willful ignorance or sad delusion that would make someone think all of our problems in the area of race relations, voter intimidation and vote suppression have disappeared. At this time when many of us reflect upon this nation’s history and the ongoing battle for civil rights, all many of us can do is remain hopeful the Supreme Court will ultimately come to the conclusion that while some things have changed — as evidenced by the placement of a statue of a black woman at a federal building — it’s clear, based on recent history, that not everything in this country has progressed.