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Civil-rights setback

| Sunday, July 7, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

A major setback for advocates of civil rights occurred when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled a major provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 unconstitutional. In a partisan ruling in the conservative majority's favor, Chief Justice John Roberts stated that much has changed in the South and it is no longer necessary to require Southern states with problematic civil-rights histories to receive Justice Department “preclearance” to change voting procedures.

While the conservative justices agreed the law was unconstitutional, they did not give any constitutional reason why, other than that times have changed. I hate to break it to them, but times have changed for the better because of the Voting Rights Act.

The Voting Rights Act, perhaps the most important piece of civil-rights legislation, protected minority voters from unjust voting laws, such as poll taxes and literacy exams. Now that the law has been struck down, Southern states are free to change their voting laws as they please, and some already have. Five Southern states moved forward with passing voter ID legislation, similar to the law proposed in Pennsylvania. These laws directly target minority voters in Republican states, as they often overwhelmingly vote for Democrat candidates.

With the Voting Rights Act gone, Republican-controlled legislatures have the ability to build a permanent majority of conservative politicians. By making it difficult for the poor, elderly and minorities to vote, Republicans will have a significant advantage in national elections.

Joseph Samuel Rogers

Brookline

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