TribLIVE

| News


 
Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

Court must uphold voting safeguards

Letters home ...

Traveling abroad for personal, educational or professional reasons?

Why not share your impressions — and those of residents of foreign countries about the United States — with Trib readers in 150 words?

The world's a big place. Bring it home with Letters Home.

Contact Colin McNickle (412-320-7836 or cmcnickle@tribweb.com).

Daily Photo Galleries

By Terry M. Ao
Sunday, May 3, 2009
 

Discrimination persists at the polls, so the Supreme Court should not retreat on this issue. We still need special protections for minority voters.

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court heard the case of Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District Number One v. Holder. At issue is Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which requires certain states with egregious histories of racial discrimination to obtain Justice Department approval before changing their election practices.

Section 5 strives to ensure that these states don't redraw district lines or relocate polling places in ways that make it more difficult for racial and ethnic minorities to exercise their right to vote.

In the states fully covered by Section 5 -- Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia -- Asian-American voters continue to experience discrimination.

During the 2008 elections, Asian-Americans had to overcome many barriers at the polls to exercise their right to vote. These obstacles included inadequate language assistance, improper identification checks, poll site confusion, racially biased and poorly trained poll workers, incomplete voter lists and denials of provisional ballots.

And the legacy of discrimination in these states casts a shadow.

Take a look at Texas. The state maintained whites-only primaries until the Supreme Court found them to be unconstitutional in 1944. But voter discrimination did not end there.

After a black candidate almost won a council seat in Austin, the city adopted at-large elections in the 1950s to make sure black voters would be outnumbered by whites.

And, at a recent election committee hearing, Texas state Rep. Betty Brown suggested voters of Asian descent should adopt names that are "easier for Americans to deal with."

For years now, Asian-Americans have been moving in significant numbers beyond their traditional states of California, New York and Hawaii. In two big cities covered by Section 5 -- Atlanta and Houston -- the Asian-American community is burgeoning.

Often they are perceived as "outsiders" and face increased levels of racial tension and discrimination.

Section 5 remains relevant and is needed to help protect the Asian-American voters.

Civil-rights groups like the Asian American Justice Center, the Asian Law Caucus, the Asian Pacific American Legal Center, the Asian American Institute and the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association have filed an amicus brief in support of Section 5.

It provides an important tool in combating voting discrimination against minority populations and is essential to ensuring access to the polls by all Americans. Without Section 5, discrimination against racial minorities at the polls can be expected to increase.

Terry M. Ao is the director of census and voting programs for the Asian American Justice Center.

Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.

 

 


Show commenting policy

Most-Read Stories

  1. NFL coaches weigh in on Polamalu’s legacy
  2. Mancuso running for register of wills in Fayette
  3. Pirates’ outfield may have few defensive peers
  4. Hempfield man accused of setting Dumpster ablaze in Fayette County
  5. Monday - March 30, 2015
  6. Penguins’ Letang leaves hospital, out with concussion
  7. Turnpike construction worker hurt in fall
  8. Falling bricks close 2 Squirrel Hill businesses
  9. Company pulls out of Lawrence County casino project
  10. Owner of Penn Hills tombstone business pleads guilty to swindling the bereaved out of $90K
  11. Penguins slip past Sharks, 3-2, in shootout