Friday, February 22, 2008
Heal Us Nas! Love What He Worked At The Grammy's
Some of you may have seen Nas on CNN claiming that there's a law saying that blacks can't vote 23 years from now. So I thought I should explain what he meant. Basically, the Voting Rights Act does expire in 23 years. It was renewed in 2006 and expires in 2031; before that it was renewed in 1982, and it was originally passed in 1965. Before the VRA was passed, many blacks could not vote because of literacy requirements, poll taxes, intimidation, and all kinds of tricks. The VRA played a huge role in stopping all that. However, blacks have had a constitutional right to vote since 1870. If there were no VRA, this would not change, and it's highly unlikely that states would go back to pulling shit like some of them used to back in the 60s. Moreover, poll taxes and literacy requirements would still be illegal under the Constitution as long as you could show that they were put in place to make it harder for blacks to vote. However, no one needs to even worry about this because the Voting Rights Act is unanimously renewed every time it comes up. No member of Congress would ever dare to vote against renewing the Voting Rights Act. So you might ask, why not just make it permanent? Well, there are certain other provisions in the VRA which go much further than just ensuring blacks/Hispanics the right to vote and do need to be reviewed from time to time.
1) preclearance. Under the VRA, basically all the southern states have to submit any changes they want to make to their voting laws to the Department of Justice in Washington to be precleared. This includes changing their district lines. Some district lines may disfavor minorities (ones that pack all the minority voters into a few districts, or, ones that spread them out so they control none of the districts), so, to prevent states from drawing those kinds of districts, the DOJ gets to decide whether they want to preclear ANY lines drawn, even in a little city council or school board election, in any of the southern states. This is a pretty huge intrusion of federal government into what's traditionally been a state matter, and some question whether we still need the Department of Justice to check up on southern states. By 2031, you'd tend to think there will be even less of a need. Nevertheless, Congress unanimously decided to keep this part of the law. There's currently a case in federal court over whether this part of the law is constitutional (because it's not clear whether Congress had the right to pass such a law given that the problem of southern states trying to draw districts to cheat blacks is arguably dying out).
2) "vote dilution". The VRA grantes minorities a right to sue if they feel that the district lines "dilute" their votes. Let's say you live in a state that's 25% black and has 12 congressional districts. You're black and show that blacks and whites always vote for different candidates. You live in a majority white district, as does everyone else in the state, and therefore, the people who you and other black voters want to win always loses. And, you show that the black population is geographically compact enough that you could all be put in a normally-shaped district where you're the majority. The VRA says that under these circumstances you have a right to be put in a majority-black district. That usually means that this state would have to draw three majority-black districts - 3 out of 12, 25%. This doesn't apply if blacks are dispersed throughout the state all over the place and don't live together in any concentrated areas, it doesn't apply if blacks and whites don't vote differently, it doesn't apply if they already have drawn three black-majority districts and you're not in one of them. You have no right to get a fourth drawn just for you. But if there is racially polarized voting and compact minority populations, then there's a right to have black (or Hispanic) majority districts. This is also a controversial provision of the law, and may not be kept when reauthorization comes along. What will never go, though, are the parts of the law that ensure that states can't make poll taxes or put polling places where blacks can't get to them, or whatever else states used to do to prevent blacks from voting. from here...All Hip Hop, Ill community