In a five-to-four decision the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the formula in Section 4 of the 1965 Civil Rights Act was unconstitutional. The striking down of section 4 means that the U.S. Justice Department no longer has the mandate for preclearance of any changes in rules that establish voter qualifications or election procedures in jurisdictions covered by the Voting Rights Act.
If Section 4 had not been in effect in the 2012 Presidential election all those Republican state laws to impose restrictive voter ID and all other Jim Crow-like voter procedures could not have been challenged. And yes, Mitt Romney potentially would have won a lot more states and may even have won the election. That’s how important Section 4 is.
Unless Congress acts, this decision will allow the Republicans who suffered an historic defeat last year to get away with massive voter suppression and make big gains in 2014. They have the green light from a majority (five) of the justices on the Supreme Court.
Of course voter suppression can and will still be challenged but the challenges, without the Voting Rights Act in tact, will often go unresolved until after elections have happened and after Republicans have illegally won a bunch of seats.
The higher court of public opinion and public pressure needs to act to make Congress Act. Unless the people make the Congress act to pass a bill to designate the states and counties that should have to seek pre- clearance under Section 4, the Republican strangle- hold in the Congress could be extended and strengthened as we head toward 2016.
On that new list of counties and states we will need all the ones (mostly in the South) that were already there plus many more in other areas of the country where there have been brazen attempts to suppress the vote.
There is a need for mass actions all over the country in response to this racist, unconstitutional ruling.
The big message from 2012 was, “We are not going back.” The message rang loud and clear because it was brought about through unity – a multi-racial unity of the labor and peoples’ movements aimed at advancing democracy.
This year marks the 50th Anniversary of the massive “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.” A broad coalition of civil rights and labor organizations have issued a call for a march on Saturday, Aug. 24.
What a powerful way to show in massive numbers the people’s outrage against the Supreme Court decision! That march could send an irresistible signal to Congress to pass, as its number one priority returning from Summer Recess, a bill that would activate a new, expanded criterion for Section 4 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
Detroit has given the nation the example. Last Saturday 100,000 marched and rallied in Detroit to commemorate the “I Have a Dream” March held in their city in 1965 before the march on Washington. It was the first place that Dr. King introduced the “I Have a Dream” theme.
Rev. Dr. Wendell Anthony, the president of the Detroit NAACP, said, “The Dream Lives on. We’re going to do whatever we can to make a better world for our children.”
That march embraced a broad agenda included opposition to the Republican governor’s imposition of an Emergency Manager to dictate the city’s finances. It also was against political repression, voter suppression, the defunding of public education, and attacks on labor, women’s rights, and immigrant rights.
The Washington March will no doubt focus on the Supreme Court’s efforts to deny democracy and the right to vote to people of color and the effects this has on all working people.
The issues of poverty and joblessness must be emphasized as well as marriage equality, LGBT and youth rights and student loan relief. Money for jobs, not for war, must be a theme. It’s time go back to the nation’s capital now.
The 50th Anniversary March on Washington, Saturday Aug. 24th 2013, can be a turning point. Talk to your church, your union, your peace and justice group, your family and friends.
The Dream lives on!
Photo: Capturing the historic moment of the 1963 march on Washington. Edweek.org