Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Voting Rights Act strikedown: Win or loss?

I expect most Arizonans don't know that our state is one of those selected for special scrutiny under Article 4 of the Voting Rights Act, struck down today by the Supreme Court. AZ won this honor with persistent,direct and official discrimination against minorities, particularly our native population.

An optimist who isn't paying much attention might think, terrific, we're finally past the era of racial discrimination, we can move on with an officially color-blind society. Sounds great.

Those paying closer attention will more likely raise an eyebrow. The continuing political fracas over "immigration issues," right-wing code for keeping the brown people in their place, and voter ID is prima facie evidence that the reflex to discriminate and segregate remains alive and well in our official apparatus. Does that warrant us having to run changes in our election laws and procedures through the Justice Department? Well, someone has to be the adult in the room, and as the majority of Arizona voters so far are clearly not up to the task, I think I'd prefer it.

Then there are those who are paying attention with different motives, and this ruling simply enables those who would continue to use and encourage racial fear to build their own power and wealth. They can say that the Supreme Court says there's no more discrimination, so we needn't worry about it anymore.

Without the federal backstop against voting discrimination, it falls to us as Arizona voters to take more responsibility to ensure that we not only don't backslide further, but make real progress on being an open and fair society for all our citizens.

Update, Thursday: Think Progress has the story on how seven of the nine preclearance states have already moved to restrict voting rights as a result of the Supreme Court decision. I'm guessing Arizona's reactionaries are only regretting that their legislative session didn't last long enough to get them in the game, too.

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