The Aug. 10 editorial “A birthday gift for the Voting Rights Act” used a recent appeals court decision striking down Texas’s voter identification law to support a view that Congress must resurrect the “preclearance” section of the Voting Rights Act. But the court’s unanimous opinion (by a liberal panel) was the worst outcome for those advocating such legislation.
The opinion reversed the trial court’s finding that the Texas legislature acted with discriminatory intent in passing the law yet still struck it down because of the Voting Rights Act’s “disparate impact” ban. So the claim that racist voting practices are again rampant has been undermined, and it is reaffirmed that civil rights plaintiffs and the Justice Department have no shortage of effective weapons.
The Supreme Court struck down only one provision in the Voting Rights Act. That provision was unconstitutional and not a permanent part of the act. Now plaintiffs must prove in court that discrimination has occurred, as with other civil rights laws.
Two proposed bills to restore that section of the Voting Rights Act are bad legislation. The principal one (which, incidentally, exempts voter ID laws) does not protect all races from discrimination, contains much having nothing to do with the Supreme Court decision and itself violates the Constitution by prohibiting practices that are not discriminatory but have disproportionate effects. The other bill is worse and would treat half the country, including states such as New York and California, as if they were 1965 Mississippi.
Roger Clegg, Falls Church
The writer is president and general counsel of the Center for Equal Opportunity.