Voting Rights Act Changes for the Worse with Voter ID Laws

by Katharine Ernst


Civil rights, you’re doing it wrong. The Supreme Court has decided to strike down sections of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 – taking some major steps backwards for fair democracy in our country.

The Act was made to protect the minority vote and was a huge victory for the Civil Rights Movement in the ’60s. All states run their own elections; that’s part of the deal, but the federal government provides the guidelines to do so via the VRA. Now those guidelines have been changed:  they allow congressional districts to run redraws/recounts without approval from the federal government, and they allow states to require ID cards from all voters.

For more of a primer on why voter ID laws suck, check out these infographics from September or take it from Sarah Silverman.

The Obama Administration criticized these distasteful decisions, Congress overwhelmingly supported the law (98 to 0 in the Senate and 390 to 33 in the House), and in 2006 the VRA was renewed for 25 more years, but none of this stopped the Supreme Court from making the changes. So who was pushing for them anyway? Well, mostly Republican states with growing minority populations that tend to vote Democrat.



This is dangerous because there are high populations of minority groups that live in big cities or other urban areas and take buses and trains; they don’t have cars or drive, so they don’t have licenses as government-issued ID. And, at least in New York, it costs about $100 or so to even get a state ID card or license!

This is just another form of poll taxes – it’s unconstitutional to ask people to pay money, even indirectly, to cast their vote. That eliminates a whole group of voters (demographically speaking, Democrat voters). A little breakdown:



It’s important to note that the changes to the VRA do say that if there is proof that discrimination has taken place after the fact that the voting has already been manipulated, then the state will listen to you. After the fact.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was highly critical of this decision, saying: “Hubris is a fit word for today’s demolition of the VRA.” Strong words, but this is serious business. For example, in the 2008 presidential election; look at how Bush won against Gore. What happened to the recount votes in Miami-Dade County, an overwhelmingly Latino district? Just something to keep in mind as our country changes the VRA…



Votes must still count whether or not Texas, Arizona, or any other state wants them to. You can’t just erase citizens.

Check out this video to learn more about how the changes will affect minority groups, particularly racialized groups and women.

Thanks to CNN.

Photographs via The Wall Street Journal, Slate, USA Today and The New York Times.

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