Senior Editorial Writer of the Washington Examiner Sean Higgins published an informative column Tuesday night giving some background for a case that appeared before the Supreme Court on Wednesday morning. Shelby County, Ala. v. Eric Holder has liberals in a panic apparently, because of its challenge to a key portion of the Voting Rights Act that requires many states and some counties to get "pre-clearance" for voting law changes by a federal court. Curiously enough, major media outlets have neglected to mention the context and true history behind the law in question.
Ironically, the Voting Rights Act has completely changed the political landscape of the South ever since it was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965, and in ways that have poorly served African-American voters specifically and the Democratic Party generally. Higgins explained:
VRA Sections 2 and 5 facilitated the creation of so-called "minority-majority districts" designed to ensure the election of black officials. These new districts were gerrymandered to pack blacks in, taking loyal Democratic voters away from other (white) candidates.
By 1981, Southern Democrats still outnumbered Southern Republicans in Congress almost 2 to 1. As recently as 1995, they still represented nearly half of Southern delegations. Today, they represent less than a third. The 11 states of the old Confederacy -- Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia -- now collectively have 160 senators and congressmen. Only 46 are Democrats. Remove fast-growing Texas and Florida, and the number of Democrats falls to 23. Of that total, 11 are in the Congressional Black Caucus.
That created an incentive to draw heavily black districts, especially in the South. Because of its past history of discrimination, Section 5 of the law requires any change to an electoral map in most Southern states to get 'pre-clearance' from the Justice Department. Whether that provision should still apply is the issue the Supreme Court is hearing Wednesday.
Despite decades-worth of election data to pore through and a general lack of success, Democratic officials like Attorney General Eric Holder would prefer the law stay intact, confusing as it may seem. While the legislation was designed to reinforce the efforts of minority candidates who run for office, its a telling sign that the only black senator from the South is the recently-appointed Tim Scott of South Carolina, a Republican who just so happens to have won election twice in a mostly-white House district. Scott also has a strong chance of winning the special election to keep the Senate seat.
Higgins concluded his editorial thusly:
Do liberals really think that the current Congress, a product of more than 50 years of the VRA's influence, reflects minority voters' best interests? If not, then maybe it is time to rethink the law.
Maybe it is time indeed. A decision is expected in June.