Jesse Jackson was in Macon yesterday to champion reauthorization of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. He also criticized the Voter ID Bill. In the process, I got quoted.
Macon attorney Erick Erickson, who specializes in political and elections issues, said he thinks the Section 5 renewal is probably a good thing. He said the Voting Rights Act has served its purpose of getting more blacks elected.
However, Erickson warned that if Congress made the Section 5 permanent he believes the Supreme Court would rule against it because it’s illegal to make a state do what other states aren’t doing.
That was one of those occasions when I could tell that, as best I explained it, the reporter didn’t quite get what I was saying.
My point in the second paragraph is a point also raised by Congressman John Lewis. For the VRA and particularly Section 5 to be constitutional, Congress must, at intervals, make findings of fact about the necessity of keeping the law. If Congress makes the law permanent, there is a very good argument to make that Congress has, therefore, instituted permanent discrimination between the states by treating some differently from others with no reason or with a reason that might not be there eventually.
Therefore, it is in the interest of those who support Section 5 renewal to have it reauthorized every ten to twenty years.
I have to say that I was originally against renewing Section 5, but the more I think about it, the more I think it is a good thing. There will always be discrimination, but there will not always be a pattern of discrimination to disenfranchise minorities. I think, however, that in many places the pattern still exists.
However, I do hold to the belief, shared by many others, that one of the side effects of the VRA has been to increase Republican Congressional strength. It was only in the late 80’s and early 90’s that the Justice Department really began demanding a quota system for race based Congressional Districts under Section 5. The effect was to group in a large number of black voters into bizarrely drawn districts, which helped to decrease Democrat strength in other districts. The net result was the gradual growth of black Democrat leaning districts and white Republican leaning districts.