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EDITORIAL: The threat to voting rights

Jim Crow is dead, and Congress should get over it

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Democrats in Congress are trying to restore the offensive provisions of the Voting Rights Act as though the Supreme Court had not declared them unconstitutional. The legislative scam was put on display at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, with the legislation presented as the usual liberal morality play, "From Selma to Shelby County: Working Together to Restore the Protections of the Voting Rights Act."

Shelby County, Ala., won the lawsuit when the high court settled the law, striking down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, which identified the state and local jurisdictions to be forced to submit changes in voting-rights law for "preclearance" by the Justice Department. The majority opinion, written by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., held that these states and localities should no longer be singled out for extraordinary treatment based on unfair voting practices from a half-century ago. These Southern jurisdictions, which once had low minority-voter turnout, now often exceed those of counterparts in the Northern states.

President Obama's campaign arm, Organizing for America, set the tone for the latest push with a fundraising email bemoaning the fact that "within days of the Supreme Court's ruling, six states submitted voter-suppression laws that could make it harder for millions of Americans to vote." The requirement for legal voters to show IDs at the polls, much like minor voters having to show an ID to buy a six-pack of Budweiser, constitutes "voter-suppression laws" in the eyes of a guilt-ridden liberal. More sober eyes see voter-ID laws, such as the one set to take effect in Virginia in July 2014, as common sense. It ensures that only eligible voters cast a ballot.

Mr. Obama wants Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and the Justice Department to keep their veto over voter-identification laws. On the other side of the aisle, Rep. Steve King of Iowa says if Congress rewrites the Voting Rights Act, it should specifically exempt state ID provisions. "I think we need to have a lot more improvement in the integrity of the individual ballot," he said at a meeting of the House Judiciary Committee.

Unfortunately, Congress misplaced its backbone years ago, and invokes principle now mostly in defense of personal privilege. If someone puts a "voting rights" label on a piece of legislation, even if it prescribes drowning every third calico kitten in America, it sails through easily. Who wants to be called a racist? No senator opposed the unconstitutional measure when it came up for reauthorization in 2006; only 33 House members dared vote no.

When the voting law comes up for consideration, Republicans shouldn't be bullied into restoring provisions that would block voter-ID statutes enacted by the states. Much to the chagrin of congressmen looking for cheap and easy votes, Jim Crow lies in a graveyard in Alabama, and he isn't coming back. There's not a single Southern governor left standing in a schoolhouse door. The obstacle to civil rights is Mr. Holder, who wants to keep the backdoor of the polling station unlocked to make it easier to dilute the integrity of the ballot.

The Washington Times

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