Recently, the Supreme Court has presided over some truly important American legal battles, making decisions on things like Obamacare, gay marriage, and spending on political campaigns in the last few years. This short edited political science essay examines the Supreme Court’s recent ruling on voting rights, specifically the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
SCOTUS and the Voting Rights Act of 1965
On June 25th, 2013, the United States Supreme Court nullified fundamental elements of a federal law born from the civil right movement in 1965, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (Liptak para. 1; Hurley para. 1; Mears & Botelho para. 1). Although the ruling reflects a deeply divided Supreme Court in its 5-4 decision (Liptak para. 2), inviting disparaging remarks from President Barack Obama (Liptak para. 5), the court’s ruling was a sound decision, reflecting the progress American society has made in the last five decades.
In 1965, nine states, “including Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia — and to scores of counties and municipalities in other states, including Brooklyn, Manhattan and the Bronx” (Liptak para. 7) were depicted in the Voting Rights Act of 1965 as areas in the country where voting regulations were discriminatory (Liptak para. 8). Under the 1965 act, those areas had to seek the approval from the federal government in order to pass any new state voting laws to prevent discrimination to minorities before it happened, whether it was a minor change, such as changing polling times, to larger ones, such as re-mapping electoral voting regions (Liptak para. 11).
Alabama’s efforts to eliminate the Voting Rights Act of 1965
Fifty years later, Selma and Shelby County in Alabama challenged this stipulation within the Voting Rights Act and won (Mears & Botelho para. 6). The Supreme Court ruled there wasn’t any reason to single out those particular states and municipalities, and doing so without merit is unconstitutional (Mears & Botelho para. 11). The states and municipalities historically known for passing regulations to exclude minorities from voting are now able to create and enforce their own regulations without federal approval (Mears & Botelho para. 11).
The court’s ruling is long overdue. The Voting Act of 1965 addressed the many discriminatory acts that were used to curtail the voting rights of African Americans. However, the act has been completely effective. Minority voters no longer have to fear the appalling and unacceptable conditions existing fifty years ago. Many of those districts now have African American politicians representing them, and the nation has elected an African American president, not only once, but twice. Moreover, intentional discrimination is still prohibited for any state or municipality in the country. Hurley states in his thesis, the part of the act responsible for preventing discrimination and voting rights in any form is still in effect.
Final thoughts on voting rights
While it is understandable that many would be upset at any change to the act that saved minorities from the terrible conditions their grandparents endured (such as women’s suffrage), the laws in this country must be updated to reflect today’s society so the laws existing will protect citizens in ways reflecting present circumstances.
For instance, it wouldn’t be appropriate to have a law on the books regulating what women can wear on Sundays. They are outdated and need to be revised. The court’s ruling reflects this sign of progress. It is unconstitutional to depict certain states for voting violations when they no longer commit them and haven’t for decades, and the act still reflects that discrimination will not be tolerated. Nothing within the act was changed that will nullify the progress the Voting Rights Act of 1965 established, and we will continue to progress forward as a result.
Liptak, Adam. “Supreme Court Invalidates Key Part of Voting Rights Act.” New York Times. New York Times, 25 June 2013. Web. 12 July 2013.
Hurley, Lawrence. “Supreme Court Guts Key Part of Landmark Voting Rights Act.” Reuters.com. Reuters, 25 June 2013. Web. 12 July 2013.
Mears, Bill & Botelho, Greg. “’Outrageous’ or Overdue?: Court Strikes Down Part of Historic Voting Rights Law. CNN.com Cable News Network Politics, 26 June 2013.
2013. Web. 12 July 2013.
Cite This Post
This blog post is provided free of charge and we encourage you to use it for your research and writing. However, we do require that you cite it properly using the citation provided below (in MLA format).
Ultius, Inc. “Short Essay on Voting Rights.” Ultius Blog. Ultius | Custom Writing and Editing Services, 15 Jul. 2013. Web.
Thank you for practicing fair use.
This citation is in MLA format, if you need help with MLA format, click here to follow our citation style guide.