by Bryan Davis, Editor The Daily Times Leader, special to News Mississippi
It has been nearly five decades since Mississippi and eight other states within the United States have made changes to their voting laws without the approval of the Federal Department of Justice.
On Tuesday, the highest court in the United States voted 5-4 to strike down the “pre-clearance” component of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
In predictable fashion, the left began panicking. The right hailed the decision and began the process of implementing new voting laws that were previously chided or shot down by the Department of Justice, particularly Attorney General Eric Holder.
Mississippi Congressman Bennie Thompson stated “the Supreme Court has rendered the American people vulnerable to discrimination.”
Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann wasted no time declaring that Mississippi will be a Voter ID state in 2014.
State Democratic Party Chairman Ricky Cole had this to say: “We didn’t have to wait long before Mississippi Republicans began trying to push the discriminatory advantage given them by the five Republican appointees on the Supreme Court. Before the end of the day, Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann proclaimed that Voter I.D. implementation would start today.”
I believe that Mr. Hosemann should have set a reasonable amount of wait time for himself before discussing Voter ID. It’s a sensitive subject with many, and as long as he’s waited on this court decision, for tactful purposes he could have waited 30 days.
I also believe that reaction on the left is unwarranted.
Blinded by their own agenda, many who criticized the court’s decision yesterday fail to realize that the Supreme Court is the best and most democratic venue for voting laws. Not the Department of Justice.
I don’t think that the Supreme Court was attempting to make a statement on states’ rights. Rather, the courts simply put voting laws back into their rightful place, within the democratic process.
Most other laws are passed by state legislatures, signed or vetoed by the Executive and live or die within the courts. If need be, some laws make it all the way to the Supreme Court.
When it comes to voting laws in Mississippi, however, changes within the last five decades have all gone from the Executive’s pen and directly to the DOJ for approval.
The preferred method of dealing with any law is to go through the
Constitutional process. That typically does not involve unelected and politically motivated officials deciding what is law and what is not law.
It was necessary in 1965 to include pre-clearance within the Voting Rights law. The system in many states was still far too corrupt to oversee its own voting laws.
Yesterday, Holder called the legal decision a “step backward.”
It may very well turn out to be a step backward, but that statement today is far too premature.
I am not going to debate whether each individual’s heart in this state has changed since 1965. That’s impossible to do.
What I can say is that we have an entirely different system in Mississippi than the one that was in place pre-1965.
The system is not perfect, and it has its numerous flaws, but it is a system that does not promote disenfranchisement on a mass scale.
There will always be incidents of corrupt individuals and intimidation, but we have a measure of faith in the courts to keep that in check.
Everyone is focusing on Voter ID, but this is not the Alpha and the Omega of voting law changes. There will be others.
What will happen is that states will make changes at the legislative level. Governors will sign or not sign the laws. If signed, the courts will decide whether the laws are legal.
That is the democratic process that has stood the test of time in America.
If Mississippi and other states repeatedly pass “bad” laws, and the courts develop a pattern of rendering those laws legal, then we will know the court’s decision was a step backward, and the Federal government will and should step back in to oversee voting laws at the state level.
Within the last year, the Department of Justice has been caught monitoring the phone records of the Associated Press and emails from other journalists, drawing criticism from the left and the right.
The DOJ has been caught participating in a botched gun running operation in the Southwest.
The IRS, another unelected body, has been caught targeting, not just conservative groups but also liberal and progressive 501c3 organizations as well.
Within the last year, the Supreme Court has upheld Barack Obama’s Affordable Healthcare Act and on Wednesday made a ruling that will pave the way for same-sex unions in California.
If I were a person of the left, I know who I would trust interpreting the law.
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