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Voting Rights Under Fire member of the five-person Calera City Council, winning in a district that was almost 71 percent black. Two years later, the city redrew its district lines, leaving Montgomery in a district that was only 23 percent black (even though the city’s total percentage of black voters had increased at the time). He narrowly lost re-election in 2008 to a white newcomer who’d only lived in Calera three years. But the Justice Department invalidated the election under Section 5, because the city had failed to get approval in advance. The city ultimately adopted citywide elections, and Montgomery was elected with more votes than any

President Lyndon B. Johnson introduced the Voting Rights Act in 1965. It has been renewed and extended by Congress four times including a 25-year extension signed by President George W. Bush in 2006. File photo.

other candidate. The candidate who beat him in 2008 came in next-to-last. This is a classic example of why Section 5 exists: blacks gain more of a voice, so the white power structure changes the rules to take that voice away. The details of how this is done

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can take a seemingly endless variety of forms, but the end result is persistent racial polarization, with blacks and other minorities on the short end of the stick. That’s why election changes need to be checked out in advance. If Shelby County may be the wrong party, as Sotomayor pointed out, the law firm representing them—Wiley Rein— is questionable as well. Last year, it represented both Florida and Ohio in federal court, unsuccessfully defending their attempts to restrict early voting. And behind both the firm and the client is the man who recruited both of them, Ed Blum, director of the Project on Fair Representation, a conservative outfit devoted to fighting minority rights protections in public policy. In 1992, Blum lost a congressional race to Houston congressional race to Craig Washington, one of the first black legislators in Texas. Blum was outraged that blacks should have any district at all which gave them a chance to elect one of their own, and thus began his decades-long crusade against the voting rights act in particular, and minority-protection laws in general, which has been backed by $1.2 million from anonymous conservative donors since 2006, according to reporting by Ari Berman in the Nation magazine. It was Blum who convinced Shelby County to challenge the Voting Rights Act after Calera was forced to undo its dirty work from 2006. Kevin Myles, southeast regional director for the NAACP, told Berman that the lawsuit was like “a fox filing a lawsuit saying the chicken coop is too secure.” It seems the foxes want their country back.

RLn 03-07-13 Edition  

Wronging Rights: U.S. Supreme Court Conservatives Take Aim at The Civil Rights Voting Act

RLn 03-07-13 Edition  

Wronging Rights: U.S. Supreme Court Conservatives Take Aim at The Civil Rights Voting Act

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