Texas has moved quickly in the wake of the recent Supreme Court ruling striking down a portion of the Voting Rights Act. The court found unconstitutional the formula for setting which states must get approval from the Justice Department before implementing changes in election laws. Texas wants to apply a strict photo identification requirement that was rejected earlier.
What concerned federal officials is that the requirement would affect disproportionately black and Latino voters. Mississippi and Alabama also are looking to enforce voter identification laws that failed to gain federal approval. North Carolina had been waiting for the court to rule. Now it likely will follow the same course.
All of this highlights the need for Congress to act, rewriting the landmark civil-rights measure to meet the concerns of the court and continue to fulfill the essential mission of the law. Unfortunately, the notion of action by this divided Congress seems more wishful thinking.
Consider, then, that many lawsuits will follow, individuals challenging in court discriminatory election laws. One of the most effective aspects of the Voting Rights Act has been the give-and-take between affected states and federal officials, lawsuits avoided while ensuring compliance.
No question, the country has rid itself of the blatant discrimination in literacy tests and poll taxes. Today, the harm comes in “second generation barriers,” such as the ID measures, redistricting schemes and changes to at-large voting. In 2006, huge majorities of Congress looked at the record and sought to prevent such foul play or backsliding. Now officials in Texas and elsewhere have reinforced the need for restoring the law.