The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

July 7, 2013

Court decision is the right direction

Associated Press

The Tuscaloosa News on how court moved forward with voting decision:

Much has changed in Alabama and other places where segregation was once the law of the land. Mississippi now has more black public officials than any other state — not just a higher percentage but more in number. The U.S. Supreme Court couldn’t ignore that.

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the net effect of which removed the requirement that officials in 15 states with histories of discrimination obtain federal pre-clearance for election changes. Its decision amounted to little more than recognition that things are different than they were a half-century ago.

Chief Justice John Roberts said the U.S. Department of Justice can’t continue to ignore the racial progress that has been made. He noted that the Justice Department was using 40-year-old data to justify continued federal oversight. Can anyone really argue that Alabama is the same as it was in 1973? Frankly, for political gain, some do. But even their most reliable constituencies grow weary of the worn and frayed race card that is played when the hour grows desperate.

Some who fought for equality and civil rights for black Americans fear the loss of protection that could come from weakening the Voting Rights Act. But at some point, this country must move forward. Part of moving forward is recognizing change and trusting that it is genuine.

“We have long lived up to what happened then and we have made sure that it’s not going to happen again,” Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley said.

Justice Department pre-clearance had many manifestations. ...

Black and white voters frequently see things differently with regard to entitlement programs, taxation and criminal justice. But not all disagreements are the result of race-based animosity.

Recognizing that is an important step in shifting the paradigm that governs racial progress. Moving forward means moving further away from the way things were. The restrictions created by the Voting Rights Act are part of the past. The Supreme Court’s decision moves us in the right direction.