Attorney General Eric Holder announced on July 25th, 2013 that the Justice Department is now requesting that federal courts require the state of Texas to ask permission prior to changing any of its voting laws. This stunning grab for power comes just one month after the Supreme Court struck down key provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, provisions which allowed the Justice Department to have “special scrutiny” over voting laws in states where there is a history of racial discrimination.
As the Justice Department waits for Congress to reformulate the Voting Rights Act (something that will likely not happen for many years), Holder is working hard to determine how he can use the remaining portions of the law still in place. One such way involves the Justice Department requiring pre-approval of changes to voting laws when recent discrimination can be proven. According to Holder, Texas has recently attempted to put discriminatory changes to voting laws in place by redistricting in such a way that the effect of racial minorities is limited on election day.
In reality though, nothing Texas has done or is trying to do is any worse than the same kind of redistricting that goes on in every single state in the nation. In Illinois, for instance, where I live now, you will notice that voting districts in Chicago often extend far out into the suburbs, sometimes by great distances, where many conservative middle and upper class people live. This is, of course, an attempt by Democrats in Illinois to maximize their urban support by extending it into surrounding towns and cities.
What does a person living in a wealthy suburb know about a voter living in the heart of urban poverty in Chicago’s South Side? Nothing, of course. Those two groups of people should not be sharing a voting district because geographically they are not close to each other, they don’t share the same problems or concerns, and it is very difficult for a representative to be elected who can adequately represent both groups properly in Washington.
The only reason the voting districts are drawn this way is to help the party in power stay in power. This isn’t a Democrat problem; this happens in many parts of the country. However, Texas is not being any more or less discriminatory for redrawing its voting districts than Illinois is for drawing them the way it does. So why is Texas being picked on and not Illinois or another state? The answer is obvious: Texas is a conservative Republican stronghold and Illinois belongs to the Democrats. From Eric Holder’s perspective, Texas is the problem and Illinois is the solution.
Putting the obvious double-standard aside for a moment, the real danger of this decision by Eric Holder is that it is a massive overreach by the federal government into the sovereignty of the individual state, in this case Texas. States have the right, given to them by the Constitution, to determine their own laws (or at least they did). And one of the most fundamental laws a state can pass is how they operate elections.
Now, let me be clear, no one is suggesting that states should have the power to abuse this right and prevent citizens of one race, skin color, sexual identity, gender, etc. from voting. Every individual citizen of a certain age has the right to vote and no state has the right to take that away.
However, voting districts are an entirely different manner. The reality is that the people of Texas vote for state legislatures who will put voting districts in place that match their desires. If the people of Texas think it is unfair, let them vote in others who will change the districts again. If the courts in Texas think it violates the law, let the state courts in Texas make that decision. Any way you slice it, the federal government has no power or authority in the matter at all, especially after the recent decision by the Supreme Court gutted much of the Voting Rights Act.
Until states are allowed to operate largely unhindered by the federal government, the animosity between liberals and conservatives will only continue to grow. The entire purpose of a country with states is so that communities have the autonomy to live the way they want to live with the laws they want to have.
The federal government would like to see every state exactly the same, but this is not what makes for good government. In fact, having bureaucrats make decisions for people from thousands of miles away in communities that have nothing in common with the community they are making decisions for is precisely what led to the American Revolution in the first place. It’s time that the federal government let states be states.
And, oh yeah…follow the 10th Amendment as well!
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