It's time to do away with pre-approval piece of Voting Rights Act

by The Oklahoman Editorial Board Published: September 10, 2012

A federal court has struck down the Texas voter ID law under a provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which requires U.S. Department of Justice or court approval for election-law changes in certain states. The theory is that those states, which once institutionally discriminated against minorities, deserve more scrutiny than others.

Racism has never respected state lines. The 1965 riots in Watts, the 1967 riots in Newark, N.J., and the 1992 Rodney King riots in Los Angeles are among the worst race riots in U.S. history. Cincinnati experienced a race riot as recently as 2001. Yet the federal government doesn't require California or Ohio to get pre-approval for election-law changes.

Oklahoma's notorious 1921 racial violence didn't happen in the Confederate-influenced Little Dixie area of southeastern Oklahoma. It occurred in Tulsa, a city with cultural ties to the North.

The Ku Klux Klan's greatest state presence was likely in 1920s Indiana. According to University of Florida history professor David Chalmers, the Klan was active in every state during that era “and was particularly politically powerful in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kansas, Colorado and Oregon, as well as the South.” He writes that the Klan helped elect at least 20 governors and U.S. senators from Maine to California. So even past support for the noxious Klan doesn't automatically warrant federal pre-approval of state election laws.

Using 2010 Census data, professors at Brown and Florida State University ranked the nation's most racially segregated cities. The worst offenders included locations in California, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Ohio, Illinois and Wisconsin. Those are hardly Confederate outposts.

Today, no one legally forces citizens to racially segregate. This is equally true in southern and northern communities. So why does the federal government act as though one area poses a greater threat of racial discrimination than the other?

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