Voting Rights Act decision draws sharp split in Cobb
by Megan Thornton
June 26, 2013 12:31 AM | 2156 views | 10 10 comments | 32 32 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Georgia has made strides toward equality in the past half-century, but whether it has reached a point where federal intervention is still needed to protect minority voters has left Cobb County Republicans and Democrats sharply divided.

In a 5-4 ruling Tuesday, the Supreme Court struck down a portion of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The ruling deemed unconstitutional the formula to determine which states and local governments required federal clearance for changes — even down to the location of a polling precinct.

Republicans throughout Georgia commended the Supreme Court’s decision, which many said had put an extra burden on the state to prove any changes a local election board made would not create obstacles for minority voters. But Democrats argue racism is far from eradicated in Georgia and the change in law would remove safeguards that ensure minorities’ right to vote.

U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson said he was in agreement with the ruling, and that the Voting Rights Act has already served its purpose: to remedy the disenfranchisement of minorities at the ballot box.

“The South does not have the characteristics it did 60-something years ago,” Isakson said.

He also supported the directive given by the courts for Congress to establish a new formula to determine which states and local governments should be subject to federal scrutiny and pre-approval of changes by the Department of Justice. The majority opinion of the court argued the previous formula was based on “decades-old data” and didn’t reflect present-day realities.

“That’s something I think we should do,” Isakson said. “The Voting Rights Act is an important thing for every American citizen and it’s something we should not go without. With us rewriting and making it contemporary for 2013 and beyond, I think that’s the appropriate thing to do.”

Following a luncheon by the West Cobb Business Association, Gov. Nathan Deal said Tuesday he was in favor of the court’s decision to simplify a “cumbersome” process that he believed placed a stigma on the state of Georgia.

He said he doesn’t think the action will open Georgia citizens up to discrimination, as the act was always meant to be “temporary in nature” and it still guarantees protections of voters.

Attorney General Sam Olens, who lives in east Cobb, released a statement Tuesday recognizing the discrimination prevented by the Voting Rights Act when it was passed in the 1960s, but countered that “things have changed dramatically” almost 50 years later.

“The Voting Rights Act will continue to protect the rights of all voters in all states, but will no longer treat some states differently based on outdated formulas that, thankfully, no longer reflect current practices,” Olens said. “Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act makes clear that racial discrimination in voting is illegal nationwide, and remains a strong and effective tool to counter discrimination.”

Olens would not speak in more detail as to how the decision will affect Georgia or if his office, which legally represents the state, would enhance its level of oversight in local elections following the change.

Secretary of State Brian Kemp, Georgia’s chief elections official, also reinforced the message Tuesday, saying in a news release it is his “sacred duty” to ensure racial discrimination has no part in the democratic process.

Inger Eberhardt, executive assistant to Joanne Birrell and on the board of advisers of immigration reformer D.A. King’s Dustin Inman Society, said she was in support of the decision and believes society doesn’t have the same problems today it faced 60 years ago.

“I think it’s a good decision,” Eberhardt said. “There’s nothing that stops people from voting now. From a voter’s point of view, I don’t see any issues with it.”

Democrats respond

“It’s a travesty,” said Cobb Democratic Party chair Melissa Pike of the ruling.

Pike said headlines as recently as this week highlighting celebrity chef and Georgia native Paula Deen’s use of the “n-word” show that modern society hasn’t moved beyond racism and voting rights still need to be protected.

“Clearly, (the Supreme Court justices) are living in a different world and all I can do is pray for them,” Pike said. “I pray for them and hope they don’t ever have to face the kind of discriminations that made the Voting Rights Act necessary.”

Pike said she hopes the decision mobilizes a new generation of activists to join the Democratic cause to advocate for disenfranchised voters.

Deane Bonner, president of Cobb’s chapter of NAACP, also took issue with Tuesday’s ruling, saying it basically finds that racism is non-existant in today’s society.

“It says that there are no more barriers put before us,” Bonner said. “We know differently.”

Bonner cited what she called “excessive” identification requirements and a local reduction in the number of early voting days as obstacles that make it more difficult for minorities to vote.

“But what is encouraging to us is in 2012, we were not expected to go to the polls in 2012,” said Bonner, referencing the re-election of President Barack Obama. “We know that we will continue to have to fight to keep the right to vote.”

Bonner said she has “little faith” Congress will be able to come up with a new formula to determine which states and local jurisdictions still need federal oversight, but hopes to work with national NAACP leaders to make sure Congress moves forward in that arena.

“We will be very strategic and very clear as to protecting rights,” Bonner said. “I don’t know the game plan yet, but I’m certainly going to join in on advocating.”

 

Comments
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Lib in Cobb
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June 26, 2013
There are states some in the south who can't be trusted involving voters rights. If a state wishes to have voter ID, then that state must adequately provide for its citizens to obtain that ID easily. The state also must provide enough time for the citizens to obtain that ID, enough time would not be 3 months before an election.

Some people and states claim that the south has changed over the last 50 years, involving minority voting. That is a possibility, the immediate movement after The Supreme Court ruling in states like TX proves a point that says, "maybe not".
anonymous
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June 27, 2013
3 months is not enough? Wha? How much time is needed in your opinion? The Supreme Court ruling says it has had enough of pandering. I guarantee you and I know for a fact that 1 month is more than ample time to show enough identification to get into the food stamp and Section 8 programs. Why is the stretched out 3 months not adequate to obtain valid ID to vote, yet it is three times more than is needed to receive public assistance? Lib, you need to choose your battles more selectively. Your posts show you absolutely deplore anything that is mainstream America and stand up for any cause that you deem is contrary to mainstream America, even though you make ridiculous comments to support your cause. 3 months is not enough time to show adequate identification in order to register to vote? Please propose your timeline in order to do so without prejudice, and let us all consider your rebutted timeline and the reasons for it.
about time
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June 26, 2013
Its about time something was done, we have been discriminated against for long enough!
anonymous
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June 26, 2013
If you are white, I totally agree with you.
Pike out of touch
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June 26, 2013
Melissa Pike is out of touch, as most politicians clearly don't live in the real world. Blacks throw the "N" word around like it is nothing these days. Go to any high school, maybe not where you send your children to private school, and you can hear that word all day long. There are no "laws" that will prevent racism. Maybe if we stopped affirmative action and made all rules equal for ALL. Stop allowing colleges and employers to base criteria on skin color instead of actually performance and GPA's, that would stop racism. Asking for ID to vote isn't racist, it is protecting the voting system. We ask ID to purchase alcohol, drive a car, get on an airplane, so why not ask it to protect voting? There is racism because blacks breed it themselves. Life is what it is and you have to move on!
"BLACKS"
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July 06, 2013
I'm sure you're referring to a family with the surname of "Black," right? Or were you just reinforcing the exact reason why the Voting Rights Act is *still* necessary?
Lib in Cobb
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June 26, 2013
Within a reasonable amount of time, GA will be a blue state. Continue to take the rights away from the citizens, those citizens will rise up and vote the GOP out of office.
tired of it
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June 26, 2013
Pike says"Bonner cited what she called “excessive” identification requirements and a local reduction in the number of early voting days as obstacles that make it more difficult for minorities to vote."

IDENTIFICATION MAKES IT HARDER TO COMMIT FRAUD, RACISM WILL NEVER GO AWAY AND IT IS IN EVERY COLOR, WHITE, BLACK WHATEVER. and frankly I think Martin luther King would be proud this country has come along way and would be farther if it wasnt for the likes of sharpton, jesse jackson who only tries to keep blacks down instead of raising them up and letting them know they can do whatever it is they want and quit relying on the government to supply them.

ReadingIsFundamental
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July 06, 2013
"pike" *didn't say anything about Bonner. Pay attention.
anonymous
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June 26, 2013
I agree with the Supreme Court. The only barriers "people of color" have today is the barriers they put on themselves. This is a huge step in the right direction to force (FORCE) people of color to not only be treated as equals, but to encourage them to think of themselves as equals. As long as barriers exist making them "different," they will perceive themselves as different. None of us are different by skin color. All of us are different by self-motivation, self-esteen, self-pride, and self-accomplishment. And stop with the hog wash about voting rights being taken away.
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