Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act
March 21, 2013
Regarding the letter to the editor on March 13 written by Karen Schwartz, president of the League of Women Voters of Western Nevada County, I would like to ask her to look at the facts. You can get these facts if you check Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. You can see the full text at http://justice.gov/crt/about/vot/sec_5/about.php.
Fact 1 — Section 5 freezes election practices or procedures in certain states until the new procedures have been subjected to review, either after an administrative review by the United States attorney general, or after a lawsuit before the United States district court for the District of Columbia. This means that voting changes in covered jurisdictions may not be used until that review has been obtained.
Fact 2 — The requirement was enacted in 1965 as temporary legislation to expire in five years and applicable only to certain states. The specially covered jurisdictions were identified in Section 4 by a formula. The first element in the formula was that the state or political subdivision of the state maintained Nov. 1, 1964, a “test or device,” restricting the opportunity to register and vote. The second element of the formula would be satisfied if the director of the Census determined that less than 50 percent of persons of voting age were registered to vote Nov. 1, 1964, or that less than 50 percent of persons of voting age voted in the presidential election of November 1964. Application of this formula resulted in the following states becoming, in their entirety, “covered jurisdictions”: Alabama, Alaska, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Virginia. In addition, certain political subdivisions (usually counties) in four other states (Arizona, Hawaii, Idaho and North Carolina were covered. It also provided a procedure to terminate this coverage.
Fact 3 — In 2006, Congress extended the requirements of Section 5 for an additional 25 years.
My question is: Under God, are we not all created equal? Isn’t it time we were all treated equally under the law?
Fact 4 — 30 states have now enacted in some form voter identifications, which are needed to combat voter fraud. They are measures intended to ensure that a registered voter is who he says he is and not an impersonator trying to cast a ballot in someone else’s name. The laws, most of which have been passed in the last several years, require that registered voters show ID before they’re allowed to vote. Exactly what they need to show varies. Some states require a government-issued photo, while in others a current utility bill or bank statement is sufficient.
My question is: Under God, are we not all created equal? Isn’t it time we were all treated equally under the law? I am Jewish, I am Caucasian, I am a female, and I am over 65. I could say that I have been discriminated against because of any one of these factors, but I have never even thought to use anything other than my ability to get ahead. I have made my own way, made my own luck and have worked hard to achieve my goals. I have never used my race, religion, gender or my age to get a job, a promotion or expected to receive special treatment because of who or what I am. Lastly, I would like to say that having picture identification is mandatory when you are at any of the following locations. The list is long but not necessarily complete. Why shouldn’t it include the voting booth?
Grocery stores, restaurants, retail outlets, liquor stores, bars (if you are using credit card), mail pick up from FedEx, UPS or any others, banks (if you want to withdraw money or check balance), airport check-in and airport security, any corporate offices (if you are visiting anyone, for visitor ID), renting anything for outdoor jet skis, boats, canoe, etc., car rentals (you need driver’s license for sure), any theme parks, any outdoor activity like sky diving, bungee jumping, etc., Democratic and Republican conventions, DMV, law enforcement encounters and doctor’s visits.
I’m sure you get the idea of how important it is to have an ID in the U.S. The first thing most people ask is “can I have a look at your picture ID?” You better have one when someone asks for it. If you don’t have one, most of the time, you are out of luck. Why should it be any different when you enter a voting booth? This is not a matter of discrimination against race, color, religion or age; it is just an easy way of identifying you as the person you say you are.
Elaine Meckler lives in Grass Valley.