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Don’t expect GOP to back Congressional boost to Voting Rights Act

Earl Ofari Hutchinson | 7/3/2013, 7:41 a.m.

The instant the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act by knocking out the key provision requiring Justice Department pre-clearance before a locale can alter or institute new voting procedures, the call went up for Congress to restore some version of this requirement.

President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder quickly added their voices to that call. The chances of that happening are nil if the GOP has its way.

The Supreme Court ruling was a dream come true for the GOP. It accomplished in one fell swoop what GOP leaders for the past three decades have loudly hinted they wanted done — water down the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act to the point of irrelevancy.

It floated several trial balloons in Congress in 1981 and again in 2006. The act came up for renewal both times. But Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush ignored the calls from GOP hardliners and even some of their advisers, who wanted them to delay signing the renewal authorization.

The argument was that the act continues to punish the South for its past history of blatant voting discrimination. But that past, the GOP claims, is just that — the past — and the proof is the thousands of black and Hispanic state and local elected officials from the South and Southwest and the millions of black and Hispanic voters that are on the rolls in those states.

The Supreme Court obviously bought this argument. The court majority deliberately ignored two glaring facts. One is the well-documented present day sneaky ways that local registrars devise ploys to limit or eliminate minority voters. The other is the wave of voter suppression laws that GOP governors and GOP-controlled state legislatures have plopped on the books during the past few years to shoo black and Hispanic voters from the polls.

Even though black and Hispanic voters did vote in big numbers in the 2012 election, in many districts they still had to stand in endless lines, have their IDs thoroughly scrutinized, had no bilingual ballots, found voting hours shortened, and had to file legal challenges in state and federal courts to get injunctions to stop the more onerous of the voter suppression laws from being enforced.

The GOP vote suppression ruses for the most part fell flat on their face in 2012 when black and Hispanic voters ducked around the fresh barriers put up and jammed the polls in near record numbers. They provided the numbers that insured President Obama’s reelection by a comfortable margin.

Though the GOP managed to maintain its grip on the five Deep South states, and other Old Confederacy states in the 2012 presidential election — almost exclusively with the majority votes of white conservatives — the increased number of black and Hispanics in the states poses a mortal threat to continued GOP dominance in those states. That is if there are no barriers propped up to their registering and voting.

This is exactly why the GOP banked heavily on the Supreme Court dumping the crucial provision in the Voting Rights Act that insured a fair voting process. GOP leaders also knew that once the conservative court majority ruled in is favor that some Democrats in Congress would almost certainly move to make-over the law.