January 28, 2011

Let's Read the Constitution Day! - verse 22

Hatched by Dafydd

The last of the three Civil Rights amendments seems the most innocuous; who could object to removing racial prohibitions, restrictions, and inconveniences due to race? But it has engendered endless problems since 1965...

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The Civil Rights Amendments -- voting rights

Amendment 15 - Race No Bar to Vote. Ratified 2/3/1870.

1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.

2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

So what's the beef? It's not in the guts of the amendment itself; the danger lurks in the standard execution clause found in many other constitutional amendments: "The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation."

See what happened was a number of states and counties -- not just in the South! -- found frequent occasion to restrict, inhibit, infringe, and sometimes outright violate the voting rights of blacks and other racial minorities. In 1965, Congress overwhelmingly enacted the Voting Rights Act (VRA), ostensibly to rectify this situation. But as part of the Act, Congress included in section 5 a procedure called "preclearance" that has caused no end of grief.

All of the states and probably all of the counties originally covered by the VRA have long since abandoned their attempts to restrict or prevent non-whites from voting; in the last forty-five years, I don't recall any federal case where the courts held that a state or county covered by the VRA was still trying to discriminate.

But under the preclearance section of the Act, virtually any change in voting procedure or requirements, no matter how innocent and unrelated to race, must explicitly be approved by the United States Department of Justice. Complained Georgia Rep. Jack Kingston (quoted in the VRA Wikipedia entry), "If you move a polling place from the Baptist church to the Methodist church, you've got to go through the Justice Department."

While there is a procedure for previously covered venues "bailing out" from Section-5 scrutiny, it's cumbersome and embarassing, and it usually provokes a firestorm of protest from the party of the professionally aggrieved. In effect, political entities that have not racially discriminated against minority voting in decades are still paying for the sins of their grandparents and great-grandparents.

Racial discrimination is a dreadful wrong. But how many generations is the statute of limitations on that crime?

All verses in the Lizardian Constitutional Collection:

  1. Let's Read the Constitution Day! - verse 1 (Preamble)
  2. Let's Read the Constitution Day! - verse 2 (Congress; House, part I)
  3. Let's Read the Constitution Day! - verse 3 (House, part II)
  4. Let's Read the Constitution Day! - verse 4 (Senate, part I)
  5. Let's Read the Constitution Day! - verse 5 (Senate, part II)
  6. Let's Read the Constitution Day! - verse 6 (General congressional admin stuff)
  7. Let's Read the Constitution Day! - verse 7 (Legislative process and enumerated powers)
  8. Let's Read the Constitution Day! - verse 8 (Limitations)
  9. Let's Read the Constitution Day! - verse 9 (The prez -- who does he think he is?)
  10. Let's Read the Constitution Day! - verse 10 (What would a president do?)
  11. Let's Read the Constitution Day! - verse 11 (Judiciary)
  12. Let's Read the Constitution Day! - verse 12 (States, part I)
  13. Let's Read the Constitution Day! - verse 13 (States, part 2)
  14. Let's Read the Constitution Day! - verse 14 (Amendment; supreme law of the land)
  15. Let's Read the Constitution Day! - verse 15 (Ratification rules and signers)
  16. Let's Read the Constitution Day! - verse 16 (Amendments: Bill of Rights, Amendments 1-4)
  17. Let's Read the Constitution Day! - verse 17 (Bill of Rights -- Courtroom Amendments 5-8)
  18. Let's Read the Constitution Day! - verse 18 (Bill of Last Rights 9 and 10)
  19. Let's Read the Constitution Day! - verse 19 (Amendments: Suing other states, president vs. vice president)
  20. Let's Read the Constitution Day! - verse 20 (Amendments: Abolition of slavery)
  21. Let's Read the Constitution Day! - verse 21 (Amendments: States prohibited from infringing rights)
  22. Let's Read the Constitution Day! - verse 22 (Amendments: Racial voting rights)
  23. Let's Read the Constitution Day! - verse 23 (Amendments: Wilsonian-Progressivism I)
  24. Let's Read the Constitution Day! - verse 24 (Amendments: Wilsonian-Progressivism II)
  25. Let's Read the Constitution Day! - verse 25 (Amendments: Rooseveltian amendments)
  26. Let's Read the Constitution Day! - verse 26 (Amendments: Camelot amendments)
  27. Let's Read the Constitution Day! - verse 27 (Amendments: Panacea amendments)

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, January 28, 2011, at the time of 12:00 AM

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