A federal law says states and localities with a history of discrimination cannot change any voting procedures without first getting approval from the Justice Department or a federal court in Washington. Yet Texas is asking the Supreme Court to allow the use of new, unapproved electoral districts in this year's voting for Congress and the state Legislature.The Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965 and to hear the racial grievance crowd whine you'd think that not a single advance in race relations has been made since then. That's simply not true. The racism that inspired the passing of this Act is long gone, but the Act still lives and in addition to the redistricting laws, has given us such congressional luminaries as Maxine Waters and Sheila Jackson Lee who keep getting reelected thanks to their guaranteed minority districts.
The outcome of the high court case, to be argued Monday afternoon, could be another blow to a key provision of the Voting Rights Act. In 2009, the justices raised doubts about whether Southern states still should need approval in advance of voting changes more than 40 years after the law was enacted.
The case also might help determine the balance of power in the House of Representatives in 2013, with Republicans in a stronger position if the court allows Texas to use electoral districts drawn by the GOP-dominated Legislature.
The complicated legal fight over Texas' political maps arises from the state's population gain of more than 4 million people, most of them Latino or African-American, in the 2010 census, and involves federal district courts in Texas and Washington, as well as the Supreme Court. It has come to a head now because Texas needs to be able to use some maps to hold elections this year.
The state has so far failed to persuade three judges in Washington, including two appointees of Republican President George W. Bush, to sign off on new political maps adopted by the Legislature. The justices jumped into the case at Texas' request after judges in San Antonio who are hearing a lawsuit filed by minority groups drew their own political lines for use in the 2012 elections.
Texas Republicans were in complete control of the redistricting process that is required following the once-a-decade census. They faced the happy prospect of adding four new congressional seats by virtue of Texas' huge population gain since the last census in 2000. Texas will have 36 seats in the 435-member U.S. House next year.
This Texas case is representative of the entire problem with keeping this Act alive. It's as though when Texas was a 10-year old we told it it couldn't have ice cream for dessert because it had been bad. But now Texas is 50 and we're still telling it it can't have ice cream because of what it did when it was 10. We need to stop treating Texas and other Southern states like children.
The voting law restrictions, along with the many other restrictions of the Act, have long ago been rendered irrelevant by our modern colorblind society and need to go. We've actually achieved Martin Luther King's ideal, but the racial grievance crowd will never let it go as long as they can use these bad laws to create personal and political power.