Thursday, April 30, 2009

Keeping the Polls Open - Why a key part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act should survive.

The Washington Post - Wednesday, April 29, 2009
WITH AN African American president, does the nation still need its decades-old voting rights laws?

This is one of the questions likely to animate oral arguments this morning in a Supreme Court case that could determine how far the federal government may go in policing states with histories of racial discrimination.

At issue is Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which mandates that 16 states, mostly Southern, obtain approval from the Justice Department or a federal judge before changing voting procedures; Section 5 also applies to individual jurisdictions within those states. The section was enacted after federal lawmakers became frustrated by some states' regular attempts to evade laws meant to correct voting discrimination. Congress set a five-year term for the law but has extended it three times, most recently in 2006, when overwhelming bipartisan majorities in the House and Senate approved a 25-year extension, signed by President George W. Bush.

Critics argue that Section 5 gives unprecedented and unconstitutional power to the federal government over election matters that should be the province of the states. They also argue that Section 5 is no longer needed, citing not only President Obama's election but the thousands of African Americans who serve in public office at all levels.

Section 5 is indeed a powerful and intrusive tool, and progress has been made on minority participation. Yet Section 5 is, sadly, still relevant and necessary today.

Republicans, including former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole and former attorney general Richard L. Thornburgh, filed a brief that makes a compelling case for upholding Section 5. It notes that between 1982 and 2006, often under Republican presidents, the Justice Department rejected 700 requests for voting changes from covered states after concluding that they were discriminatory. The officials also point to extensive findings by the House and Senate in 2006 that showed that "voting changes devised by covered jurisdictions resemble those techniques and methods" used decades ago, including discriminatory redistricting plans, switching offices from elected to appointed positions, relocating polling places and changing elections from single-member districts to at-large voting.

No state should be punished forever for the sins of the past, and Section 5 rightly allows covered states or their political subdivisions to get out from under pre-clearance requirements by proving to the Justice Department or the D.C. federal court their faithful adherence to the voting rights laws for the previous decade. Seventeen jurisdictions in Virginia have earned such a "bailout" within the past few years.

Yet the political leaders in this country decided a mere three years ago that this peculiar and powerful federal oversight must be retained to protect what some have called the right from which all others flow. That political judgment, supported by empirical evidence of lingering discrimination, deserves great deference.
Read more in the Washington Post

Monday, April 27, 2009

Glimmers through the darkness

By Faith Chatham - DFWRCC - April 27, 2009
I find watching Austin antics and regional "planners" this legislative session is a continuing saga of self-serving depression of previous disastrous Texas legislative sessions. I wonder if we could improve government by forbidding elected officials from crossing into the city of Austin. Through the dark haze of this disenchanted political junkie, two glimmers of hope elate me. One is a tidbit from the Austin Statesman picked up by Capitol Annex The word on the street is that someone I'd actually love to see as Governor of Texas, a person of proven integrity, is actually considering running in 2010. Wow! Ronnie Earle is the nemesis of George and his college roomie and their cronyies' self-serving politics and practices.

Most Texans deserve a government diametrical different from the privatization, self-serving graft of the Bush/Perry years. Perry posed as the "more professional" harder working partner to George. Seeing that the citizens of Texas are increasingly disenchanted with his consentious dedication to preserving the fortunes of a few at the expense of "the many", Governor 38% Perry has changed his tactics. Seeing that George W. got elected despite being "Bubba", he's dressing similarly to George W. on the aircraft carrier declaring the war over ten minutes after he started it. Seeing that folks "smell" him despite his expensive suits, Perry chucked them and is now making the talk show PR circuit attempting to be "more Bubba than Bubba."

Gosh, what a change it would be to actually have a solid, decent, intelligent, consistent servant of the people actually serving the People of Texas in the Governor's office. Hearing that Ronnie Earle is seriously considering it lifts my spirits.

Another ray that sliced through my gloom is the introduction of two transportation bills in the U.S. Senate last week. They were announced on my birthday and I'll consider passage of “Transportation Access for All Americans Act,” (S. 885) and the “Transportation Equity for All Americans Act” (S. 884) as the brightest birthday gift I could receive this year. They are in the Senate Transportation Committee right now. U.S. Senators Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) are the authors!

The legislation will eliminate expensive federal subsidies that now flow to privatized highways. When a state or city leases a highway, it receives significant compensation, but taxpayers always end up paying higher tolls to the private operator.
--ATA Truck Drivers News

Read more in DFW Regional Concerned Citizens

Hey, two decent Federal transportation bills and Ronnie Earle as potentially governor of Texas makes it an incredibly brighter week for this disillusioned political junkie.

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