Georgia wants out of Voting Rights Act “intrusion”

The state of Georgia wants three federal judges to declare parts of the 1965 Voting Rights Act unconstitutional, according to an article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Georgia filed suit earlier this month asking that the court approve Republican-backed plans to redraw the state’s legislative and congressional districts. But in that filing, the state asks that if the court rejects its redistricting plans, that it also rule the law that requires that approval to be unconstitutional.

Georgia is one of nine states that must get any change in election law, including district maps, pre-approved by either the Justice Department or the federal court in Washington. That preclearance is required by Section V of the Voting Rights Act, the landmark 1964 law passed in the wake of Jim Crow and voting laws aimed at limiting the ability of African-Americans to vote.

“The state of Georgia and its voters are being subjected to the continued extraordinary intrusion into its constitutional sovereignty through Section 5 and its outdated preclearance formula based upon discriminatory conditions that existed more than 47 years ago but have long since been remedied,” the state says in its filing. 

Attorney General Sam Olens said the state’s argument against the Voting Rights Act is simple: “we’re no longer in 1964, there’s no longer poll taxes, there’s no longer cases where less than 50 percent of the minority population is voting.” Of Georgia’s 5.7 million registered voters about one-third are minorities.

The article later notes that if the Justice Department approves its redrawn state Senate, House and Congressional maps, it would drop its lawsuit. Those maps bolster the Republicans’ power in the state legislatures and poises the GOP to pick up an additional two U.S. House seats, the article added. Of course, the Republicans argue the maps were created fairly and don’t violate the act, but the Democrats charge the plan targets the state’s white Democrats and “unfairly segregates black voters into groups of districts.”

So, Georgia is basically threatening the federal government with a lawsuit if it does not approve its redrawn maps? Because, you know, our state is just rolling in the dough and has ample money to spend on frivolous lawsuits pandering to faux small-government activists who want to implement methods similar to poll taxes that were the norm during Jim Crow.

Georgia is just one of a few states that not only don’t want to comply with the Voting Rights Act, but also are actively seeking ways to roll back voter protections and access to the polls. Arizona in August sued the federal government over the Act. Shelby County, Ala. recently had its challenge of the act thrown out by a federal judge and Florida has also challenged the law in court.

A post I wrote in April referenced a law that at the time was being considered by the Florida (ugh, Florida is a mess) legislature, which would mainly affect women and college students. The most recent news comes from Michigan, which is seeking to tighten voter registration requirements and create new rules for nonprofit organizations that work to register voters.

Republicans in charge of state legislatures like to hide behind their concerns for voter fraud when they create these red tape restrictions. But it’s clear these rules are designed to overwhelm and confused the portion of the population they are targeting: poor, young, minority, disabled and female voters, who tend to support the Democratic Party. Republicans are obsessed with keeping voters like the 96-year-old black woman in Tennessee who was denied to vote because she didn’t have the now required state-issued voter ID (you can read about her encounter with bureaucracy here).

Republicans in the last 10 years have slowly worked to scale back voting rights and access that many have lost their lives and fought with blood, sweat and tears over. In a country that suffers from considerably low voter turnout, Republicans have proven to be the party that could care less if citizens are fully vested in their civic duty if that means impeding on their ability to win elections.

The mere fact that Georgia Republicans, given the state’s history with the Civil Rights Movement, would recklessly attempt to strip away the voting rights of its citizens is a slap in the face to the men and women who died for the right to cast their ballots.

To Georgia Republicans and other GOP politicians across the country, voting rights are only deemed worthy of protection only if those ballots cast will translate into victory for their party.