Upholding Section 5 of the Voting Rights Actby Representative Marc A. Veasey
Posted on 2013-02-14
VEASEY. As oral arguments are being prepared for the February 27
U.S. Supreme Court hearing in the case of Shelby County v. Holder,
which challenges the constitutionality of section 5 of the Voting
Rights Act, I stand here today in strong support of upholding section 5
as evidence of its current critical necessity. In my home State of
Texas, the need for section 5 of the Voting Rights Act is playing out
in a very dramatic fashion.
I'm a plaintiff in the ongoing litigation involving the 2011 Texas redistricting case, Quesada v. The State of Texas. I can personally attest and flatly state that overt and deliberate racial discrimination is still used by leaders in Texas today. I wish that statement were untrue or out of date. It would be wonderful to say that we have progressed past the need for protection under section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Sadly, this is not the case. Section 5 protects minorities from racial discriminatory voter ID laws, voter suppression tactics, and discriminatory redistricting plans. These protections are needed now as much as ever.
In 2011, just 2 years ago, a map was drawn by the Texas Legislature that didn't merely affect the politics of our State. Overt racial discriminatory tactics were used to isolate and suppress hundreds of thousands of minorities for the purpose of political gain by current partisan leaders of my State. Latino and African American citizens in the State of Texas suffered the most aggressive and deliberate discriminatory blows to our constitutional rights to fairly participate in elections.
Cold and heartless tactics were used that should be simply relics of the past--relics like ``packing'' millions of minority voters together into as few districts as people to dilute the impact of their vote by ``cracking'' the remaining voters to ensure that their vote has no impact at all. Minorities were packed precinct by precinct and block by block in order to contain the impact of their growing population. And yet here we are today, fighting to uphold section 5.
The right to vote and the right for one's voice to be heard through elected representation is a legally enacted and constitutional right that many have bled and died for. Yet we are still fighting for this very right. Some say its time to move on. But, my dear friends, we must never move on while these rights are not just at risk but under attack. And when I detail the discrimination contained within the redistricting process, no one should think I'm acting as a partisan Democrat. The three-judge panel in Federal court that heard the evidence, questioned the witnesses, and delivered the opinion of the Texas redistricting case consisted of two judges appointed by Republican Presidents and one judge appointed by a Democratic President. Their finding of intentional discrimination was unanimous. They could not have made their views any clearer, stating: The parties have provided more evidence of discriminatory intent than we have space or need to address here.
This was not a case heard 30 years ago, or even 10 or 5 years ago. The decision was released just last August, barely 6 months ago.
Lastly, those who tell you that there is no recourse for States that no longer discriminate are, at best, dangerously mistaken. The Voting Rights Act contains provisions for States that have over the years exhibited that they are no longer in need of pre-clearance. States can submit evidence to the Department of Justice or the D.C. District Court that they are no longer using racial discriminatory redistricting tactics and apply for a way out of section 5. As a matter of fact, since 2009, more States than ever before in the history of the Voting Rights Act have been granted the right out.
So why are we challenging the constitutionality of a law that is protecting its citizens from racial discrimination when there is, in fact, recourse? I will tell you the sad truth is because, unfortunately, in States like Texas, where the minority population is growing very rapidly and their voting strength is increasing, rather than work to earn the vote of minority citizens, State leaders would rather suppress voters through racially discriminatory tactics.
My friends, our country is better than this. We are better than this. That's why we are here today in support of upholding section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.