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Thu Jun 27, 2013, 01:43 AM

Eric Foner: VRA Decision "Green Light" to Disenfranchise Voters

Eric Foner, a leading historian of Reconstruction, speaks out against the SCOTUS ruling on the Voting Rights Act.

"The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, has struck down the critical Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, the landmark 1965 legislation that banned discriminatory practices in federal, state, and local election laws. . . .

Eric Foner, DeWitt Clinton Professor of History at Columbia University and author of the landmark Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution, wrote in an email that the decision is “a green light to states with a long history of slavery and racism to use more modern methods (voter ID laws, changes in districting, limits on poll opening hours) to disenfranchise voters.”

“The cynicism underlying the decision … astounds me,” wrote Clayborne Carson, professor of history at Stanford University and director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute. Congress held hearings on the Voting Rights Act in 2006, and voted to renew the act for twenty-five years in 390-to-33 vote across bipartisan lines.

“By implying that [the Court's] goal was to fix the legislation by forcing Congress to change the pre-clearance formula [of Section 4], they are obscuring the fact that Congress retained the formula in order to avoid a deadlocked debate over a new formula.”

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