Concern over Supreme Court's voting rights ruling - 13abc.com Toledo (OH) News, Weather and Sports

Concern over Supreme Court's voting rights ruling

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The US Supreme Court struck down part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, today.  States and counties that needed permission from the federal government before making changes in voting law no longer need that permission.

Fifteen states and counties, mostly in the south, with histories of racial discrimination, did have to get approval before they could make any changes to voting law.

Ohio was not one of those states but one law professor, who believes the court's ruling is a step backward, points to what's going on in Ohio.

By a 5-4 vote, the justices ruled that the 15- states and counties that needed permission to redraw congressional maps or change voting laws should no longer be stigmatized by their past.

The view was that those states have mended their history and worked to make sure minorities vote and get elected to office.

Lee Strang, Professor of Law at the University of Toledo, says the justices believe current law ignored racial progress.

He told 13abc reporter Bill Hormann that the majority believes the past is being held against the present.   "That, in fact, they (the states) had greater, for example, black turnout than other non- pre-clearance states or African-American turn out was actually higher in those states than white turnout was which was a dramatic reversal from the way things were in 1965."

The justices want Congress to develop a *nationwide* rule instead of singling out the mostly southern states outlined in Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

But Benjamin Davis, an Associate Professor of Law at UT, says states-- even Ohio-- are enacting measures to suppress votes.

He points to voter ID requirements, changing polling places, even restricting early voting as ways states keep blacks from the ballot box.

Davis told 13abc, "I have no illusion about what is going on:  It's a very virulent, relentless effort to suppress votes and that's what we're living through."

He sees Tuesday's Supreme Court's ruling as protecting those suppression efforts.

But Jon Stainbrook, who sits on the board of the Lucas County Board of Elections, says Ohio voters have to be responsible for voting early, in the right place and with proper identification.  He also says instead of *supressing votes*, Ohio is trying to *protect voters* from fraud.

Stainbrook says, "We've done everything we can to make sure everybody has enough time and proper access to the ballot for everybody that has a right to vote."

There are still rules against literacy tests for voting... and poll taxes to vote.

But today's ruling says some states can no longer be treated differently simply because of discrimination that may have occurred decades ago.

Opponents say today's ruling wrongly implies. the Voting Rights Act has been so successful it should be ended.

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