Justice Antonin Scalia referred to Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act as “perpetuation of racial entitlement.” Scalia said, “Now, I don’t think that’s attributable to the fact that it is so much clearer now that we need this. I think it is attributable, very likely attributable, to a phenomenon that is called perpetuation of racial entitlement. It’s been written about. Whenever a society adopts racial entitlements, it is very difficult to get out of them through the normal political process.” Justice Scalia’s ideology is disgraceful and prejudicial. The right to vote is guaranteed to all citizens under the Fifteenth Amendment of the Constitution. His flippant reference to it as a “racial entitlement” is contemptuous. Justice Scalia’s position insults and disregards the memory of those Americans who fought, were beaten and gave their lives for this fundamental right.
It has been nearly fifty years since the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which guaranteed equal opportunity for minorities to fully participate in the election process. The law also ended literacy testing, poll taxes and other coercive and discriminatory practices designed to suppress voters. Today’s voter-suppression ploys are an effort to take us back to re-experiencing those days. This was evidenced by the barriers that were erected to discourage millions of Americans from voting during the 2008 and 2012 Presidential elections. In an unprecedented undertaking, restrictive voter legislation has passed in at least 41 states. Some of these laws require that voters present identification, while others raise the bar for persons with a criminal history to participate.
It is not in the best interest of our democracy to promote voter identification laws, allow citizens to wait in line for several hours, restrict early voting or disseminate misinformation. We must protect the gains made by the passage of the Voting Rights Act, and establish a set of national voting policies that will apply equally to all voters, states, districts and polling locations. Until there is a national set of standards, politics will influence the process and continue to allow for a repressive and surly voting environment.