The United States Supreme Court’s reasoning in dismantling a key provision of the Voting Rights Act has been used before by conservative members of the Congress.
The November 1994 elections resulted in an inordinate number of conservatives being elected to Congress. One of their first acts upon assuming office was to propose the repeal of the Individuals with Disabilities Education, which guaranteed a free and appropriate education to all children with disabilities in the United States. Conservatives had suggested that, given the current social climate, decisions about whether or not to educate children with disabilities should be left up to the individual states.
It appeared that the conservatives would be successful until Congressman Major Owens of Brooklyn stood behind the podium in the well of the House and made reference to other civil rights legislation. Owens suggested that if the 1964 Civil Rights were similarly limited, we would likely experience separate lunch counters, once again. Furthermore, Owens pointed out, gains in the civil rights of all people only occurred as a result of a federal intervention. Schools were not desegregated, for example, until the United State Supreme Court made a ruling in the case of Brown vs. the Board of Education. In that case, the Reverend Oliver Brown complained that his African-American daughter was forced to take a bus across town to attend school when an all-white school was two blocks away.
The four conservatives on the Court (Roberts, Alito, Scalia and Thomas), with the aid of the moderate justice Kennedy, ruled that the States should make the rules regarding voting regulations. However, their argument that the current social and cultural climate makes the Voting Rights Act unnecessary falls short of reality. During the last election, conservative states employed identification requirements in order to turn millions of voters, particularly people of color, away from the polls.
The argument that civil rights legislation is unnecessary can only be raised by those who fear the results of such legislation. The suggestion that current race relations obviate the need to ensure that all people participate in the electoral process defies critical thinking.