Tallahassee Democra⁠t⁠: Cap⁠i⁠⁠t⁠ol rally decr⁠i⁠es Supreme Cour⁠t⁠ vo⁠t⁠⁠i⁠ng rul⁠i⁠ng

By: The James Madison Institute / July 12, 2013

The James Madison Institute


July 12, 2013

Anita L. Davis has seen the landscape of civil and voting rights change a lot in her time.The 79-year-old joined more than 50 students and community leaders on the steps of the old Florida Capitol to voice their concerns stemming from the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 25 decision to strike Section 4 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.“Unless we start putting our footprints where they need to be, and letting them (lawmakers) understand what our needs are, then maybe there will be changes,” she said.June’s 5-4 ruling invalidating Section 4 of the act means all or part of 15 states with a history of discrimination, including Florida, no longer need approval from the Justice Department or a federal court before making any changes, no matter how small, to their voting procedures.Section 4 includes the formula that Congress has used to determine which jurisdictions were subject to pre-clearance under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.The ruling frees those states, counties, cities and towns — most are in the Deep South — to change their voting procedures as they see fit.Davis, who served as a Leon County commissioner in the ’90s and served as the president of the Tallahassee Branch of the NAACP for 12 years, said the issue, as she sees it, is what the Supreme Court can and can’t do.She, and those who gathered Friday, would like to see inclusion of citizen opinions in any decision the high court makes.“I know the Supreme Court has to make a certain decision, but don’t just arbitrarily make it,” Davis said. “Come back to us and say ‘What isn’t right? How is it going to affect everybody? Most people understand that if they’re part of the mix, then they’ll stay a part of the mix. If they feel left out, then they’ll stay left out.”Five counties in Florida and parts of several other states became subject to Section 5 in 1975.“This is not a Tallahassee issue. This is not a Florida issue. This is an American issue,” said Florida State University Student Senate member Eugene Butler III, one of the organizers of Friday’s event.Civil rights groups accused Scott and the GOP-controlled Legislature of trying to suppress the minority vote during the 2012 election cycle by passing legislation that reduced the maximum allowed hours of early-voting, when turnout among blacks is disproportionately high.Scott, and the Cabinet, also ended the automatic restoration of ex-felons’ voting rights and his Division of Elections sought to have local election officials purge the rolls of voters whose citizenship could not be verified.Scott said he took the steps to prevent voter fraud.The Legislature passed legislation this year that reverses many of those restrictions. The governor signed it into law on May 20.Doug Martin, communications director for the Florida Association of Federal, State, County and Municipal Employees, said the rigmarole of ushering people to polling places, limits on early-voting days and the restrictions on voter registration had simple fixes.“Make sure Election Day is a national holiday, just like any other,” Martin said, adding that he would like mandatory voter registration done away with because voting should be a natural right.Robert F. Sanchez, policy director for the James Madison Institute in Tallahassee, said in an email the right to vote “must be zealously protected, but the overblown reaction to the U.S. Supreme Court’s well-reasoned decision on the outdated Section 4 the Voting Rights Act suggests that the ruling is being widely misunderstood or else deliberately misrepresented.”Davis said when she was approached to help with Friday’s rally, she had been involved in voicing her opinions — she said she would travel with her mother to similar rallies more than 50 years ago — and had no hesitation.“The people of the state who vote, they’re an integral part of this whole thing” Davis said. “If they step aside and don’t do anything, people are going to do what they want anyway. We should be a part of these (voting law) systems and how they work, don’t run from them.”