Deutch: Voting Rights fix should consider ‘institutional racism’ of state stand-your-ground, drug lawsby George Bennett | July 18th, 2013
States that perpetuate “institutionalized racism” through stand-your-ground laws and unequal enforcement of drug laws should receive heightened election scrutiny from the federal government under a revamped Voting Rights Act, U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, said today.
Deutch spoke as the House Judiciary Committee considered changes to the Voting Rights Act after the Supreme Court struck down the portion of the law that required the Department of Justice to give advance approval, or “preclearance,” to election-related changes in jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination.
Deutch said an updated Voting Rights Act should empower the Justice Department to consider a broader range of factors in evaluating whether discrimination exists.
“As this Congress works on a new preclearance formula, I humbly suggest that we look beyond the scope of laws passed by states that directly impact minorities at the polls and begin looking at the racially biased application of state laws more generally,” Deutch said.
Deutch specifically mentioned stand-your-ground laws, selective enforcement of drug statutes and photo-identification requirements for voters as examples of laws that disproportionately harm minorities.
Stand-your-ground laws have drawn renewed, racially tinged attention after George Zimmerman was acquitted in the 2012 shooting death of black teenager Trayvon Martin in Sanford.
Such laws “mainly protect white people who shoot a black person,” Deutch said. “Couldn’t one argue that stand-your-ground laws and the use of such laws reflect modern racial bias in state laws and should be considered here in this context as we modernize our preclearance for (the) Voting Rights Act?”
As for drug laws, Deutch said, “Shouldn’t we ensure that states who throw young black Americans in jail at a disproportionately higher rate than white Americans for the same offense are also not passing laws to further disenfranchise minority voters?”
Minorities are less likely than whites to have government-issued photo IDs, Deutch said, so states with new voter ID laws are disenfranchising minorities.
“Shouldn’t we be brave enough to acknowledge that if any state law reflects institutional racism that preclearance of laws affecting the right to vote in those states should be required?” Deutch said. “And shouldn’t the concept of voter suppression be broadened to include the more subversive, the frankly much more sophisticated ways that institutionalized racism has reared its head?”