Voter Suppression and the Voting Rights Act: It’s not the intent that matters, it’s the effect

As always, another great point made by Chris Hayes. On today’s Up with Chris Hayes the topic of voter suppression was at the top of the show. Texas is defending it’s undemocratic photo ID law and they want to be free from the restrictions of the 1965 voting rights act. Hayes tells us that the purpose of the voting rights act was not to police intent, but rather the effects. So if a state passes a restrictive new law that requires photo ID in order to vote, the test of whether that is allowed under the voting rights act is not the intent. We don’t need to know why the Republican legislators in Texas passed their restrictive law in order to judge it’s lawfulness. We don’t need to know if they are racists (which some most certainly are), and we don’t need to know if the reason Republicans passed these laws was to make the process of voting a more difficult task for minorities who are more likely to vote Democratic. Like Hayes said, “nobody has to do any mind-reading,” in order to enforce the voting rights act.

Instead we need only look at the law’s effects. Does it make it harder to vote for the poor and impoverished? Does it make it harder to vote for minorities? Does it require someone to spend money (poll tax) to get the required identification? If the effect of a law is to make it more difficult to vote for certain segments of the population, then that is the means that will be used to judge the lawfulness under the voting rights act.

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