BY JAMES HARPER
Daytona Beach NAACP President Cynthia Slater participated in a media teleconference last week called by the Florida State Conference of the NAACP to discuss the impact U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to invalidate Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act.
“While the Supreme Court decision has sidelined the Voting Rights Act, the fight is not over and the game is still on,” stated NAACP Florida State Conference President Adora Obi Nweze.
“Florida units are mobilized to encourage our local, state, and national elected leaders to put politics aside and develop a new formula, as suggested by the Supreme Court Ruling, that protects the vote for all citizens.”
She added, “The Supreme Court of the United States, as Justice Ruth Ginsburg stated, ‘erred egregiously.’ ’’
Five counties affected
Slater said the Supreme Court’s decision is a heart-piercing decision that will have negative ramifications on voters.
“As you may know, Florida is certainly affected because five counties are subjected to section 5 of the Voting Rights Act,” Slater explained.
Under the provision that the court struck down, nine states and the city councils and local governments within them were required to obtain advance approval from Washington before changing their rules on voting and elections, a process known as “pre-clearance.” In Florida, affected counties were Hillsborough, Monroe, Collier, Hardee and Hendry.
“Voters in this state will be adversely affected by this ruling,’’ Slater added.
Plan for branches
She noted that branches have been charged to do a number of things that include:
• Appeal to Florida’s congressional representatives to restore the statute in the event it is reviewed;
• Be proactive with the Florida Legislature and governor so that they don’t reinstitute voter suppression techniques;
• Think proactively as to what can be done to encourage people to vote, i.e., voter education/registration and participation;
• Direct action in the form of marches, etc. to ensure that no laws will be passed that will “set us back;’’
• Create a formula that will ensure citizens are protected in the voting process;
• Organize the community to include partners in order to wage the fight.
About the case
On Feb. 27, the United States Supreme Court heard the case of Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder, which challenged the constitutionality of the “preclearance” provisions of the Voting Rights Act. The NAACP submitted an amicus brief on behalf of Attorney General Holder and the Voting Rights Act.
On June 25, the Supreme Court issued its decision in which the Court did not invalidate the principle that preclearance can be required.
It held that Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, which sets out the formula that is used to determine which state and local jurisdictions must comply under Section 5’s preapproval requirement, is unconstitutional and can no longer be used.
“Although Section 5 survives, it will have no actual effect unless and until Congress can enact a new statute to determine who should be covered by it. This means that there is no longer a mechanism in place to prevent states with a history of voter disenfranchisement from enacting such laws,” said Hilary Shelton, the director at the NAACP’s Washington Bureau.