Revive Voting Rights Act
Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s attempt to disenfranchise tens of thousands of registered voters in his state demonstrates that the Supreme Court erred badly in 2013 in overturning a crucial provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. That provision had required several states to receive pre-approval from the Department of Justice before changing voting laws. Georgia was one of those states. If that Voting Rights Act provision had remained in place, it could have been used to thwart the device used by Kemp to void 670,000 voter registrations in 2017 and to imperil another 51,000 this year. Kemp,the Republican candidate for governor, also is responsible as secretary of state for conducting fair elections. But Kemp has not been queasy about misusing his power in his quest to defeat Democrat Stacey Abrams, a state legislator who has a chance to become the first black woman governor in U.S. history. At issue is “perfect match,” which requires information on voter registration documents to perfectly match information on other state documents. So a misspelling on a voter registration document or a driver’s license, whether the fault of a the prospective voter or a government clerk, would be disqualifying. Kemp originally came up with “perfect match” in 2008, when Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act still applied, and the Department of Justice rejected it. Kemp sought to disqualify 51,000 prospective voters using perfect match, more than 40,000 of whom are African-American, Latino or Asian-American. Friday, a federal judge upset Kemp’s plan on other grounds. The case, and many other voting restrictions in states previously under the jurisdiction of Section 5, demonstrate that the Supreme Court was wrong in its optimism that DOJ clearance no longer was necessary. It should reinstate the provision in a new law.