Whether the U.S. Supreme Court made the right decision Tuesday in a critical voting rights case depends on your interpretation of one of novelist William Faulkner’s more famous passages: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”
In a 5-4 ruling, the court struck down a provision in the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that requires states and counties with a history of racial discrimination – mostly in the South and including Georgia – to “pre-clear” all changes in their voting laws with the federal government.
U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Atlanta, clearly was remembering the severe beating he took from Alabama state troopers in March 1965 during a voting rights march when he declared Tuesday’s decision a “dagger into the heart” of the Voting Rights Act.
Then-President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act the following August.
“These men never stood in unmovable lines,” Lewis said in a prepared statement issued shortly after the ruling. “They were never denied the right to participate in the democratic process. They were never beaten, jailed, run off their farms or fired from their jobs.
“No one they knew died simply trying to register to vote. They are not the victims of gerrymandering or contemporary unjust schemes to maneuver them out of their constitutional rights.”
But to Gov. Nathan Deal, the civil rights era is not just in the past. It’s in the distant past.
“The Voting Rights Act was a vital tool in the struggle to ensure that all Americans had access to the ballot box,” Deal said in a prepared statement.