"Protect the Vote" is a statewide coalition, launched by the Texoma and Austin branches of the National Lawyers Guild, to fight voting discrimination at the local level across Texas.
We are attorneys empowering communities.
August 6, 1965: Congress passed the Voting Rights Act, because after 11 years of heated civil rights action following Brown v. Board of Education, it was clear local government would not respect civil rights without vigorous federal enforcement.
The crown jewel of the Voting Rights Act was Section 5's "preclearance," which required states with a history of rampant voter discrimination to seek approval from the Department of Justice before implementing laws or policies that affected access to polls. That included changes "in the boundaries of voting precincts or in the location of polling places," "publicity for or assistance in registration," any change to assistance in languages other than English, etc. 28 CFR 58.13.
June 25, 2013: the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 vote, eviscerated preclearance. The former Jim Crow states that had been covered were freed to begin enacting any restrictive voting procedures they desired.
The forces of reaction were immediately emboldened. Within hours, the Attorney General of Texas crowed that Texas was free to implement its Voter ID law (which it had not been able to justify under Section 5) and its district voting maps (which one Court had found found were implemented with the intent to exclude Texas' growing minority population).
But most of the evil that will follow the demise of preclearance might ultimately be found in local jurisdictions, whose policy decisions get less attention than state-level policies.
For example, Beaumont:
After the Voting Right Act was passed in 1965, every Texas city, county, and school district was required to prove any change in voting practices would not disenfranchise voters before they were allowed to implement the practice. 28 CFR 58.12. It required took, but and any jurisdiction that wanted to escape the requirements could. All it had to do was show 10 years of nondiscrimination -- but only two jurisdictions in Texas have been able to do so.
Now, with preclearance effectively ended, local government subdivisions across Texas can begin enacting all sorts of policies that may disenfranchise voters, without any federal oversight to stop them.
Many that will begin experimenting with changes in voting procedure, and some will be emboldened to indulge in more direct discrimination.
We can expect to see more stories like this: Harris County Attorney investigates allegations of voter intimidation at polls, KHOU (Oct. 20, 2010).
The fight will include:
We will work with partners around Texas to hold the line.