The Scientific Activist

From today’s New York Times:

WASHINGTON — A special three-judge court ruled Friday that Congress acted constitutionally when it extended the law requiring sections of the country with a history of racial discrimination to get federal approval for any changes in voting procedures.

The unanimous decision upheld a central provision of the Voting Rights Act, which Congress initially passed in 1965 and has extended several times since, most recently for 25 years in 2006. Section 5 of the law prohibits several states, mostly in the South, and some local government agencies from changing their election practices without permission from the Justice Department or the courts.

This is my favorite part, though:

Each renewal of the law has been followed by a legal challenge from some state or local agency to this “preclearance” requirement. The latest challenge was undertaken by the board of a public utility near Austin, Tex., which said the requirement conferred a “badge of shame” over “conditions that existed 30 or more years ago but have long since been remedied.”

Not to be a stickler or anything, but I’m pretty sure that it was a little more recently than thirty years ago (three days ago, to be precise) that I wrote about one of two major voting rights cases currently in progress in Texas. That case–involving various allegations of suppression of minority voters–comes out of Prairie View A&M University, only 100 miles away from the utility district quoted above (which is basically next door in Texas).

According to the Times, “from 1980 to 2000, the attorney general acted to block 421 voting changes that the Justice Department had found ‘intentionally discriminatory.’” Based on those numbers, discriminatory voting laws are far from ancient history, but at least the federal government appears to be taking a proactive position.