On Tuesday, the Supreme Court recently ruled part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act unconstitutional. It was designed to protect minority voters and put some states, including Georgia and Alabama, under federal monitoring.
For about 50 years, nine states and numerous counties, predominantly in the south, needed to get federal approval before changing any election laws.
But now that's not the case after the Justices ruled the guidelines for selecting the areas are out-dated.
Russell County Commissioner Ronnie Reed believes the move opens up the door for discrimination in places that have a long history of it. "We're always going to have prejudice, discrimination... things like that. Those things are never going away. The way the system was set up it was fair."
The burden of proof now falls on the voter to show discrimination has taken place, instead of the state proving that it hasn't.
Political Expert and Columbus State University Dean of Letters & Sciences Dr. David Lanoue said some people or civil rights organizations believe changing certain laws can suppress the minority population. "There are people who believe that the ability to change the number of polling places and where you put those polling places and how convenient or inconvenient you can make it for people to vote, that state's could manipulate that in a way that favored some voters over others."
"I don't see that it's beneficial to anyone to try to do those things anymore. I think that we've really... we've grown up," said Russell County Probate Judge Alford Harden. He believes the Act has become an inconvenience. He said it costs the county money and a lot more time to change things compared to states not under federal monitoring.
For example, Judge Harden said he had to get permission from federal government to move a polling place about 50 yards because the building that housed it was dilapidated. He then had to get permission to move it back to a newly constructed one. Judge Harden said it is a time-consuming process and there is a lot of paperwork involved.
Judge Harden said right now, there are no plans to alter election laws in Russell County, but if it does happen, it will be fair and transparent.
The Supreme Court recommended Congress go back and alter the formula that puts areas under federal monitoring, but many experts feel it's unlikely anything will get passed with this current Congress.
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