You never hear anyone say – at least publicly – that the 1965 Voting Rights Act was a bad piece of legislation. The complaint tends to be that it's a good idea gone bad; that Section 5, its defining provision, has outlived its usefulness; that it continues to punish Southern states for the sins of their great-grandfathers and forces us into long, tortured redistricting slow dances that leave everyone frustrated.
That’s the argument from Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is not only challenging the U.S. Justice Department’s recent decision to strike down this state’s controversial Voter ID law, he’s using that challenge to compel the U.S. Supreme Court to decide, at long last, on the constitutionality of Section 5. It’s a legal battle many Texas progressives are dreading, because they think they’re on the verge of losing Section 5 for good.
There were five panelists at KSTX’s Voting Rights Town Hall last Tuesday (I was one of them), but the real action centered around Democratic state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer and San Antonio Tea Party President George Rodriguez (seated, appropriately enough, immediately to the left and right, respectively, of moderator David Martin Davies). These were two politically obsessed local Latinos with radically different views on what equality means and how it’s attained.