High court’s voting rights decision draws call for action

NEWARK – Leading N.J. lawmakers and ministers called Wednesday on lawmakers to fight the U.S. Supreme Court decision that changed the federal voting rights act. The ruling essentially gives states more authority to make laws as they see fit, the advocates said.

U.S. Rep. Donald Payne (D-10) said it was an unacceptable decision and the Congressional Black Caucus will work to rectify this matter. “The court is not supposed to be an activist court,” he said.

He believes the groundbreaking election of a black president, Barack Obama, and his re-election in 2012 drove the high court’s decision. “I think this decision has a lot to do with electing a black president,” he said. “They are trying to figure out a way so that this could not happen again.”   

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Barbara Buono called it the most “destructive, disenfranchising opinion” handed down by the highest court in decades.

Critics of the highest court’s decision said it will disenfranchise minority voters since they will most likely be required to provide additional identification, which they may not possess. 

She criticized Gov. Chris Christie for not denouncing the Supreme Court decision. 

“I guess there’s more pressing matters than assault on our democracy… than an attack on the very foundation of our very democracy, our voting rights,” she said.

She said she couldn’t believe voter disenfranchisement still exists where so many hurdles have to be jumped in order to just to vote. 

“I thought those days were gone,” she said. 

She said Christie’s silence “makes it clear it is time for other things to end, perhaps a political life.” 

The U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-4 to have Congress come up with a new formula. Conservative justices said it’s time for a new formula given the progress that’s been made in race relations. However, the court’s more liberal justices voted against the change.

Ultimately, the decision means the federal government’s power to reject state laws regarding voting that it believes discriminate against minority voters has been limited.

The part of the act in question, Section 4, requires some seven states, mostly in the South, to have any election law changes be reviewed and approved by the federal government, in advance. That provision has existed for those particular states given their past history of discrimination against minority voters.

High court’s voting rights decision draws call for action