George Will: Time caught up with the Voting Rights Act

Jul 1, 2013

 “But history did not end in 1965.”

— Chief Justice John Roberts on Tuesday

Progressives resent progress when it renders anachronistic once-valid reasons for enlarging the federal government’s supervisory and coercive powers.

Hence they regret Tuesday’s Supreme Court ruling that progress has rendered Section 4 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act unconstitutional.

This section stipulates the formula by which nine states and some jurisdictions in others are brought under Section 5, which requires them to get federal permission — “preclearance” — for even the most minor changes in voting procedures.

The 15th Amendment empowers Congress to enforce with “appropriate legislation” the right to vote. Sections 4 and 5 were appropriate 48 years ago, when the preclearance provisions were enacted for five years. They have been extended four times, most recently in 2006 for 25 years.   

The VRA is the noblest legislation in American history, more transformative than the 1862 Homestead Act, the 1862 Morrill Act (land-grant colleges) or the 1944 GI Bill of Rights. But extraordinary laws that once were constitutional, in spite of being discordant with the nation’s constitutional architecture, can become unconstitutional when facts that made the law appropriate change. The most recent data, such as registration and voting rates, on which Section 4 is based, are from 1972.

The data would have been 59 years old when the most recent extension would have expired in 2031. Tuesday’s decision prevents this absurdity that Congress embraced.

In 2009, in a case in which the court chose not to rule on the continuing constitutionality of the VRA’s formula, the court — Chief Justice Roberts writing for the majority — clearly challenged Congress to update the VRA because it “imposes current burdens and must be justified by current needs.” On Tuesday, Roberts tersely said Section 4 is “based on decades-old data and eradicated practices.”


The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

As a small business I would disagree, especially if I got to keep all my income and only pay taxes when I purchased items. If I bought an item at $100 from my distributor, I would presumably pay $110 for it at a 10% rate. If I sold it for $220 (not counting the sales tax here since I wouldn't be paying it out of pocket, I'd collect it from the purchaser and pass it on) Then I just made $110 on a $10 tax. Simple, non-messy, no-exceptions/loopholes. Otherwise I would pay, let's say, 25% of that as income...unless I go through a large amount of time and extra expense to navigate the complex tax code to do exactly what you little if any income tax.

Even though it is "legal" would you say it is fair? If not for big corporations how fair is it for a busy person to have to memorize every piece of tax law to minimize their payments? If you don't, then our own government issues you a "stupid tax" for having the audacity to not know our income tax system and how you can manipulate it. It also isn't fair that every year the federal government gets to take an interest-free loan out of every paycheck of yours to then dangle your own money above your head in the spring as some kind of reward.

Now, some would call for only the "final" sale of (even more specifically only "new") goods to be taxed. Which is understandable. Others want a "value ( sarcastic "lol" at that term) added tax" which taxes every step of sale and production. Others would want a tiered system where food and medical is only taxed X%, assets and real property at Y%, and luxuries at Z%.

I understand that change and progress are uncomfortable for some, but these are equalizing and necessary measures for the modern and civil society in which we live. There is absolutely no reason why we should continue to live in 19th century conditions. The goal of a peaceful and unified populace is integration and participation. This does both for everyone regardless of entity, income, family status, etc.

The Big Dog's back

You say if you could keep every bit of your income. Therein lies another problem. Income is already disproportionate between worker and management. All this would do is make it worse.

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

I don't see how it is a problem at all. Unless you are literally taking the paycheck from management to give to the workers, what you propose is no less a problem now. Management, overall, makes more for obvious reasons and unless you can provide some hard rule that further separates people into strata the point, while well-meaning and passionate, is irrelevant and an argument that is past its day.

Let's say someone making a million a year got to keep all of their income. Where does it go? Does it get hoarded in a vault like Scrooge McDuck; waiting for him to dive into his pile of gold coins for a morning swim? Or does it get reinvested back into the economy directly through purchases/investments or indirectly through bank deposits, life insurance policies, etc.? Also who is to say that someone wouldn't just take the difference and give it to a charity of their choice? Who knows? Who cares? It isn't anyone else's business.

For "the worker" it means more that they get to keep all their check as well. They get to decide what to spend their money on and with whom and nobody can ever tell them they aren't paying their taxes. It is empowering them by not just giving them all of their hard-earned money, but by drawing them into the active participation of the economy. They, too, will get their share of it. To that point, prices will be come even more competitive because the national sales tax, over time or with price differences, will be transparently higher.

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

By the by, I appreciate this conversation.

The Big Dog's back

So you think an ID for voting can't be forged? I am surprised you Cons want to spend the money for this.


An ID can be done like a credit card, a photo ID with a magnetic strip. The voting personal would verify the picture was you, you would swipe your card at that time the machine would also snap a picture of the person swiping the card. No big deal, just like buying a sandwich at McDonalds and you could only vote one time because the data would be instantly uploaded to the main server that counts the votes. If you want just like my company credit card it would send you a notification you voted to your cell phone, mine typically take from one second to a few min to receive!


"So you think an ID for voting can't be forged?"

Easy to forge like birth certificates.
"Team Arpaio: Obama Birth Certificate An Original Forgery; Felony Possession"

The Big Dog's back

You also seem to have a man crush on Obama ehh.


My favorite comment about the Supreme Court decision was made by Ginsberg, one of the 4 dissenting judges, who said that eviscerating the Voting Rights is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm. Essentially, the conservative viewpoint is "what do I need an umbrella for? I'm not wet".

This, of course, isn't a surprise, since even their own party's leaders call them the stupid party with a need to "close down for repairs". As if on cue, one "Birther" even brought up Obama's birth certificate. Listening to conservatives here is like attending a meeting of the Flat Earth Society...

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

Hopefully my views haven't bored you. But regarding the decision about the Voting Rights Act I imagine being branded a racist simply for where you live can make millions and millions and millions of people rather upset. Despite the fact that we live in the 21st century and at least two generations have passed since the law was passed. I understand your frustration, but I am personally frustrated at the fact that we apparently can't move on from the late 19th nor mid-20th century.

Culture, like computer processors, will only exponentially change and improve as we communicate, learn, and share more. Laws like the one mentioned become more quickly antiquated and irrelevant, and in this case downright insulting to more and more people as the population only continues to grow through birth and immigration.


Yet many worshipped Rob Perry. Weak.