NORFOLK- When The Supreme Court effectively struck down the heart of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by a 5-to-4 vote, Former Norfolk Vice Mayor Joseph Green was deeply disappointed.
Green was there, decades ago, when Norfolk's “Ward System” of voting for city council elections was put into place as a direct result of the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act.
The former vice mayor says he is not happy with the Supreme Court ruling freeing states from special federal oversight under the Voting Rights Act. The court ruled the data Congress used to identify the states covered by the act was outdated and unfair.
The ruling states Congress had not provided adequate justification for subjecting nine states, mostly in the South, to federal oversight.
“In 1965, the states could be divided into two groups: those with a recent history of voting tests and low voter registration and turnout, and those without those characteristics,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote for the majority. “Congress based its coverage formula on that distinction. Today the nation is no longer divided along those lines, yet the Voting Rights Act continues to treat it as if it were.
Green has a simpler statement on the ruling, "It’s turning back the clock, and we have made such great progress,” said Green.
Green,a retired minister said the Voting Rights Act created a level playing field for all.
“I think it’s the most important thing that happened and that includes Brown versus the Board of Education. I think the Voting Rights Act might be he most important because it gave people the basic right we have as Americans,” Green lamented.
The Voting Rights Act was especially important in Virginia, with its documented past of such discriminatory practices as the poll tax. In 1993, Virginia finally got its first African-American member of Congress since Reconstruction. That was when, as a direct result of the Voting Rights Act, the Commonwealth created the minority-majority Third Congressional District. The seat has been held ever since by Democrat Bobby Scott. He has concerns about the Supreme Court decision.
“There’s certainly disappointment,” Scott said. “Section Five (of the Act) prevents covered states from implementing discriminatory practices and scheme to dilute the effect of minority voting rights."