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High Court Blunts Black Voting Power

Final Call.com, News Report, Charlene Muhammad Posted: Apr 02, 2009

A recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling which limits the Voting Rights Act and prohibits redrawing district lines to preserve Black and Latino representation will have far-reaching, negative implications for both communities, political analysts warn.

Previously the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was used to maximize Black voter strength by having states pull together Blacks to increase their numbers in a single district and the likelihood of electing a Black candidate, the justices 5-4 decision removes that mandate.

Political scientists, like Dr. William Boone of Clark Atlanta University in Georgia, say the political landscape, from county commissions, to city councils, even to the U.S. Congress, may be in for long periods with no added Black representation.

After the Voting Rights Act was passed, the idea was that race was a real factor for voting representation, but the courts began to rule that race did not have to be a predominant factor. With this March 9 ruling, the court has moved away from race altogether, analysts said.

This could mean a couple of things, for not only Blacks, but Latinos too because theyre growing in numbers. Lets say Black folk are concentrated in a district that has about 60-80 percent Black. You dont necessarily need to go forward to draw lines and give them two representatives. You could just maintain one, if that, and go to the other districts and maintain them White, because given the residential pattern in this country, they are still pretty much racially and ethnically segregated, Dr. William Boone told The Final Call.

The courts decision stems from a lawsuit (Bartlett v. Strickland) filed in North Carolina, which rejected redrawing a district and dividing four counties to give Blacks the opportunity to elect their candidate of choice.

For Dr. Marc Lamont Hill, Professor of Urban Education and American Studies at Temple University, the decision is another sobering reminder that America is not a post-racial society.

This particular ruling also speaks to how significant and how influential the Bush administration has been in engineering our social policy for the next 20-30 years.Most importantly with regard to the national topic, the ruling really prevents the African American community from getting the type of political representation that is necessary for them to have a consistent and powerful voice in Congress, Dr. Hill said.

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