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SCOTUS Sticks it to Alaskans

Tuesday morning, the Supreme Court of the United States decided on a 5-4 vote to gut the Voting Rights Act.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 has a central provision, Section 5, that requires some state and local governments, mostly in the South, and also in Alaska, to get permission from the Justice Department or a federal court before making changes in their voting laws.

Indeed, it was the Voting Rights Act that was at the heart of successful efforts to stop states attempting to cut back on early voting hours and instituting voter identification laws that would have dramatically affected minority voter turnout during the 2012 election. Now, the opportunity to rely on the law to stop future efforts to curtail minority voting will have vanished in a 5-4 decision.

Alaska was included in Section 5 because of “educational discrimination” against Native Alaskans that resulted in higher rates of illiteracy, lower English proficiency, and diminished ability to read and understand questions on a ballot.  Congress affirmatively included Alaska and Alaska Natives in Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act in 1974 and in 2006, when the law was reauthorized.

This “preclearance requirement” for problem states has been repeatedly upheld by the Supreme Court since the Voting Rights Act passed and stood as a crowning achievement of the Civil Rights movement.

Critics of Section 5 say it is a unique federal intrusion on state sovereignty and a badge of shame for the affected jurisdictions that is no longer justified. They point to high voter registration rates among blacks and the re-election of a black president as proof that the provision is no longer needed.

Civil rights leaders, on the other hand, say the law played an important role in the 2012 election, with courts relying on it to block voter identification requirements and cutbacks on early voting.

So, where does Alaska fall on this? Let’s check in with the man who is charged with overseeing the Division of Elections – Lt. Governor Mead Treadwell. Other than polishing the state seal, and various ceremonial photo op duties, overseeing the Division of Elections is pretty much his only responsibility. So, one would assume he takes that quite seriously.

Regarding the legislation that protects the voting rights of Alaska Natives, and other racial minorities, he’s totally against it.  And you know why, right?  Too much federal overreach.


The Parnell-Treadwell Administration actually filed an amicus brief in support of Shelby County Alabama which was the one to challenge the Voting Rights Act in the first place. And, they separately sued to invalidate Section 5 and protections for Alaska Natives. The amicus brief and lawsuit against the Voting Rights Act went counter to one filed by The Alaska Federation of Natives documenting persistent discrimination against Alaska Natives, including educational discrimination.

The Native American Rights Fund and other groups have provided voluminous documentation about discrimination against Alaska Natives, and Alaska’s entire Congressional delegation supported continued inclusion of Alaska when Congress reauthorized the Voting Rights Act in 2006. But that was then, and this is now.

“This comes down to protecting basic rights for all Alaskans,” said Mike Wenstrup, Chair of the Alaska Democratic Party.”  As the overseer of the Division of Elections, it is unacceptable that Mead Treadwell would back the gutting of Alaska voter rights.”

So why, all of a sudden, is there this insistence on weakening the laws protecting Alaska Natives’ right to vote?

This month, Mead Treadwell launched a campaign opposing Senator Mark Begich (D) in his reelection bid. Begich won his spot in the Senate in 2008 by the narrowest of margins, and only because he enjoyed wide support from rural Native Alaskan communities who tend to vote Democratic.

But according to the Supreme Court, since the United States has a black President, it means that we now live in a post-racial society where ensuring the rights of minorities to cast their votes is just plain silly. And as a matter of fact, those states with recent histories of trying to keep minorities from voting are downright insulted that anyone thinks they still might want to do that.





26 Responses to “SCOTUS Sticks it to Alaskans”
  1. NickWI says:

    to be blunt. the Supreme Court decision ranks up there with Dred scott decision. ok, so theres not overt racism in the South today as there was in 1965. does that mean the Klan is gone or racism has vanished from whites hearts? absolutely not. if anything, EVERY state should have to get fed ok to make election changes, since there are more states than the 9 covered who make it harder for blacks, latinos and Indians to vote. Milwaukee, WI is one of the most segregated cities in the country, but its not covered under the old VRA. And it should. THE VRA also had an opt-out clause. all you had to do was prove that there were no incidents of discrimination in your city or county for 10 years, and you were removed from the list. there were a number of counties in Virginia who successfully opted out.. so not only was it working it had provisions to get out from preclearance. in the 70s the congress would have passed an updated map within a few days of a decision like this and telling the SC to go screw themselves as they did. unfortunately, this Congress cant even agree on what to order at a McDonalds drivethru. no way are they going to pass an updated map. hence why 2014 is so important. get the house back in dem hands and keep the senate blue, and we’ll get a new map. oh, it will likely cover more than just the old counties and states.

  2. Moose Pucky says:

    We need simple, clear, concise, enforceable rules that apply to all 50 states that protect everyone’s voting rights. Let’s get on with it.

  3. mike from iowa says:

    The simplest remedy for the Scotus is to replace at least one activist rwnj with a justice not bought and paid for by korporate amerika. You know-a Liberal.

    • Alaska Pi says:

      DOMA just bit the dust in a 5-4 split. Wish VRA had survived by that split…

      • beth. says:

        It boggles –and befuddles– my mind that DOMA is struck down by the same court that shredded the VRA. If DOMA was a “deprivation of equal liberty”, what was (is) the right to vote WITHOUT hassle imposed by individual states/locales to *intentionally* skew the results? Why was that key provision of the VRA deemed by Robert’s Court as being no longer necessary? It flat doesn’t make a lick of sense. Gadzooks, but I hate being befuddled. beth.

      • mike from iowa says:

        I’m from iowa so I is cornfused. Did not CJ Robbers argue yesterday that if some states had to get federal preclearance for voting rights restrictions that all or none should have to get pre-clearance and today the Scotus says states that recognize gay marriage must conforn to federal laws,but not states that don’t recognize gay marriage? Now I’m rilly cornfused or stoopid. All together now,let us cuss outloud!

        • beth. says:

          You look good cornfused. And stooped. [OK — On the count of three: one…two…three…] CUSS!, CUSS!, CUSS! beth.

        • Alaska Pi says:

          cuss, cuss, cuss !
          CJ was in the minority on DOMA and punted on Prop8 so he stayed true to his “values”.
          His “equal sovereignty” horsepunky in VRA opinion is rilly, rilly bothering me.
          Cuss some more.

  4. beth. says:

    [[ Markey has defeated Gomez in Mass’s special election for Kerry’s Senate seat. Last report: 54.8% to 44.8%.* Boo-Yah! beth.

    * ]]

  5. beth. says:

    25 June 2013 SCOTUS: Yet one more thing for which Reagan (Scalia, Kennedy), GHW Bush (Thomas), and most particularly, GW Bush (Alito and Roberts!), must be held fully accountable…both today and in the pages of history.

    I have within me this evening, equal amounts of utter disgust and overwhelming sadness over today’s Robert’s Court ruling. Those emotions are tiring me out…but mostly I’m simply exhausted by the ever-increasing introduction and/or passing of laws and judicial rulings that restrict –or obliterate!– the Constitution-given rights, the declared “unalienable Rights”, of ALL citizens. Enough already! beth.

    • Alaska Pi says:

      Is wearing me out too , beth.
      2014 is going to be a most important set of fights. Congress CAN remedy this but the current House will not so we’ve got to get rid of a bunch of those suckers.
      Also too, next Pres will matter enormously – if for no other reason than SCOTUS appointments.
      Mr Roberts and his cohort are the culmination of too many years of appointments from Rs. ( I still can’t believe Thomas made it on that bench. )
      NARF brief points to exactly the kinds of problems the VRA was designed to mitigate still being a real and major problem here in Alaska and this majority waved their chubby lil hands and declared they don’t exist.

  6. John says:

    We have a black president. That proves we don’t need this law inthe same way that cars stopping at red lights proves cars don’tneed brakes.

  7. mike from iowa says:

    Back during February Scotus arguments about VRA,Cheap Justice asked if the South was more racist than Northern states.
    According to this study,the answer seems to be a resounding “HELL YEAH’ and mirrors the anti-Black sentiment of the states that are/were covered ny Section 4.
    Texas AG has already declared that the gerrymandered map federal judges put on hold as discriminatory will be the law of the state. Lawyers for the AG argued that the map wasn’t desogned to discriminate,only to allow rethugs to hold on to power in Texas. Whites are the minority and yet they contol 24 of 36 House districts and both U.S. senate seats,both houses of Texas lege and the Gov. mansion.

    • Alaska Pi says:

      am still working through the decision and reading POVs but have had TX redistricting fiasco in mind as I do. the court case they lost recently turned on a court’s notion of a piece of the VRA in relation to their hoo bobby carving up of the state to retain white R majority of districts and CJ Roberts says this crap doesn’t happen anymore in such flagrant, blatant, obvious form ?? Pffft!
      What a dip.

      Mr Treadwell could give a rat’s patoot about rural Alaska and Alaska Natives. Remember that Alaskans.Please.

  8. ancnrb says:

    Welcome to the Plessy v Ferguson to the 21st century. Memorable, and not in a good way.

    • fishingmamma says:

      Every time I say “Plessy” I get blank stares. Not many people remember that dark day. Thank you for reminding us how far we have(not) come. Time to take a lesson from Brown v Board of Education. Every once in a while there is an excellent film on PBS called “the road to Brown”, and there are similarities there with the climate today. It is a film worth watching.

  9. Ice Gal says:

    I do not see what all the big deal is aboot. As long as you are not poor, and as long as your skin is pale, you will not have any issues voting for the regressive candidate of your republican party’s choice.
    I did not fight for equality in the 1960’s to have it trampled on by raciest judges that represent corporations and not the American People.
    Sad day for our nation.

    • fishingmamma says:

      Right. I keep asking myself, “How many times do we have to have this same argument?”

      I guess the answer is (blowing in the wind) as many times as it takes.

  10. Zyxomma says:

    Thanks for your excellent post, Jeanne. Here’s another, from the inimitable and valuable Greg Palast:

    Please read it, and get fired up.

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