UPDATE: 07/10 — J. Morgan Kousser testified today in the Federal Appeals Court hearing. Lawyers for both sides came to a last-minute agreement on witness lists.
The Voting Rights Act faces a sustained legal challenge that could threaten its existence, a Cal Tech researcher says, and there are striking similarities – with a notable demographic difference – to historic voting rights battles.
“After the initial passage of the Voting Rights Act, there was a huge attempt to inhibit the growth of political participation,” J. Morgan Kousser, a professor of history and social science at the California Institute of Technology, said of the 1965 law.
“But today, what we see is more than anything a reaction to the growing Latino population and a reaction to Latino growth in places where it really hasn’t been before.”
States such as Iowa, North Carolina, Ohio, Georgia and Virginia fit that profile, Kousser said. He planned to testify in the scheduled federal court hearing on the constitutionality of the new Texas voter ID law, but the state’s legal team successfully petitioned last week to deny his testimony calling it opinionated and tangential.
If the U.S. Supreme Court takes up a case challenging all or parts of the Voting Rights Act in its next term, Kousser said it is possible that the entire law could be ruled unconstitutional, opening the door to a new series of election laws.
“Suppose you made everybody re-register in a central location in a limited amount of time, and did not make that registration permanent,” Kousser said. “Nobody’s proposed this yet, but we had the umbrella of the Voting Rights Act protecting against such things.”
By Nick Andersen, News21