Monday, February 20, 2006


Lakeland Ledger political columnist Bill Rufty focuses this morning on the efforts of the Frederick Douglass Republican Club of Central Florida to let people know that, contrary to the word currently spread mainly via e-mail, even if the Voting Rights Act is allowed to expire next year, blacks will not lose the right to vote.

This is a myth that has been going around for at least a couple of years, and the GOP club is reminding people that the right to vote is guaranteed by the 15th Amemdment to the Constitution:

Passed by Congress February 26, 1869. Ratified February 3, 1870.

Section 1.The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude--

Section 2.The Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

It's almost certain that the Voting Rights Act will be renewed, but a couple of it's stipulations could fall by the wayside. And that has some concerned. Among them is Section 203, which mandates bilingual election materials. With Florida's large Hispanic and Hatian populations, this could be seen as a method of diluting their growing voting strength in some areas. And with the support of allowing Section 203 to expire among some Republicans --- including Congresswoman Ginny Brown-Waite (D - Brooksville) --- that could potentially bite the Repubs in the hind quarter...especially with some in the Cuban-American population already teed off over the Bush Administration's refugee policy.

Congressman Adam Putnam (R - Bartow) was quoted as saying he has not yet drawn an opinion on renewing the act or it's provisions.

One other item that has some worried is the possibility that Section 5 could be allowed to expire. That section mandates federal review of all redistricting in areas which have had a history of violating voting rights. Only five counties in Florida still work under Section 5 mandates, including Hillsborough and Hardee in the Tampa Bay area. Putnam does seem to lean allowing Section 5 to expire, as this quote shows:

"It is insulting to some counties to be held to a different standard when creating voting changes. It ignores the progress made in the last 40 years in the New South."


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