There are some who believe that discrimination doesn’t exist. Those people opine that cries of discrimination–on whatever basis–merely are imagined slights, rather than a result of purposeful bias. The truth is, regardless of how far our society has come from days of overt discriminatory acts, discrimination continues today. By discrimination, I mean actions taken with the intent to treat a person or group of people differently because of their fill-in-the-blank (e.g., race, color, national origin, religion, sexual preference, etc.).
The 2016 election is significant for many reasons, not the least of which is how the United States will address conflicts throughout Asia, the Middle East and Eastern Europe. While some of those issues may impact our country for decades going forward, it is unlikely. Given the current state of affairs, it is more likely that the next POTUS will be able to direct the path of our nation for decades to come through his or her appointment of at least one, or more, Supreme Court Justice. Justice Kennedy, a swing vote in several cases, was appointed by President Ronald Regan and has sat on the high-court for nearly 30 years. That’s right, if you are 60 years old, Justice Kennedy has been an active Supreme Court Justice for half of your life.
To some, the rule of law is about being politically correct and socially progressive. To others, the Supreme Court is seen as an antiquated and outdated institution. To me, the high court is needed to ensure the rights afforded to citizens remain unabridged, even by the rulings of other courts.
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A federal appeals court has ruled that a Texas voter ID law has a discriminatory effect on minority voters, and it has ordered a lower court to devise a remedy before the November elections.
A district court had found not only that the law discriminated, but that it was intentionally designed to do so. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals saw some flaws in that conclusion and instructed the lower court to reconsider that element of the case and rule again — preferably after Election Day.
The judges also ruled that the law is not a poll tax and declined to consider whether the law puts an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote.
The Texas voter ID law requires voters to present an approved ID card before voting. It has been controversial ever since it was passed in 2011. NPR’s Pam Fessler explained why earlier this year:
“Part of that has to do with the type of photo IDs the Legislature designated as legitimate. For example, military IDs and concealed handgun carry permits — they’re lawful to vote. But state employee photo IDs and university photo IDs are not.
“So in federal court, the plaintiff’s lawyers have argued successfully that the Legislature approved ID cards that were more likely to be held by white Republican voters and excluded IDs that were more likely to be held by minority Democrats.”
The legal dispute has stretched on for years, as The Two-Way reported in April:
“The Texas law first took effect in 2011; a judge’s order later struck it down, but that order has been on hold since October of 2014.
“Last summer, a three-judge panel from the 5th Circuit ‘ruled unanimously that the law does not equate to a “poll tax” but does discriminate against minority voters,’ as the Two-Way reported. After that ruling, the case was put before the full 5th Circuit for review.”
This spring, the U.S. Supreme Court gave the 5th Circuit a deadline of July 20 to rule on the case. As NPR’s Nina Totenberg has reported, the deadline was motivated by suspicion that the 5th Circuit might have been “dragging its feet” to keep the law in effect until after the election. The idea, Nina says, was that a ruling by Wednesday “would leave enough time for the Supreme Court to decide whether to block the law for the upcoming election.”
In its decision Wednesday, the 5th Circuit called for the lower court to change the law in a way that “disrupts voter identification rules for the 2016 election season as little as possible” — but it said some changes were necessary to keep the law from discriminating against minorities.
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