Got It Covered
Your November 3 cover question, above photos of three appealing faces—“Did a major defense contractor cause brain cancer in these kids?”—sounds like something out of You Bet Your Life with Groucho Marx; it’s right up there with classics such as “Who’s buried in Grant’s tomb?” Meanwhile, the headline on the article is “How Cancer Came to the Acreage,” a more Nation-worthy identifier for Sharon Lerner’s article. This is still more evidence that one can’t judge the quality of a magazine by its cover tease.
Block That Vote!
Although Ari Berman’s “The GOP’s War on Voting” [Nov. 3] makes a good point—that for many Americans, voter disenfranchisement is a huge issue that needs to be resolved—it makes the situation seem worse than it is. First, Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA) specifies which parts of the country must have changes to their voting laws “pre-cleared” by the federal government in accordance with Section 5, which implements federal restrictions on these areas’ right to pass new voting laws. Section 5 and Section 2, which outright prohibits discriminatory voting practices, are still standing. Section 4 was struck down on the grounds of unconstitutionality because it made certain states go through legal hurdles that other states would not have to in order to pass new laws. Section 4 merely provided the formula for determining what states were covered by Section 5 (the actual teeth of the legislation). Cases like Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District No. 1 v. Holder (2009) were concerned with the fact that this forty-year-old formula takes in regions of the country that have no history of voting rights abuses.
The article pointed toward the 2013 Texas voter-ID law, which went into effect immediately after the Supreme Court’s decision. However, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, this law comes into question regarding Section 2, and the Justice Department took immediate action to assess its legality. Section 4 would have done nothing about it. It is important to note that although there are still attacks on voting rights, Shelby County v. Holder was, in essence, not one of them. Chief Justice Roberts was simply more concerned with issues of constitutionality and states’ rights.