Hocus Scotus: News from the Supremes

Supreme Court ruled that Section 4 of the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act is unconstitutional. This is the formula used to determine which states and localities need preclearance before changing their voting laws.

Watch the video of Mrs. Hamer addressing the Democratic National Convention in 1964 on voting rights, before she was cut off by an “emergency press conference” from President Johnson’s White House aimed at getting her off national television.

By a 5-to-4 vote, the court invalidated the formula — adopted most recently in 2006 — used to determine which states had to get federal approval for changes in their voting laws. The law applied to sixteen jurisdictions (nine states plus parts of seven other states) and required any changes in voting laws or procedures in the covered jurisdictions to be approved in advance by the U.S. Justice Department or a federal court in Washington, D.C. A jurisdiction with a clean record for 10 years was permitted to be excused from the mandate. With this new ruling, citizens can bring their court case of voting irregularities only after the election is completed, rather than raising a flag about discriminatory laws in advance of an election.

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South African Ambassador: Where’s the Climate Change Debate at Party Conventions?

This morning Amy Goodman conducted an excellent and informative interview with South African ambassador Ebrahim Rasool at the Democratic National Convention.

I traveled with Ambassador Ebrahim Rasool in 2011 on a civil rights tour of Alabama. He is a delightful and thoughtful man who spent time in a South African prison with Nelson Mandela. Rasool is a committed disciple of nonviolence, a member of the ANC, a Muslim, and currently South Africa’s ambassador to the United States.

Here’s an excerpt from Goodman’s interview regarding Obama and climate change:

AMY GOODMAN: We were just in Durban, South Africa, for the climate change conference. There is a group of donors to the Democratic Party that are now raising deep concerns that President Obama has not raised the issue of climate change in this convention through the various speakers. What about that? You’ve been observing this election, and you’ve been—you’ve been observing this convention, and you’ve been—of course, South Africa, just as the United States, is deeply affected by climate change.

AMBASSADOR EBRAHIM RASOOL: I think that that’s precisely the reason why someone like myself, representing a country like South Africa, can’t give any party a blank check. I think that there are global issues which are being subsumed by certain narrow discussions within the U.S., namely the desire to elect a president, that there is not the requisite leadership to say we need to make sure that the world is a better place, that it is a world that is freer of carbons than before. And what is amazing is that Tampa was threatened by a hurricane, that there are floods, there are fires, there are droughts, there are enorm—heat waves through the United States, and yet the elephant in the room is not being addressed. And that’s the shortcoming of conventions. If this had been an ANC convention in South Africa, it would have been rough. It would have been a rough policy debate. It would have been a rough electoral contest. But we expect that the U.S. is different, but it can be substantially out of step with the world. And so, part of what my job is, while South Africa is the president of COP17, it is to bring greater awareness to the challenges of climate, to the global warming situation, and to be able to assist in ways in which the United States can begin to face up to that debate.

Read or watch the whole interview.