California and the Voting Rights Act

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Photo by KCIvey/ Flickr/ Creative Commons

The Supreme Court ruled today to strike Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, which determines which regions of the U.S. need federal approval before changing their voting laws. Ruling on Shelby County v. Holder, the court basically said that Congress had been relying on outdated data to determine these areas of the country. The Voting Rights Act is as major piece of Civil Rights legislation and you can hear reactions to the ruling on today’s To the Point.

This affects nine states, and several counties, most of them in the south. However, three California counties are also impacted by the Voting Rights Act. Kings County, Monterey County and Yuba County each had low voter turnout in the 1970s, which triggered federal protection.

Capitol Public Radio reports:

After voter turnout in the 1972 presidential election fell below 50 percent in Yuba, Monterey and Kings Counties, they were required to get clearance for any electoral changes. The counties contend their large military populations artificially depressed voter turnout and that they were not discriminating against any particular group. talked to the registrar in Yuba County:

Terry Hansen, the registrar of voters for Yuba County, said the county’s inclusion was not the result of intended discrimination, but rather an accident of geography. Yuba County, which has a population of 70,000, is home to a large number of farm workers and Beale Air Force Base. Hansen said those farm and base workers do not necessarily feel an attachment to the community, and do not always turn out to vote. (More here.)

Gregory Ferenstein at TechCrunch has an interesting take on the potential for technology to eventually make the need for the Voting Rights Act obsolete. He writes that “California’s experiment in online voter registration had (surprisingly) the biggest impact on Latino voters.”

We’ll talk more about the impact of the Supreme Court ruling on California on today’s Which Way, LA? (And of course, will be back when the court decides on Prop. 8).