Today, August 26, 2013 is Women’s Equality Day. It marks 93 years that white women have had access to the vote, and over 40 years since this day has been nationally recognized. Giving full credit to the importance of what this day means to the legacy of women’s leadership and self determination, I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that Black women did not have access to the vote until our gender caught up with our race with the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Unfortunately, just this year, in a 5 to 4 vote, the Supreme Court struck down the “racial discrimination” clause of the act, “freeing nine states, mostly in the South, to change their election laws without advance federal approval.” What this means is that 9 states – Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia and a number of counties and municipalities including Manhattan and Brooklyn will now be left to local jurisdiction on redistricting without Federal approval. Consequently, this means the way the lines are drawn can shift who controls the governing body and essentially change which policies get passed into law; as was evidenced in 2011 with the ballot and Personhood initiatives in Mississippi.