(DeSoto County, MS) For generations, Mississippi and several other states have had to submit even the smallest voting changes to the U.S. Department of Justice for approval. Experts who’ve examined Tuesday’s Supreme Court ruling say, as of now, that the map drawn for governments who must submit to so-called pre-clearance is history.
DeSoto Chancery Judge Percy Lynchard says that prior approval has cost DeSoto County taxpayers untold sums of money ”Any type of change, a polling place, addition of a new office, for instance, County Court Judge, we added a new office here. Pre-clearance has to come through”.
He says the Justice department had 60 days to rule, but often asked for more time, leaving State and local governments in limbo.
”It’s gonna make elections a whole lot less expensive and make legislation for elections a whole lot less complicated. We don’t have to be strangled by the Federal Government now”.
Incoming Horn Lake Mayor Allen Latimer says he can do a better job of running his city without the U.S. Justice Department looking over his shoulder ”Absolutely delighted. I never thought it was fair”.
He says in the most recent election it kept candidates guessing after local boundaries were re-drawn, and had to await approval from Washington ”I know the reasons for it and in those situations, circumstances, there was a time when it was needed but this country has moved past that”.
He says when the voting rights act first passed in 1965, such protections were needed, but not these days.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruling came as a shock to minorities who had become accustomed to that extra hurdle of pre-clearance to help keep a level political playing field.
DeSoto Democratic Chairman Sam Williams says even the most recent elections here had their problems, which beg for oversight ”Until we stop fighting the (Civil) war, we need someone to say ‘this is what’s gonna happen’. I’m not pleased with anything. I think the Supreme Court is out of touch on that. I think they should have been in Mississippi talking to some people”.
But Latimer argues there’s no reason to hold Mississippi, or DeSoto County, to a different set of rules from the rest of the country ”No sir. You still have to go by the law”.
Congress could still re-impose new rules for pre-clearance but would have to give updated reasons for doing so.
Lynchard says it’s a long-shot ”They may act, but I think it’s an uphill battle”.
He says the kind of abuses that kept minorities from voting in the 1960’s have been gone for years, and so has the usefulness of pre-clearance ”I think so, I think it’s time has come and gone”.