Nearly one week ago, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a key part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The part that was struck down, pre-clearance, required state legislatures in several states across the country, including my own in part, to submit any plans to re-district or reform the voting process to the Justice Department. The idea was to make sure any voter suppression or restriction efforts, such as literacy tests, were not reenacted. Also, districts were drawn to ensure minority, namely black voting turnout. The idea of pre-clearance is not dead. However, the formula is and it is up to Congress to make a new one.
So what does this have to do with neighborhoods? Lots. Follow me and you will see why.
For the record, I want to say that the idea of reducing the ability and ease of voting is wrong. I don’t understand why we have not figured out how to make it EASIER to vote for our political leaders. The online universe is littered with polls. Granted, some of those polls allow you to vote multiple times. Yet others don’t and somehow we can’t bring that technology to the polls that matter the most?
Yet, I feel lawmakers want voting restricted because it favors the populace and not them. However, these lawmakers forget a central tenet: they serve at the pleasure of the people. Or do they? As we have found out, there’s no true constitutional right for the common people to vote for their leaders. At any moment, state legislatures and other local governing bodies could decide to start appointing their leaders and disenfranchise the entire populace.
Another issue with the VRA and the current state of voting is that the rules were becoming a restriction for those it sought to help. It was as if it was not worth trying as a black individual running in a non-VRA district. Similar things happen on the local level in other districts and to other marginalized groups where states have drawn districts to ensure an extreme level of compliance with the VRA. Take a look at North Carolina’s map below. Thanks to a very off interpretation of the VRA, that “snake” district is the only thing that guarantees at least one solid, African-American U.S.House member in this state.
Yet, I want to remind everyone that as a citizen of any place you live and a good community steward, voting is essential. See, this is what has to do with neighborhoods. I took a bit of heat for not including it in my list of things that make one a lazy urbanist. However, to me, being a lazy urbanist allows for a representative democracy, as such we have throughout our country at all levels of government. If one has a crop of good leaders, why vote? Some would also say that we are too large to caucus in many areas. However, we are not too large and shouldn’t be too lazy to vote, find people worthy of serving us in our own communities, and even become that person ourselves. True governing requires door-to-door campaigning and town hall meetings. If neighborhood residents can come together on a regular basis and vote on activities, then why not vote on the leaders and issues that matter to them?
However, it comes down to one thing and one thing only: how to be a good neighbor. There is a Christian scripture that commands us to love our neighbor. If you don’t like the use of scripture, then go to the golden rule, do unto others as you would have them do unto you, which has become a universal ethics code. Being a good neighbor requires that we sometimes lay down our personal differences and the personal mandate we have been given, for the good of others. It requires that we lay down our jealousies, envies, and feelings of being threatened and we allow others the right to exist and live. Sometimes we can’t blast our music loud. Yet, does that mean we can’t paint our house purple? What are we doing that we are allowing residential home values to be what they are such that segregation, competition for home bids, flipping, and other detriments to home values are happening? And back to the main issue at hand, why are we not voting, not allowing potential elected leaders in our homes, or realizing the type of country we are supposed to live in, which allows for liberty AND respect for our fellow people?
I can’t answer that question, but I can say that we have to be better citizens and in turn that creates stronger neighborhoods and communities.