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Schedler says voting rights decision helps Louisiana

Last Modified: Thursday, June 27, 2013 11:28 AM

By John Guidroz / American Press

A Supreme Court decision that struck down a provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that determines which states must get federal approval on election changes will save time and money for Louisiana, Secretary of State Tom Schedler told the Kiwanis Club of South Lake Charles on Wednesday.

The decision — which Schedler said was “the right thing to do” — essentially gets rid of a map used to provide polling places to minority voters in an effort to prevent discrimination in certain states, including Louisiana. Congress has the option to redraw the map. In the ruling, Chief Justice John Roberts said the provision does not show the racial changes over the last 40 years.

While Louisiana “would not have made the strides” it did without the law being enforced, Schedler said the difference between white and black voter participation has sharply decreased over the years.

In 1965, Louisiana had 80.5 percent white voter registration and 31.6 percent black voter registration. Figures from 2004 show 75 percent white voter participation and 71.1 percent black voter participation.

“There’s a 4 percent gap today, and, based on the most current data, that gap is less than 2 percent,” he said. “I think we’ve demonstrated that we’ve changed our checkered past.”

Schedler, the state’s chief elections officer, said it was a “procedural nightmare” and costly to get federal approval for each change to the election process.

“If I change one word on my registration form based on legislation, I had to get (federal) support,” he said. “If I move a precinct from one side of the street to the other, I had to get approval. I take the view that less government is better.”

Schedler said he will work to make sure the state does not “slip backwards” in providing equal voter participation.

Schedler also talked about the Supreme Court’s 7-2 vote last week that struck down a law in Arizona requiring proof of U.S. citizenship to register to vote in federal elections.

He said the ruling touted Louisiana as the only state to ask for an exception, like a driver’s license or passport, to verify someone as eligible to register.

Schedler said Louisiana has too many elections each year that cost millions of dollars to organize and a reduced voter turnout.

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