Nope, No Disenfranchisement to See Here.

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli wants an exemption from the Voting Rights Act. Why? Because the Commonwealth has "outgrown" institutional racism:

Cuccinelli also addressed the issue of redistricting, saying he thought it was time for Virginia to be released from its federally mandated oversight by the U.S. Department of Justice under the Voting Rights Act of 1965. [...]

Cuccinelli, however, said Virginia has “outgrown” that requirement, as the state — which he acknowledged originated Massive Resistance — is no longer marked by institutionalized bigotry.

“I think as a state, as a commonwealth, we have outgrown that,” he said. “We have grown as a commonwealth a great deal in my lifetime.”

Earlier this year, if you recall, Republican Gov. McDonnell reinstated "Confederate History Month," failing to make any reference to slavery (he later apologized). This was followed by Sen. Jim Webb's op-ed against federal anti-discrimination policies, and McDonnell's decision to institute a bona fide literacy test for ex-felons seeking restoration of their voting rights. He later backed away from the decision, but it remains true that Virginia has more than 300,000 disenfranchised felons -- largely African American -- and one of the most restrictive clemency policies in the country.

To say that the state has outgrown institutionalized bigotry is to ignore the extent to which African Americans continue to be ignored by public officials and disproportionately affected by felon disenfranchisement laws. That said, there may very well be an argument for exempting the Commonwealth from the Voting Rights Act. But Cuccinelli isn't making it. Instead, as Think Progress notes, he is trying to advance a broader right-wing effort to remove protection for minority voters.

-- Jamelle Bouie

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