POLITICS

Ken Cuccinelli: Virginia Has 'Outgrown' Institutionalized Racism

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli suggested this week that his state no longer needed Department of Justice oversight in its redistricting process, a measure that was mandated by the 1965 Voting Rights Act in order to ensure that there were no discriminatory changes made to voting laws. According to Cuccinelli, Virginia had "outgrown" the prejudicial symptoms that had led Congress to approve the rule requiring "preclearance" of any changes to districts within some states, most of which are southern.

The Daily Progress reports:

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."

ThinkProgress sees Cuccinelli's comments as indicative of a larger trend among conservatives who are putting the voting rights of minorities in the crosshairs due to a growing desire to minimize the federal government's involvement in state affairs:

They are part of an orchestrated conservative effort to undermine the Voting Rights Act and remove federal protection for minority voters. Last year, conservatives took aim at Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act in the Supreme Court case NAMUDNO v. Holder. The Court upheld the legislation in an 8-1 vote - conservative Justice Thomas was the lone dissent - but as the Wonk Room's Ian Millhiser notes, the Roberts-led Court may be threatening to "invalidate the statute" if Congress doesn't alter the Voting Rights Act soon.

Furthermore, Cuccinelli's suggestions that his commonwealth has simply "outgrown" institutionalized racism come amid a year in which Virginia has garnered significant attention for issues concerning racial sensitivity. In April, the state came under fire when its governor, Bob McDonnell (R), decided to reinstate "Confederate History Month." McDonnell was later blasted for failing to make any reference to slavery in his statement, rather referring to the period as a time when soldiers "fought for their homes and communities and Commonwealth in a time very different than ours today."

And earlier this year, Virginia Senator Jim Webb (D) called for an end to government-directed diversity programs in part because he said the circumstances of racial discrimination were no longer present among many minority groups.

Virginia Democratic Party Chairman Brian Moran later responded to Cuccinelli's suggestion.

"Ken Cuccinelli's claim that Virginia no longer has any need for oversight of our redistricting process is not only ignorant, it's downright dangerous," Moran said in a statement, according to the Daily Progress. "Too many Virginians fought for too long for equal representation for our attorney general to put his near-pathological aversion to government ahead of their civil rights by removing the safeguards that ensure the integrity of our political system."