The Black Louisiana Senator Who Switched to the GOP Reacts to the Voting Rights Act Apocalypse

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
June 26 2013 6:46 PM

The Black Louisiana Senator Who Switched to the GOP Reacts to the Voting Rights Act Apocalypse

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Louisiana state Sen. Elbert Guilllory and guests attend Laissez Louisiana Film Rouler on May 14, 2013, in Baton Rouge. He says the Supreme Court's ruling on the Voting Rights Act is "a reminder to the black community that voting rights carry some serious responsibilities."

Photo by Erika Goldring/Getty Images

Last week, with great fanfare, Louisiana state Sen. Elbert Guillory switched from the Democratic Party to the GOP. This happens with some frequency in the South, and Guillory was a registered Republican before he sought office, but this was news anyway—Guillory is black, and capped off his party switch by denouncing his old party.

So I talked to Guillory this morning to get his reaction to the gutting of the Voting Rights Act. "I'm not really grossly upset by the decisions that were made yesterday, especially the one dealing with voter rights," he said. "It's a shot across our bow. It's a reminder to the black community that voting rights carry some serious responsibilities. Even voting at 10, 15 percent, 20, 30 percent in elections. Staying home. Barbecuing. Going to the hairdresser. Voting is too serious. If we're serious about our rights in America, we've got to vote, it's a basic responsibility. And the court has left the door open. If there's a problem, we can challenge it. But more than anything, it's a kick in the pants I think."

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The kick came swiftly. As PBS reports, six of the states previously subjected to pre-clearance have, in the past 24 hours, announced that they'll move ahead on voter ID laws. Guillory's advice to black voters can be taken in a number of ways. They might not take it as advice to rush into the GOP.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. You can reach him at daveweigel@gmail.com, or tweet at him @daveweigel.