This morning the Supreme Court issued their decision on one of the most highly anticipated cases of the year. The Court ruled that Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, that provides for review of potentially discriminatory practices in jurisdictions with a history of voter suppression, is no longer necessary.
The Court justified the decision by citing the provision’s effectiveness. The logic there is peculiar, to say the least. It’s an argument for eliminating those things in the law that work best. Would the Justices signing onto this decision ever suggest that, since laws prohibiting murder resulted in a noticeable decline in victim deaths, that those laws are unnecessary and should be dispensed with?
The Voting Rights Act has been doing precisely what it was intended to do for nearly fifty years. It was reauthorized in 2006 with overwhelming support in congress (98-0 in the senate, 390-33 in the House) and signed by George W. Bush. For the Court to overturn the will of the people in this regard tags them as just the sort of activist jurists that right-wingers usually assail. The Act’s usefulness was demonstrated just last year when numerous localities tried, but failed, to implement voter suppression schemes. Here are a few of the cases that were struck down:
- Supreme Court Leaves Early Voting In Place In Ohio
- Judge blocks Pennsylvania voter ID law for November election
- South Carolina voter ID law blocked until 2013
- Texas voter-ID law is blocked
- Judge to lift restrictions on Florida voter registration
- Wisconsin high court won’t restore voter ID law before Election Day
- Iowa judge freezes voter-eligibility rules amid suit
Unfortunately, many other examples exist of racist legislation prevailing within states that have dominant GOP representation. The fact that so many attempts to sideline citizens, whether successful or not, have taken place is evidence of the continuing need for vigilance. Initiatives that inhibit registration, reduce voting opportunities, or require extraordinary measures to exercise the right to vote, are still in place or are being pursued.
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The GOP has been surprisingly open about their desire to limit voting to predominantly white, conservative constituencies. Here is what some of their leading lights have had to say on the subject:
John Stossel (Fox News): “Let’s stop saying everyone should vote.”
Rush Limbaugh: “If people cannot even feed and clothe themselves, should they be allowed to vote?”
Roger Vadum: “Registering [the poor] to vote is like handing out burglary tools to criminals. It is profoundly antisocial and un-American.”
Judson Phillips (Tea Party Nation): “If you’re not a property owner, I’m sorry, but property owners have a little bit more of a vested stake in the community than not property owners do.”
Steve Doocy (Fox News): “With 47% of Americans not paying taxes – 47% – should those who don’t pay be allowed to vote?”
It is also notable that coverage on Fox News of the Court’s decision didn’t run until 20 minutes into their 11:00am (et) broadcast and lasted for about one minute. It followed stories about Edward Snowden, the IRS, George Zimmerman, Benghazi, the Massachusetts senate race, and Snowden again. Obviously Fox needed some time to determine how they were going to spin this news. So they simply announced that the decision was handed down and then waited for further instructions from Roger Ailes or other opinion czars at the network.
While technically this decision throws much of the responsibility for future voting rights back to congress, the reality is that congress in its current form is such a dysfunctional heap of failure, that any reasonable attempts to remedy the damage done to democracy by the Court’s action are doomed to suffer from the same partisan obstructionism that has plagued Washington ever since the GOP decided that its top priority was to destroy President Obama. The only hope would be for the people to rise up and return control of the House to Democrats in 2014. That’s tall order, but one worth pursuing.