the Wrongologist departs from his policy of not writing on a hot, trending
issue that everyone else is writing millions of words about, to comment on the Voting Rights Act (VRA).
Americans need to
remember The Edmund Pettus bridge, a symbol of the fight for change in Alabama and the rest of America. It was there that
voting rights marchers were violently confronted by police on March 7, 1965. The next day, Martin Luther King, Jr.
led 3,200 people out of Selma, across the Edmund Pettus Bridge
to Montgomery. Less than five
months later, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Things went terribly wrong yesterday when SCOTUS
struck down Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act by cleverly striking down Section FOUR instead, saying that
the formula that Congress uses to determine which states are under Section 5
pre-clearance is no longer Constitutional.
The vote was 5-4. No one should ever again say that politics
is a fool’s errand, or that it doesn’t matter whether a Democrat or a
Republican takes office. There is a
direct line from 2000, when Nader’s 3% of the vote was enough to throw Florida
into chaos and hand the Presidency to George W. Bush. Consider the following:
- There is a direct line from November
of 2000 to Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito. To pretend
otherwise is to ignore history.
- And there is a direct line from 2010,
when the 2008 voters stayed home and handed the House and state governments
across the nation to a radical Republican fringe.
- There is also a direct line from
November 2010 to yesterday’s SCOTUS ruling.
Will you be energized and organized to take on the challenge in
2014? Will you donate to get out the vote efforts? Will you volunteer
to drive voters to the polls? Will you make calls? Or will you sit at your computer
gnashing your teeth and complaining because the mean nasty Republicans remain mean
Our democracy is only as good as we
make it. Without significant participation, the loudest voices win. We have to
be the loudest voices, voices that make the earth shake.
Anything less, and we deserve what we
what the court did yesterday: They invented a standard to
strike down the preclearance map. A law that has been authorized five times
before, with reams of Congressional findings of fact, is invalid because the
Court suddenly prefers its own facts to those provided by Congress. What’s comical
is that the Roberts opinion spends precious little time on the Constitutional issues
and a whole lot of time developing a made-up standard that never existed before,
in order to strike it down.
Constitutional issue is simple. Nobody had a problem with the VRA before, and
it’s abundantly clear that the 15th Amendment permits such legislation. When
the Supreme Court looks to strike down a law, it must do so only if
there is no way to uphold it. Clearly that is not the case. What changed is
that the conservative majority seized the opportunity to defang it for no other
reason than the fact that they could.
This is the Roberts
majority creating a judicial line item
struck down the coverage formula that had been used by the federal government
to determine which states and counties are subject to continued oversight.
Roberts said that the 1972 formula was outdated and unworkable. The court said
it is now up to congressional lawmakers to revise the law and create a new
formula that will pass constitutional scrutiny. From Chief Justice Roberts:
Roberts’ opinion is here. By removing the specific protections of
Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, the only protection against massive
predations against minority voters by “states’ rights enthusiasts”
will be a Department of Justice willing to prosecute and defend the general
protections of Section 5. In that context, the political leanings of the
Executive Branch become that much more important.
You can expect that Republicans
will get right on that new formula thing. Count out the South from here
on out, folks. It will be open season on massive gerrymandering because
now, no states, districts, or localities are subject to Section 5 rules.
From Ginsburg’s dissent:
Ginsburg’s research is correct, the jurisdictions covered under Section 5 of
the Voting Rights Act were prevented
from enacting approximately 1600 discriminatory voting laws in the 24 years
between 1982 and the 2006 reauthorization of the Act.
That is 67
discriminatory laws proposed per year, for almost a quarter century.
By Robert’s rule, all
of those laws would have gone into effect and most likely had an impact on
elections before they could be challenged in court, which isn’t good enough.
The only thing that’s history now? Potentially, the rights of millions of
Americans to vote.
We should mourn for a
few days. Then, we need to fight as if our lives depended on it, because they will.