Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Voting rights

I feel the urge to announce this news in one of those big, booming announcer voices they use for movie trailers, usually beginning with "IN A WORLD WHERE . . . . "

Something like this: 

IN A WORLD which has seen a huge increase in the last couple of years in efforts to make it more difficult for people to exercise their right to vote, which mainly makes it harder for the elderly, the young, and minorities, our Supreme Court has decided that now is the time to eliminate the most effective mechanism we have for curtailing these practices.

IN A WORLD where excessive litigiousness is a problem, our Supreme Court has decided that we need more lawsuits to enforce voting rights, rather than cheap and effective administrative enforcement by the Justice Department.

IN A WORLD where Congress is dysfunctional, and excessive partisanship is seen by nearly everyone as one of our biggest problems, and where conservatives claim they are in favor of judicial restraint, our Supreme Court has seen fit to set aside the judgment of the people's representatives, and penalize Congress for one of the few times it acted in a bi-partisan and nearly unanimous manner, saying, "sorry guys, you didn't do a perefect enough job to meet our standards."

IN A WORLD where the Voting Rights Act of 1965 is almost universally seen as one of the proudest accomplishments of our era, our Supreme Court has decided to gut it.

The proof that the Supreme Court was absolutely, dead wrong in deciding that the world has changed so much that we don't need section 5 anymore is going to be thrust in all of our faces very soon. If the Supreme Court were right that the world has changed, then the jurisdictions currently subject to Section 5 will now demonstrate the Court's trust in their changed attitudes by encouraging everyone to vote, and making sure the process is fully open to minorities. Does anyone think that is about to happen? The idea is almost funny. No, what's going to happen now is open season on election laws. We are about to see a spate of new efforts, in almost all of the places subject to section 5, to make it more difficult for people to vote, which will fall most heavily on the elderly, young voters and ethnic minorities.  We can draw no other conclusion than that the Supreme Court welcomes those efforts.

Understand that what the Supreme Court is now endorsing, in those places that try to enact new voting restrictions, are new epic court battles over voting rights, of the kind we saw in Pennsylvania and Ohio last year. No more simple denials of clearance, as we saw for example in South Carolina last year, where the voter id law was quashed by the Justice Department. So get ready for teams of voting rights lawyers to descend on the courts  in the places formerly covered by pre-clearance requirements. If people in those places are bothered by that deluge, just tell them the Supreme Court sent them.

What a world.

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