Gutting Voting Rights Again and Again

Supreme Court Voting Rights Wade's World

            New Orleans     When a legal election observer says that a recent Supreme Court decision is “likely to be a train wreck for communities of color,” any believer in voting rights has to cringe.  I should quickly add, cringe again, because this is just the latest outrage in a series of decisions by the court over the last three decades that have eviscerated any pretense of our democracy and voters’ access to the ballot box.

That comment was made about a recent 6-3 decision over a case in South Carolina, denying efforts there to determine that a recent legislative effort to create a minority congressional district was racially motivated.  The now hyper-partisan, scandal ridden and ethically-challenged Justice Samuel Alito wrote the majority opinion, arguing that for the Black plaintiffs to succeed in the lower court, they would have to prove the legislators’ racial bias.  He gave the nod to state legislatures and demanded that “they produce an alternative map that showed a partisan goal could be achieved by moving white voters instead of Black ones.”  The Republican supermajority on the court has already determined that gerrymandering to achieve a partisan advantage, especially for their own party is hunky-dory, so this decision makes the mountain even higher to climb for minorities seeking fair representation.

Joshua Douglas of the University of Kentucky College of Law offers a good understanding of the Catch22 of the decision, saying, “The court now essentially says, ‘We want to stay out of this.  The answer is if you don’t like the voting laws that the states are enacting, you can vote the bums out.  That rings hollow when the bums are passing rules that make it harder to vote them out.  I think that is exactly the system that the court is setting up.”  I wasn’t surprised to read his remarks, since I had just talked to him on Wade’s World about his new book, The Court v. The Voters:  The Troubling Story of How the Supreme Court has Undermined Voting Rights.  Douglas told me that in writing the book it was hard to narrow the list of decisions attacking voting rights to only ten to fit his outline.

In rating the worst of the worst, Bush v. Gore by all accounts was the biggest loser when the Court understanding full well that every decision creates a precedent simply declared a winner rather than allowing the Florida recount ordered by the Florida Supreme Court and claimed it was a one-off thing.  Chief Justice Roberts’ majority opinion in getting rid of preclearance in section 5 of the Voting Rights Act has allowed this mischief to go wild by pretending in an era of white nationalism that racial prejudice is dead, and then joining the court in Citizens United to allow unlimited money from the rich to buy elections, if they so choose.  All of those cases made the rouge’s gallery, but Douglas was most pointed in discussing Bronovich v. Democratic National Committee in 2021, where Justice Alito just made up the law around voting by creating five new tests “out of whole cloth” for determining if gerrymandering was racial and ignoring the longstanding dual tests for section 2 of the Act.

The most recent decision just continues Alito’s campaign against democracy and the voters, especially nonwhites and any Democrats.  Seeing the hard right, deep red of state legislatures run by his party, he wants to increase the country’s divisions whenever possible in hopes that his legal and cultural biases become the law of the land.  We can almost live with his horrid ethical lapses and false flag flying in support of insurrectionists, if he wasn’t doing way more damage to voting rights which could take decades to undue, long after he’s in the hard, cold ground.