Home / General / Open Thread on Supreme Court Ruling of Section 4 of Voting Rights Act Unconstitutional

Open Thread on Supreme Court Ruling of Section 4 of Voting Rights Act Unconstitutional

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It’s worth having an open thread just to express anger and frustration over our Plessy-nostalgic Supreme Court ruling the most important section of the most important piece of civil rights legislation passed since the 14th Amendment unconstitutional.

Will anti-lynching laws soon be ruled unconstitutional as well? We’d probably have to pray for a Kennedy swing vote on that one.

I wonder how reasonable moderate Sam Alito voted? Maybe St. Ralph would like to pontificate about this a bit as well?

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  • I’ll start.

    AAAAAAARRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHH

    • Shorter SCOTUS: We’ve ended Reconstruction before, and that solution held for about 90 years, so we’ll just go ahead and end Reconstruction a second time.

    • Tyto

      This. No, really.

    • Josh G.

      A couple of years back, Nathan Newman wrote an excellent article about why the Supreme Court sucks (and has throughout most of US history, with the Warren era being a rare exception) and why there needs to be less talk about judicial independence and more talk about impeaching Supreme Court Justices.

      • mpowell

        He’s not talking about actually impeaching judges though, because if you had the congressional caucus to do it, it probably wouldn’t be necessary. He just wants people to talk about it for political effect. Maybe not a bad idea, but it’s important to remember that this kind of framing attempt doesn’t really have all that much impact on actual policy outcomes.

  • Steve LaBonne

    One can only hope that this makes voters as angry and determined in 2014 as voter suppression efforts made them in 2012.

    • Todd

      Best guess on the first State to pass a voting requirement that clearly would not have passed prior supervision?

      I’ll go with an obviously anti-immigrant measure in a southwestern State….maybe Arizona?

      • BigHank53

        North Carolina, closely followed by Florida. Mississippi will be getting an oar in the water, too.

        • North Carolina, as a state, was not subject to Section 5 preclearance (although some individual counties in NC were). Same with Florida. The NC and FL legislatures did not have to seek preclearance for, e.g., Voter ID laws (unlike SC and GA, which were covered states and did need to seek preclearance).

          • Sam Bagenstos

            Just to be clear, states like NC and FL *did* need to get preclearance for statewide voting changes (like voter ID laws) to the extent that those changes were applied in covered counties.

        • UserGoogol

          North Carolina and Florida weren’t actually subject to preclearance on a statewide level, although a lot of their counties were.

        • Mississippi will just jail the “coloreds” I’m sure. It’s probably cheaper that way.

          • Another Anonymous

            Not enough jails.

            • Cheap Wino

              There’s a free market solution to that little problem, you can be sure.

              • witless chum

                That’s really the one nice thing about the Teahadis, they’re too cheap to jail everyone they’d like to jail.

      • MAJeff

        Shelby County?

      • Karen

        Texas is having a special session right now. Perry will call for every. Voter suppression law his staff can imagine to bolster his chances in 2016.

        • Yes, Texas.

        • Definitely Texas. Special session full of the worst wingnuts in the nation, egged on by treason-loving Rick Perry and Greg “Most Corrupt Elected Official in the State” Abbott. I’ll be shocked if they haven’t limited voting rights to white Republicans only by the end of the week.

        • Cody

          One would consider saying in an open forum that your plan is to stop black people from voting would violate some kind of law.

          Unfortunately not I guess…

          • mds

            Unfortunately not I guess…

            Oh, it might indeed violate some kind of law. Just not one the conservatives on the Supreme Court would consider constitutional.

        • zombie rotten mcdonald

          yeah, Prick Erry was my first thought also. They are trending blue even now, so the need to knock back the brahs is urgent.

          The brahs and the wimminz.

          • Karen

            Speaking of Texas women, Sen Wendy Davis is filibustering a horrid abortion bill today, and doing it the hard way. She has to stand for 13 hours without food, water, or bathroom breaks and talk only about the bill. Please send some good thoughts her way.

            • jim, some guy in iowa

              Christ, they turn their filbuster process into a jail sentence? fuckers. Best wishes from here

            • zombie rotten mcdonald

              If they follow the Wisconsin procedure, they’ll just summarily declare debate closed, over-rule and out-shout the protests, and vote it through anyway.

              • mds

                Thank you for reminding me of how inspiring it is when Wisconsin Republicans put into practice their oft-professed Christian beliefs: “Might makes right” (Matthew 6:0xE) and “Rules are for suckers” (John 5.5 slash Apple slash 26).

                • zombie rotten mcdonald

                  Also, St. Tommy, “Stick it to ’em”.

        • Karen

          And I win!!!. That took what? Two hours? Abbott must have been in a meeting. Okay, I’m going to go sob in the bathroom for awhile.

      • Barry

        I imagine that a couple of states had trigger clauses, or laws already passed.

      • Blue collar worker

        You can bet the governor of whichever state is first in the impending stampede to suppress minority voters will be the front runner as the republican candidate for POTUS in 2016.

      • sharculese

        I’m sure they’ll all be approaching it with all deliberate speed.

    • Anonymous

      It always starts in South Carolina.

    • Yes. I predict a case of “Hurting you more than it hurts us.”

    • Andrew

      If the 2012 results for the US House and state legislatures show anything, even if the backlash manifests as higher Democratic turnout, it likely won’t be enough to overcome the post-2010 redistricting. This is a net loss. Absent broad shifts in the geographic distribution of demographics, statewide races are going to be the most competitive.

  • MAJeff

    So, nowhere is currently under pre-clearance, and nothing will get out of the House. Voter suppression shenanigans are free to commence.

    • Meister Brau

      This decision just waved a huge green flag in front of all the folks here in PA who want to minimize the “urban” (their scare quotes) vote. Even though they weren’t subject to preclearance here, you can bet there is some high-fiving going on in Harrisburg this morning.

      • Tyto

        I don’t see that this decision eliminates equal protection arguments against packing and cracking. As a practical matter, though, the packing and cracking can now affect an election in areas previously subject to preclearance before anyone can do anything about it.

      • JoyfulA

        I’m hoping the state attorney general decides not to defend.

  • After over 40 years of metastasizing Conservatism, and old age, I have to more hair to tear out, or set on fire.

    And the only thing the Republicans in this Congress would be willing to pass, would be something called, “The White to Vote Act.”

  • rea

    I’ve never udnerstood the legal rationale under which this is even arguable–does the Supreme Court majority claim the power to decide what kind of enforcement of the 15th Amendment is “appropriate”?

    The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.

    The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

    • Immanuel Kant

      Presumably that’s the idea – that the pre-clearance formula is not appropriate, because it does not pertain to current conditions.

      • Barry

        “Presumably that’s the idea – that the pre-clearance formula is not appropriate, because it does not pertain to current conditions.”

        Which, of course, is not in that Amendment, nor in the rest of the Constitution, nor (guessing, here) in case law and precedents.

        • Immanuel Kant

          I’m not saying it’s a good argument.

    • mds

      does the Supreme Court majority claim the power to decide what kind of enforcement of the 15th Amendment is “appropriate”?

      Yes. For example, as Scalia has previously repeatedly suggested, the answer is “none.” Voting is not a right; it’s a privilege. Besides, the inequities the VRA was meant to address have long ago been remedied, if they ever really existed.

      • zombie rotten mcdonald

        “Look! We have a black Supreme Court justice and EVERYTHING!”

    • Foregone Conclusion

      Ah, yes, but according to Scalia Congress must be protected, like a virtuous maiden, from the dark-skinned hordes threatening her.

    • The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

      This is basically identical to the enforcement clauses in a bunch of other Amendments (14, 19, 23, 24, 26, and ~18).

      Determining whether Congressional acts are “appropriate” (i.e., within the proper power of Congress and otherwise constitutional) is part of judicial review.

      There are a number of good reasons to criticize the opinion in Shelby County. This is not one of them.

      • Anon21

        Isn’t it? Boerne v. Flores isn’t exactly a venerable old landmark of constitutional law, and I don’t think it was rightly decided. (That said, screw RFRA.)

      • Another Anonymous

        Granting that “appropriate” is limiting language, there cannot be many cases where the Court has dared to hold that a Congressional action was “inappropriate.”

        • zombie rotten mcdonald

          “Appropriate” = “anything that might erode white patriarchy”

        • rea

          You’d ordinarily expect deference to the factual determinations of Congress. In theory, it would be much easier to determine that preclearance is an inappropriate mechanism, than to say Congress was wrong about which jurisdictions needed preclearance.

  • Immanuel Kant

    Is there any reason to hope that Congress might pass a new formula? The reauthorization passed basically unanimously under a Republican Congress.

    • Arguably, the reauthorization passed only because it was a straight Yes-or-No vote on the current act, coverage formula and all. Congress did not have to negotiate over a new coverage formula. That will be the hard part.

      Also, the Congressional GOP in 2013 is a bit different from the Congressional GOP in 2006.

      • Immanuel Kant

        Well, we already have the model of “pass some sort of bipartisan compromise in the Senate, and then push it through the House with the support of most Democrats and some Republicans.” This might theoretically be possible for this purpose. But actually negotiating a pre-clearance formula would indeed seem difficult, especially since it’s so clearly in the narrow, short-term interest of Republicans that there not be any.

        • UserGoogol

          Would it be in line with today’s ruling for them to pass a law saying that they carefully looked at existing discrimination in society and then concluded that they wanted to reinstate preclearance in exactly the same states and counties? That might be politically viable.

          If the problem with preclearance is that it’s based on outdated formula, then in principle you could “update” the formula without changing anything substantive.

          • Would it be in line with today’s ruling for them to pass a law saying that they carefully looked at existing discrimination in society and then concluded that they wanted to reinstate preclearance in exactly the same states and counties?

            That is what they did in 2006.

            The Court is OK with Congress reverse-engineering a formula, but you need some triggering data more up-to-date than voter registration rates in 1972.

            • Tyto

              Right, so just include some more recent data in the legislative record, reference it in a preamble, and put the same bill forward.

              • Brandon

                Just cover everybody.

        • Andrew

          That model has only been used infrequently since 2010. Whether Boehner believes his caucus might challenge his speakership or just acts like he does, the effect is the same. He rarely brings bills to the floor unless they have support from a majority of the GOP majority. In practice that’s mostly meant that he only brings bills to the floor which can pass without any Democratic votes.

          I don’t think he’d consider the politics of this to be sufficiently like the Budget Control Act to even entertain negotiations.

    • David Hunt

      The reauthorization passed basically unanimously under a Republican Congress.

      That was because voting against the re-authorization of the VRA is voting against one on, if not the, the most important civil rights act of the Twentieth Century. I’m sure there are districts where a Congressman can get away with that, but it’s still a clear huge sign that you want voter suppression, so it just plain looks bad.

      Now, the Republicans in Congress are in a much better position to effectively kill that part of the bill. All they have to do is be intransigent about how the formula is determined and then loudly blame Democrats for being unwilling to compromise and nothing gets done until the GOP no longer controls the House. Given the massive gerrymandering they did after the 2010 census, the earliest that seems at all likely is 2023. And once they get their voter suppression efforts going, they may keep the House for the foreseeable future. Finally, even if we get a Congress and a President that would allow the VRA to be fixed, it will have been ten years at that point and I have doubts as to how much political will can be mustered for the VRA at that point.

      In short, F*** you SCOTUS conseratives.

      • Brandon

        Scalia was explicit about that during oral arguments. This is giving congressional conservatives cover by eliminating it through un-democratic means.

  • Anon21

    A quibble (I do a lot of these on SCOTUS threads): I think Section 5 (the preclearance requirement) is clearly more important than Section 4 (the coverage formula). Granted, Section 5 does not function without some replacement for Section 4, but I don’t think it’s implausible that Congress could pass a replacement; they reauthorized the VRA in 2006 with Republicans in control of both chambers, so a compromise on a new preclearance formula might be possible.

    • The chances of this Congress replacing Section 4 is about 0.0%.

      • Anon21

        They are surely higher than that, although they probably aren’t good. The point is that had Thomas’s views carried the day, the most important feature of the Voting Rights Act would be dead for good. With this decision, it will be possible for Congress—perhaps in 2016—to undo a lot of the damage that the Supreme Court has done. So I strongly disagree with your assertion that the Court struck down “the most important section” of the Act today.

        • Meister Brau

          This decision similar in structure to the Citizens United decision: the door was left open for Congress to mandate disclosure while the limits were struck down. We haven’t seen any movement on that front since; I don’t see any reason to expect any movement here.

          • Anon21

            Well, the interest groups involved are just completely different, as is the historical background. The Voting Rights Act has much better optics than election-spending regulations; its origins are in the civil rights movement, and its supporters deployed that history pretty effectively in obtaining near-unanimous reauthorization in 2006. I just don’t think Citizens United is a very useful precedent for how the politics of this will play out.

      • burnspbesq

        Then get a new Congress. You’re allowed to do that.

        • sparks

          Or more accurately, “get a new Congress before the disenfranchisement happens”. Horses, barns.

          • sparks

            Aaaand, GO! Exactly what they wanted, when they needed it so that anybody who can’t pass the paper bag test can easily be denied/delayed ID to vote until after the (s)election. That new Congress is going to be more lighter, whiter, righter than any bleach could accomplish.

            I don’t usually like to follow up my own self, but in this case developments developed exactly as I expected.

            HT to Pierce.

      • Scott Lemieux

        And, of course, if it does the Supreme Court will strike it down as either too expansive or not expansive enough.

        • Tybalt

          Exactly. Even if political pressure means that something is passed, the conservative majority on the Court will continue its reason-free nitpicking over exactly how precise the coverage formula should be until there is no longer a conservative majority on the Court.

    • fka AWS

      I wonder what’s different between 2006 and now?

      • Anon21

        The Democrats control the Senate and the White House?

        Not to be a smartass, but I think the political dynamics are kind of difficult to predict right this instant. If Reid managed to get a new coverage formula with bipartisan support through the Senate, there is a possibility—not a great one, but a real one—that Boehner would let it pass with mostly Democratic votes. The civil-rights groups were pretty effective at mobilizing constituent contact in 2006 when there was talk of the Act not being renewed.

        • Immanuel Kant

          Yes, this seems reasonable to me as well. And if not in this congress, maybe in the next one or the one after that.

          • José Arcadio Buendía

            The earliest this is likely to change in 2022. This isn’t as hot an issue for Latinos and it is an existential issue for the Confederate rump of the GOP. They will die on this hill if they have to in the House. Until the gerrymandering in the House is overturned this is the status quo.

            Democrats need to learn: (1) Presidential elections, (2) pre-census statehouse elections, (3) midterms. We’ll see if they gear up in 2014.

            • Immanuel Kant

              I don’t think we can assume that Democrats can’t take back the House with the current map. People said almost exactly the same thing about the 2000 map, and Democrats still managed to win the House in 2006.

              • Anon21

                Exactly. People neglect the possibility of “wave” elections. That the GOP won the House while receiving 1 million fewer votes does not establish that the GOP can carry the House while receiving, say, 5 million fewer votes. And predicting political conditions more than a couple years out is a fool’s errand.

                • chris

                  Not only that, but people move; stale gerrymandering isn’t as effective as fresh gerrymandering.

                • mpowell

                  Except there aren’t wave elections anymore. Or at least that’s been a strong trend for 30 years now. It’s not impossible to take back the house, but it’s pretty clear that you’re looking at somewhere between a 6-9% headwind from districting. That’s huge. And if you add in the disadvantage presidential incumbents have in midterms, 2014 is right out. You’ve got a shot in 2016 and that’s probably it until 2022.

                • Immanuel Kant

                  A shot in 2016 and 2020, I’d think, depending on the political climate.

                • Anon21

                  2006 and 2012 were both wave elections by most definitions. Again, attempting to forecast whether conditions would be right for a Democratic wave in 2013 is essentially impossible.

                • Anon21

                  Botched that second sentence pretty badly. Should read: “Again, attempting to forecast whether conditions would be right for a Democratic wave in 2016 from the perspective of 2013 is essentially impossible.”

        • zombie rotten mcdonald

          Boehner will rely on his (selective) Hastert Rule to prevent a bill moving to the House floor. I’ll bet you cash dollar money on it.

    • penpen

      Sorry dude, not going to happen, that was one whole black president ago.

      • Another Anonymous

        This.

    • I wonder what’s different between 2006 and now?

      The Tea Party. The President. The 2010 midterms. Sarah Palin. The 2012 GOP Primary.

      • Incontinentia Buttocks

        (All, apparently, caused by Ralph Nader.)

        • Barry

          Is there some part of ‘Nader deliberately flipped the election, and claimed that there was no difference between the parties’ that you don’t understand?

          • DocAmazing

            Powerful!

      • Scott Lemieux

        And, also, re-authorizing legislation and building new legislation from scratch are not remotely comparable.

    • dan

      The decision explicitly states that it is not taking a position on whether Sec. 5 is constitutional. Even if a replacement Sec. 4 were to pass, the Court can go on strike Sec. 5 next time.

      • Anon21

        They could, but if they had 5 votes to do that I think they would have done it today. I do not think that’s a likely outcome—especially since if it does take until 2022 to get a new coverage formula enacted, the Court’s membership will be different.

        • Tyto

          Maybe. Or maybe this was just a classic Roberts “minimalist” decision.

          • zombie rotten mcdonald

            yeah, it gets the job done for the next couple of elections.

            By that time, they will have the Nineteenth Amendment teed up.

            • We’ll win when they go after the 21st amendment. THAT will be over-reach.

          • Anon21

            So was the ACA case. I think Roberts has some genuine minimalism in him in addition to all the conservative ideology. I do not think he wants to strike down Section 5.

            • zombie rotten mcdonald

              what have you seen in what he does that give you ANY basis for that impression?

              • Anon21

                Specifically as to the Voting Rights Act? Writing a decision that was widely expected to strike down Section 5 so as not to strike down Section 5. I think the more pressing question is what motive you would attribute to him for leaving Section 5 alone in a case that squarely presented its constitutionality. Do you think there was a different Justice in the majority (Kennedy? I thought he was the most vocally disapproving of VRA at oral argument) who didn’t want to go there?

                • zombie rotten mcdonald

                  No, I meant the “genuine minimalism’ thing.

                  He’s been as activist as he needed to be. If anything, he only goes as far as necessary to achieve what he wants, but I wouldn’t call that minimalism. Maybe just some clever camouflage.

                • Anon21

                  Again, I think the ACA case is strong evidence in the other direction. I do not believe his policy preference was to leave the individual mandate standing; I think that part of the decision was born from concern about the Court’s institutional standing.

                • Tyto

                  If by “institutional standing” you mean “acquiring the necessary number of votes,” then we agree.

                • Anon21

                  What on earth are you talking about, Tyto? We know there were four other votes to strike down the individual mandate, because they told us so. So if that’s what Roberts wanted, he had only to join them.

                • Tyto

                  You’re right, of course. I’m just frustrated/enraged.

                  But I do not believe that Roberts was that concerned by notions of institutional legitimacy regarding the ACA, as the polling completed by groups he cares about would have assured him that his ruling was aligned with public opinion at the time.

            • Scott Lemieux

              I do not think he wants to strike down Section 5.

              Oh, heavens no. As long as it doesn’t actually cover any states, he’s fine with it.

        • dan

          I think this is a good example of Roberts-type “minimalism”. It accomplishes the same thing as declaring Sec. 5 unconstitutional, leaving open the option of declaring Sec. 5 unconstitutional if Congress does try to enact a new Sec. 4, and in the meantime the Court can pretend that it didn’t go as far as it could have.

          • Bufflars

            This.

  • Immanuel Kant

    Also, can anyone explain why only parts of North Carolina and Florida, and none of Tennessee and Arkansas, were subject to pre-clearance?

    • The VRA includes included a “bail-in” provision. Basically, if a plaintiff brought a successful Section 2 suit against a county or a city or some subdivision, and the federal judge found that the discrimination was pervasive, then the judge could bail-in the subdivision, basically through an injunction–and then the subdivision would have to get preclearance.

      The City of Chattanooga in Tennessee was subject to preclearance at one point, but subsequently bailed-out (i.e., convinced the court that it had mended its ways). Ditto Arkansas.

      • Immanuel Kant

        I’m just puzzled why any part of the Confederacy was not subject to pre-clearance – especially Florida, which I’ve never heard of as having a particularly harmonious racial history.

        • Congress designed preclearance for the worst of the worst. They based it on voter registration rates and turn-out rates in 1964 and 1968 and 1972.

          And bear in mind that Arizona and Alaska were covered states as well.

        • rea

          Note that the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens were subject to preclearance, along with an assortment of other northern jurisdictions

          • Immanuel Kant

            That’s also weird, but I figured that was just some weird log-rolling. It’s hard for me to see why none of the Florida panhandle was covered.

          • Tyto

            Los Angeles is also subject to preclearance.

            • DocAmazing

              If you followed the doings of some of LA’s mayors of yore, or studied how Watts and Compton came to be the way they are, you would not be terribly surprised. Hell, have a look at the LA Sherriff’s Department and their doings: there’s a problem of long standing there.

              • Tyto

                I didn’t say I was surprised. Basically, L.A. is a kind of lesser known historical cesspit of racial issues, for the reasons you mention and for, among many other neighborhoods, Boyle Heights and Chavez Ravine. And it is/was LAPD as much as LACSD (though less so recently).

              • Keaaukane

                I’m not familiar with how Watts and Compton came to be. Could you recommend a book or article about it? It should be interesting.

                Thanks

                • DocAmazing

                  The Fire This Time by Gerald Horne is pretty good.

                • nosmo king

                  Compton had explicit racial covenants that were finally lifted in 1968. It was all white or nearly so until then, ironic for a city now synonymous with West coast hip-hop.

                  Los Angeles County, and many others outside the south, is littered with former “sundown towns”. James Loewen’s book of the same name is invaluable. The short version: if you grew up without any minorities around, it was almost certainly not by accident.

                • Tyto

                  The racial covenants were almost everywhere, but your last sentence pretty much nails it.

    • Richard

      Some political compromise back in 1965. As inexplicable as the decision to include Manhattan and Brooklyn and Monterey County, California among the counties requiring pre-clearance. Its very hard to justify the mishmash of covered and non-covered states and counties but that doesn’t make the law unconstitutional (and that wasn’t the basis for the court’s ruling since it explicitly said that the coverage provisions were constitutional in 1965)

      • What, to your mind, would be a better coverage formula?

        • David Hunt

          I have no idea if this is feasible, but I’d have every jurisdiction in the Country covered. Someone above wrote that the VRA allowed areas to be excluded from coverage if they convincingly mended their ways, so some areas would get out from under the restrictions faster than others. I’m sure that would never get through Congress, if for not other reason than the GOP House isn’t going to let anything through, but that’s what I think would be fair. It also has the advantage of being a simple non-discriminatory formula (all).

        • Richard

          In one sense, I agree with the majority opinion. What Congress should do is get all the current available voting info, hold hearings and then draft new pre-clearance mandates nationwide based on current information. However, the fact that Congress did less than that and relied on somewhat antiquated data isn’t grounds for substituting the opinion of the Supreme Court for the opinion of Congress.

          • zombie rotten mcdonald

            But there are #BENGHAZI hearings to posture through!

            • Cody

              Indeed. They’re busy holding classified hearings behind closed doors that they refuse to release the transcripts for (even though Issa promised).

              It’s the only reasonable way to investigate the possibility that the President did something behind closed doors that he didn’t release transcripts for.

              • sibusisodan

                They’re busy holding classified hearings behind closed doors that they refuse to release the transcripts for

                Seriously? That’s enough to give irony whiplash.

                • zombie rotten mcdonald

                  Irony was already in traction after they leveled spying charges at Snowden.

          • Andrew

            If we’re talking about fantasy legislation, more reasonable would be to set up a process and criteria for evaluating preclearance jurisdictions during the decennial census.

        • zombie rotten mcdonald

          the entire country?

          • Why not?

            • zombie rotten mcdonald

              I think it would be VASTLY easier than trying to get that box of meth-addled ferrets in the House Republican Party to agree to ANY kind of ‘formula’.

              Which raises it’s probability from 0.0% to 15%. at least before 2022.

      • rea

        The thing is, the Bronx, Brooklyn , Queens and Monteray had long ignoble histories of racial discrimination.

        • +1 this. And that is what bail-in was designed for.

        • Richard

          But no worse than hundreds of other counties in the nation and certainly no worse than many counties in Florida

          • Immanuel Kant

            Yeah, I have a hard time believing that the whole Florida Panhandle had higher black voting rates in 1965 than Manhattan, which had a black congressman at the time.

            • zombie rotten mcdonald

              I’m going to let one of the New York residents alert you to the difference between the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Manhattan.

              I suspect they won’t be gentle.

  • Is it OK if I first call my Congress Critters and ask them to support the Pocan/Ellison amendment?

    Thanks.

  • Glenn

    I am of course outraged by this decision, but… I don’t think it does anyone any good to describe the VRA as a “nullity” or having been “gutted,” etc. Section 2 is still around and in effect. It’s harder of course, so I don’t mean to minimize the damage the Court has done here. But the VRA is still alive, if not entirely well.

    • True.

      • Richard

        I agree. Any voting changes can be challenged by the DOJ as a violation of the Voting Rights Act. The decision gets rid of the pre-clearnace mandates but doesn’t effect the post-enactment options of the DOJ

        • sibusisodan

          I have no confidence that the DOJ will be adequately resourced to deal with an uptick in cases where disenfranchisement happens. They still have the authority, but who’s going to give them the money for it?

          • Glenn

            Just to be clear, it doesn’t have to be the DOJ, it can be private citizens. This is without question going to require increased funding for voting rights/civil rights groups to try to keep up.

        • dl

          The reason that doesn’t work is that by the time the suit is litigated, the election is over. And if the law is the struck down, for the next election, they pass a slightly different law. History proves this.

          • Jordan

            I’m sure that this is usually what happens. But I think several voter-ID laws were put on hold (and thus were not in place) this last last election cycle, and that included in non-preclearance places. Am I misremembering?

            • Andrew

              You remember correctly. Plaintiffs can request a court ordered injunction against a law until the case is settled.That happened with several of the laws passed by Walker’s WI Republicans. But it depends on the judge.

  • Congress could make Section 5 national: make every state and jurisdiction get preclearance.

    I’m not holding my breath.

    • JL

      Yeah, that would be my ideal too. And I am also not holding my breath.

    • Richard

      More realistically, they could hold new hearings and pass a new coverage formula but that too is very unlikely within the next three years

      • BigHank53

        “Show us on the doll where ACORN touched you, and we’ll make sure those bad people never do it again.”

    • Uncle Ebeneezer

      I’m not holding my breath.

      Especially given how much of the population is concerned with fictional/hypothetical cases of voter fraud (and the usually-dark-skinned perpetrators.)

    • Ask your Congress Critter to support the Pocan/Ellison Amendment.

      • Greg

        What if my Congresscritter is Mark Pocan?

        • DocAmazing

          Be extra encouraging.

        • Thank him for introducing the bill ahead of the ruling.

    • Josh G.

      Better yet, completely nationalize all federal elections. It’s absurd that individual *states* can control the manner in which people vote for *federal* officials. I don’t think there’s any other country on earth that does things this way.

      • sibusisodan

        Technically, I think it’s actually quite similar to the way individual EU nations hold elections for their European parliamentary representatives. It’s up the the nations themselves, and it probably differs from nation to nation.

        It’s a problem which is pretty much intrinsic to federalism, since the fundamental unit of sovereignty is not the federation.

        • Josh G.

          Which is why federalism sucks.

        • Immanuel Kant

          It’s not intrinsic to federalism. You could easily design a federal system where federal elections are run by the federal government.

          • sibusisodan

            Are there any actual examples? Genuinely curious. Theoretically, sure. But practically?

            • Tybalt

              Federal elections in Canada are run by the federal government.

              • sibusisodan

                I gratefully tip my hat to you, and am just about to start investing Canadian federalism. The things one learns…

      • rea

        Requires a constitutional amendment . . .

        • LeeEsq

          Does it? Henry Cabott Lodge attempted to nationalize elections to the House of Representatives with his Federal Election Bill in 1890.* It only failed due to shennigans over the silver issue. Nobody seemed to have saw this bill as unconstitutional.

          *We would have been saved a lot of stupidity and worse if this bill was enacted into law.

        • Josh G.

          Replacing one Supreme Court justice is easier than amending the Constitution.

    • Incontinentia Buttocks

      National preclearance should clearly be the political goal here. Easily achievable? Obviously not. Possibly achievable? Certainly. And, in the meantime, restoring and extending the VRA is a terrific flag around which the Dems can rally key electoral constituencies (let’s just hope they get more serious about this than they were about, e.g., EFCA).

  • From the NAACP’s LDF:

    The Supreme Court’s decision today to strike down a key part of the Voting Rights Act is an act of extraordinary judicial overreach. The Supreme Court ruling takes the most powerful tool our nation has to defend minority voting rights out of commission. By second-guessing Congress’ judgment about which places should be covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, the Court has left millions of minority voters without the mechanism that has allowed them to stop voting discrimination before it occurs. This is like letting you keep your car, but taking away the keys. To say that I am disappointed is an understatement. Congress must step in.

  • José Arcadio Buendía

    Not to belabor the point too much, but if you dislike Nader so much, and are so primarily concerned with what happens in the Supreme Court, maybe (just maybe) you should STFU and CLAP LOUDER, so to speak, for Democrats instead of trying to Whitewater them on the thinnest of news releases.

    If you’re anti-Nader, I think, you can make Snowden your hero or you can dislike conservative Supreme Court justices, but you can’t do both.

    • witless chum

      I firmly stand against voting Edward Snowden for President in 2016, as opposed to supporting the Democratic nominee, unless Snowden has a plausible chance of winning and a better platform than said Democrat.

      So that’s settled, unless you meant something else, which would make your equivalency false.

      • JoyfulA

        Snowden won’t be old enough to qualify in 2016. You’ll have to wait until 2020 to make such decisions.

        • I can predict now, with great accuracy, that I will not be voting for Snowden in 2020.

    • zombie rotten mcdonald

      If you’re anti-Nader, I think, you can make Snowden your hero or you can dislike conservative Supreme Court justices, but you can’t do both.

      This makes no sense whatsoever.

      • Tyto

        Let’s try another angle: If you hate turkey for Thanksgiving, you can either love sweet potatoes, or you can dislike cranberry sauce, but you can’t do both. Does that help?

        • Now I’m hungry in addition to being annoyed and depressed. So, no.

          • zombie rotten mcdonald

            Let’s try one with booze.

            If you hate tequila, you can either love beer or you can dislike Cuba Libres; but you can’t do both.

            Nope, it’s still gibberish.

    • Andrew

      When did critiquing Democrats for not always being progressive become the same as supporting a third party candidate?

      Is that why President Romney was able to repeal ObamaCare during the first 100 days of 2013?

  • sibusisodan

    Snippets from the opinion [emphasis mine]:

    “At the same time, voting discrimination still exists; no one doubts that. The question is whether the Act’s extraordinary measures, including its disparate treatment of the States, continue to satisfy constitutional requirements
    […]
    In the covered jurisdictions, “registration rates now approach parity. Blatantly discriminatory evasions of federal decrees are rare. And minority candidates hold office at unprecedented levels.”

    So, the problem hasn’t gone away. Lessened in severity, possibly. But it’s still there. They admit that.

    But they’ve still decided that the preclearance formula of the VRA is inappropriate – and I’m finding it hard to see how the same argument couldn’t be levied against the original legislation, given how they’ve cast it.

    I can understand the Court effectively saying to Congress: we see the problem, but this isn’t a solution. You need to redo this more appropriately.

    That’s not what they’re saying. ‘We see the problem, but we’re going to pretend it’s not a problem. We’re going to overturn your solution, ask you to think up another one, but along the way make it pretty impossible for you to come up with one that we couldn’t invalidate the same way.’

    This Court is, 5-4, not on the side of solving – or even recognising – problems. And Ginsburg writes a hell of a dissent.

    • Unprecedented levels eh? I wonder what precedented levels look like.

      • sibusisodan

        Well, there’s that scene in Blazing Saddles…

        I think this is actually tragic, in the proper sense of the word. Ginsburg does a great job of summing up the history, both recent and not so recent, which go along with the relevant law. I think that, even if I disagreed with her assessment of the legal merits of the case, putting myself on the wrong side of that history is something I really, really wouldn’t want to do. I want to finesse things a bit in light of it.

        And we know that when the Court wants to tread a finer line legally, Constitutionally and relative to Congress, it can – that’s what the Obamacare decision did. So the absence of a crafted compromise in the majority opinion in this case, it’s a giant middle finger up to Ginsburg’s historical summary. The majority aren’t interested in it, and don’t care that they aren’t.

        • Or the majority thinks it is on the right side of history.

          The way I look at this (to keep from screaming) is it gives us a chance to stop a slow bleed of voting rights. Because there’s no way in Hell the GOP will be able to resist all sorts of fuckery in the wake of this ruling.

        • And we know that when the Court wants to tread a finer line legally, Constitutionally and relative to Congress, it can – that’s what the Obamacare decision did.

          From the perspective of the majority, they already did that, before, in 2009, in their decision in Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District Number One (“NAMUDO”), where C.J. Roberts went out of his way to interpret the statute in a way that avoided the constitutional question.

          From the perspective of Roberts, Kennedy, et al., Congress had 4 years after NAMUDNO to fix Section 4, and they didn’t.

          I think the majority in Shelby County is wrong about the larger issue, but I don’t think anyone watching this case, after seeing NAMUDNO, expected SCOTUS to avoid the question again.

          • sibusisodan

            I don’t think anyone watching this case, after seeing NAMUDNO, expected SCOTUS to avoid the question again.

            Sure, what you say about NAMUDNO – aside from being an awesome adjective – makes sense. But it’s not quite what I was driving at.

            In the ACA decision, Roberts bent over backwards to finesse the issue: finding that they had a duty to construe the meaning of the legislation such that it was Constitutional if that was at all possible, and to defer to Congress as much as poss.

            It doesn’t seem like they did any of that in this VRA case.

            I guess I’m assuming there’s a third option besides ‘uphold it in its entirely’ and ‘functionally gut it’ which doesn’t duck the question at hand – since that seems to be what they found with ACA. Perhaps there is less freedom of maneouvre with VRA though? No equivalent of the ‘we’ll call it a tax and then it’s fine’ move?

            • sibusisodan

              Darn. Acronym, not adjective.

              • “That is one namudno car you’ve got there…”

  • Tom

    Shorter Shelby County:

    Nihilist #1 (Roberts, C.J.): We’ll cut off [Section 4 of the VRA]! Just think about that, [Congress]. Yeah, your wiggly [ability to prevent discriminatory voting regulations], [Congress].

    Nihilist #2 (Thomas, J., Concurring): Yeah and maybe we stomp on it and squoosh it, [Congress].

    • Auguste

      I LOL’d so as not to cry.

  • Woodrowfan

    now the the rightwing argument for getting AA votes will be “why won’t those coloreds vote for us? We passed the unconstitutional Voting Rights Act!”

  • Royko

    Balls!

    • Joe

      and strikes?

  • Jim Crow

    Hello boys! Didja miss me?

    • Rebel Yell

      We shore did miss ya’. Did y’all bring the rope? Times a wastin’.

  • Jean Louise Finch

    Congress held hearings and decided that sufficient evidence of discrimination existed to justify renewal of the VRA in 2006. Now the Supreme Court disagrees with that factual finding. As a trial lawyer, this disturbs me on a fundamental level,that there is no deference given to the fact finder. Rather, the majority appears to look behind the decision to judge the motives and sincerity of the legislators. It reminds me of the Fisher decision–questioning whether UT’s long factual finding and analysis period to decide that race needed to be a “factor of a factor” was good enough. The idea that you are not entitled to your own facts seems to be at issue in the Supreme Court. If we don’t like what facts that other fact finder found, the curt will order them to go find different facts.

    • Immanuel Kant

      Wouldn’t the District Court be the fact-finder?

      • Tyto

        No, it’s the legislative body. Part of what is weird (I know) about this decision is that it reads almost like a decision under the Administrative Procedures Act, particularly the Benzene Cases: “Sure, we’ll grant you some deference, but you need to demonstrate that you have enough specific information regarding the specific conduct or condition you propose to regulate.”

        • Cody

          If laws can be struck down by Congress being ill-informed, wouldn’t they ALL be struck down?

          I’m not sure the House has passed a single thing off logical ideas.

          • Tyto

            That is (1) a real conceptual problem, or (2) the wet dream of the kind of idiot with the bumper sticker that says “They should have stopped at ‘Congress shall make no law.'”

        • Immanuel Kant

          It depends on what we’re talking about, I guess. In terms of the legal process, my understanding is that the trial court is the “finder of fact,” and that the appellate court can only take into consideration those facts which were adduced at trial.

          There’s a separate issue of to what extent any of the courts can substitute their own interpretation of the evidence for the legislature’s.

          • Tyto

            This actually depends on the kind of legal process. For legislation, or where a legislative body effectively acts as a judicial body, the legislative body is the finder of fact.

  • zombie rotten mcdonald

    well, I, for one, am excited to see what kind of lovely new voting laws ALEC has in their Big Legislative Binder for us proles!

    • Just out of curiosity, do you make less than $250K a year (after tax loopholes)?

      • zombie rotten mcdonald

        perhaps I should have deployed the Sarcasm INdicator on that comment.

        • Or not.

          • zombie rotten mcdonald

            I can never tell.

            • BigHank53

              A good sign that your amygdala is shutting down–time for moar braaaaaains!

      • zombie rotten mcdonald

        no, if the time interval is ten years.

  • wengler

    Stare decisis all over the fucking place.

    • Tyto

      Is that what the kids are calling it?

  • UserGoogol

    Tomorrow’s rulings on the topic of gay marriage had better be really awesome to help compensate for this.

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