People wait in line outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013, to listen to oral arguments in the Shelby County, Ala., v. Holder voting rights case. The justices are hearing arguments in a challenge to the part of the Voting Rights Act that forces places with a history of discrimination, mainly in the Deep South, to get approval before they make any change in the way elections are held. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Earlier this year, a Census Bureau report confirmed, for the first time in history, that Black people vote at a higher percentage than whites in a presidential election.
And now, it’s time for our punishment. Now more than ever, there is proof that, with the changing demographics of this country, the only way Republicans can perform well in national elections is to suppress the vote of minorities. The conservative-led Supreme Court just made that all the more easier today in a controversial ruling striking down a key component of the Voting Rights Act.
In a 5-4 split along ideological lines, Chief Justice John Roberts announced the opinion, which struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act. Section 4 is a provision of the landmark civil rights legislation that “designates which parts of the country must have changes to their voting laws cleared by the federal government or in federal court.
“Though the court didn’t rule that preclearance was unconstitutional, they did rule that the particular formula used in the Voting Rights Act is. This marks quite the win for Justice Roberts, who as Mother Jones reported “was a major player in the Reagan administration’s VRA policy, drafting numerous op-eds and memos for top Justice Department officials that argued for a weaker version of the law.”
Roberts was joined by Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, who ruled in Shelby County v. Holder that “things have changed dramatically” in the South since the Voting Rights Act was signed in 1965.
Back in March, there were hints that the Court may rule this way. In oral hearings,
Satan’s Favorite Judge Justice Antonin Scalia argued that the laws “had the effect of requiring racially motivated gerrymandering, amounting to the ‘perpetuation of a racial entitlement’ on the part of Black legislators and constituents benefiting from the districting.” Chief Justice John Roberts made it evident he shared this sentiment when he asked Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, “Is it the government’s submission that the citizens of the South are more racist than the citizens of the North?”
In his bench statement, Roberts acknowledged: “Our country has changed, and while any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks to current conditions.”
He added: “The Act has proved immensely successful at redressing racial discrimination and integrating the voting process.”
Still, he believes the VRA coverage formula is based on “obsolete statistics” and that it “violates the constitution.” Moreover, the court ruled that Congress “may draft another formula based on current conditions.” However, the chances of that happening in this do-nothing but whine and obstruct Congress are next to nil.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg issued the dissent and noted, “The sad irony of today’s decision lies in its utter failure to grasp why the VRA has proven effective.” She also wrote, “The Court appears to believe that the VRA’s success in eliminating the specific devices extant in 1965 means that preclearance is no longer needed. “In the Court’s view, the very success of §5 of the Voting Rights Act demands its dormancy.”
Gingsberg eloquently explained how Congress reauthorized the Voting Rights Act “with great care and seriousness. The same cannot be said of the Court’s opinion today.” Indeed, in 2008 the House of Representatives voted to renew the Voting Rights Act was 390-33. And yet, the Supreme Court has all but decimated the law in a 5-4 decision. “Hubris is a fit word for today’s demolition of the VRA,” Ginsberg wrote.
On the ruling, President Obama wrote:
I am deeply disappointed with the Supreme Court’s decision today. For nearly 50 years, the Voting Rights Act – enacted and repeatedly renewed by wide bipartisan majorities in Congress – has helped secure the right to vote for millions of Americans. Today’s decision invalidating one of its core provisions upsets decades of well-established practices that help make sure voting is fair, especially in places where voting discrimination has been historically prevalent.
As a nation, we’ve made a great deal of progress towards guaranteeing every American the right to vote. But, as the Supreme Court recognized, voting discrimination still exists. And while today’s decision is a setback, it doesn’t represent the end of our efforts to end voting discrimination. I am calling on Congress to pass legislation to ensure every American has equal access to the polls. My Administration will continue to do everything in its power to ensure a fair and equal voting process.
I can’t even muster up enough venom to spew in the direction of Clarence Thomas for being a Black man from rural Georgia having a hand in striking down preclearance. I don’t know what about Black people made him hate us all so much, but damn, we’re all sorry, so you can stop punishing us now.
It remains to be seen what this will mean in the way of elections next year. Perhaps this will galvanize Black and brown voters and produce higher than usual Democratic turnout rates for a midterm election. Such will be needed to put in a place a Congress that can actually get something done. Nonetheless, the fact that we have to even have this conversation still just goes to show how obnoxiously stubborn this country proves itself to be in about the pursuit of equality.
Read More: What Is The Voting Rights Act Of 1965