Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Supreme Court Gets More Disappointing

It's hard to feel optimistic about tomorrow's DOMA/Prop 8 decisions after today's extremely disappointing decision on the Voting Rights Act.  In case you missed it - if you're reading me, it's unlikely you have - the Surpreme Court laid down their 5-4 ruling today which struck down section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, effectively making section 5 unenforceable.

Those ruling in favor of striking down the VRA are exactly who you think they are: Roberts, Alito, Scalia, Kennedy, and Thomas.  Roberts to Kennedy voted to strike down section 4 of the VRA, while Thomas wrote a concurrent opinion about how he wished that they'd have struck down both sections 4 and 5.  It is, apparently, their view that racism is over.  I'm sure they're right.

After all, there's no way that - say for example - if a state had tried to pass measure that were determined to be discriminatory that they would use this decision as a way to just go ahead and immediately jump for joy and pass them again.  Right?  Wrong.  In fact, it appears that Texas has done just that.  But hey, discrimination is dead!  Maybe if we all pretend it's not happening it will cease to exist.

There's a reason that the Voting Rights Act had to be put in place.  It's not because every person in the South is a racist, it's because people in government used their power to discriminate.  People in government, let's be clear, Republicans in government use redistricting and voting regulations as a way to stack the deck in their favor.  They discriminate against black people and Latino people, not to mention poor people of all colors.  They do this through voter ID laws and limited voting hours, just to name a few ways.  The saddest thing isn't that we still need the Voting Rights Act, the saddest thing is that maybe we need those recently struck down provisions to cover more places than they covered originally.

Now, if you think that the VRA is unnecessary and that racism is a thing of the past then I wish I could live in your rose-colored glasses world, but in the mean time, how about taking a look at some numbers from the Brennan Center for Justice.

Maps courtesy of the Brennan Center for Justice

So that's illuminating.  Even with the Voting Rights Act, restrictive voting laws are being passed across large swaths of the country and the Supreme Court feels that now is the perfect time to chuck it out the window?

It is somewhat heartening, though perhaps cold comfort, that the President, AG Eric Holder, and Senator Leahy have all spoken out critically of this decision.  Both the President and Senator Leahy are intent on taking immediate action to fix the damage caused by the Supreme Court today.

Racism isn't dead.  It's alive and well in the hands of people who are more than happy to use it to consolidate and increase their political power.  Now the ball is in Congress' court, and believe me I know how depressing that is.  I suppose the very minimal silver lining here is that we all now have a chance to put serious pressure on our Representatives and Senators to find a way to stop voter discrimination.  We don't have to wait until someone introduces something.  You can call your Representative or your Senator today.  Tell them that you are disappointed in this ruling and now they've got to do something about it.