Friday, November 1, 2013
What He Said
Norm Ornstein, via Lawyers, Guns and Money:
It is becoming increasingly obvious that the Supreme Court decision in Shelby County v. Holder, which eviscerated the Voting Rights Act, is leading to a new era of voter suppression that parallels the pre-1960s era—this time affecting not just African-Americans but also Hispanic-Americans, women, and students, among others.
The reasoning employed by Chief Justice John Roberts in Shelby County—that Section 5 of the act was such a spectacular success that it is no longer necessary—was the equivalent of taking down speed cameras and traffic lights and removing speed limits from a dangerous intersection because they had combined to reduce accidents and traffic deaths.
In North Carolina, a post-Shelby County law not only includes one of the most restrictive and punitive vote-ID laws anywhere but also restricts early voting, eliminates same-day voting registration, ends pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds, and bans many provisional ballots. Whatever flimsy voter-fraud excuse exists for requiring voter ID disappears when it comes to these other obstacles to voting.
In Texas, the law could require voters to travel as much as 250 miles to obtain an acceptable voter ID—and it allows a concealed-weapon permit, but not a student ID, as proof of identity for voting. Moreover, the law and the regulations to implement it, we are now learning, will create huge impediments for women who have married or divorced and have voter IDs and driver’s licenses that reflect maiden or married names that do not exactly match. It raises similar problems for Mexican-Americans who use combinations of mothers’ and fathers’ names.
Roberts looks like such a nice man. So fatherly. Nice smile. Manly hair. Yet he has set the United States back to pre-World War II. If it was an experiment rather than a Delphic Utterance, the events since Roberts' May ruling would surely demand a mulligan. Almost instantly upon the gutting of the Voting Rights Law, most states in the South, and some elsewhere, instituted various draconian voting rules aimed clearly at making voting for minorities, women, students, and poor folks much more difficult than previously. Given the known demographic patterns--that these groups of voters tend Democratic--there can be no doubt at all that Judge Roberts was mistaken in his appraisal of the facts--that things had changed in the democracy, that special oversight was no longer needed. But this being his basis for overturning the law, surely the new voting rules in the several states should be in themselves an argument for reinstating the Voting Rights Act as it was prior to May, 2013. To continue Ornstein's metaphor: well, we took the light down at that intersection, and the folks started running into each other at the intersection again. Sadly, Delphic Utterances are not like traffic experiments, and the Court is well nigh as infallible as the Pope. All the work that went into getting the Voting Rights Act. My god.