“What the Supreme Court did was to put a dagger in the heart of the Voting Rights Act.”


    According to civil rights icon/hero, Rep. John Lewis, as reported on Twitter, “What the Supreme Court did was to put a dagger in the heart of the Voting Rights Act.

    And he’s right. What the Scalia/Thomas/Alito/Roberts Supreme Court just did was right-wing, completely-out-of-control “judicial activism” (which so-called “conservatives” claim to hate when anyone else does it) at its worst. It also a potentially major gift to the GOP:

    Ten years ago I might have had a smidgen of hope that this would turn out OK. There would be abuses, but maybe not horrible, systematic ones. Today I have little of that hope left. The Republican Party has made it crystal clear that suppressing minority voting is now part of its long-term strategy, and I have little doubt that this will now include hundreds of changes to voting laws around the country that just coincidentally happen to disproportionately benefit whites. There will still be challenges to these laws, but I suspect that the number of cases will be overwhelming and progress will be molasses slow. This ruling is plainly a gift to the GOP for 2014.

    The only potential bright side here? That Democrats will be so angry about this disgraceful decision that it will galvanize our voters to turn out in droves at the polls in 2013, 2014, 2016 and beyond. Clearly, what we need to do is keep winning the White House and the Senate until we have the opportunity of tilting the Supreme Court back in the direction of sanity. This ruling, though, is EXACTLY why I’ve said in just about every presidential election that if you need one reason to turn out and vote Democratic, it’s the Supreme Court. Today, once again, we see the consequences of what happens when the Supreme Court is controlled by the Antonin Scalias and Clarence Thomases of the world. Nothing good, that’s for sure.

    P.S. As ThinkProgress explains: “Section 4 is the formula which determines which jurisdictions are subject to ‘preclearance’ under the law, meaning that new voting laws in those jurisdictions must be reviewed by the Justice Department or a federal court before they can take effect. Although today’s opinion ostensibly would permit Congress to revive the preclearance regime by enacting a new formula that complies with today’s decision, that would require a functioning Congress – so the likely impact of today’s decision is that many areas that were unable to enact voter suppression laws under the Voting Rights Act will now be able to put those laws into effect.”

    UPDATE: My friend Josh Israel writes over at ThinkProgress about the impact on Virginia and other states.

    Strict voter ID laws. Earlier this year, Virginia’s Republican-controlled legislature enacted strict photo identification requirements for all voters. While a 2012 state law had survived Department of Justice review due to its flexible list of acceptable ID options, the tougher 2013 photo ID-only restrictions will likely have a discriminatory effect and would thus have been unlikely to receive approval. Now, the strict requirements will go into effect and any challenge will require a disenfranchised vote to sue and prove injury. Similar restrictions will also now take effect in other states.

    • Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe released the following statement in response to the Supreme Court’s decision on the Voting Rights Act:

      “I am disappointed to see the Supreme Court strike down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act today. For 48 years this important piece of legislation has protected the voting rights of hundreds of thousands of Virginians. This legislation was actually one of the few bipartisan accomplishments in Washington in recent years when it was reauthorized and signed into law by George Bush in 2006 by a vote of 98-0 in the Senate and 390-33 in the House.  

      “Unlike my opponent, I believe that, while we have made progress, protections are still necessary to ensure that Virginians are allowed to exercise their right to vote without the risk of disenfranchisement.  As Governor I will work to ensure that all eligible Virginians are able to make their voices heard in our democracy.  I agree with Governor Bob McDonnell that Congress must act to draft new language and rectify this decision.”

    • 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.

    • Rep. Connolly tweets:

      #SCOTUS is guilty of judicial casuistry. Don’t strike down just erode all the effective parts.

      #SCOTUS reactionary majority shows conservative judicial activism overturning 50 yrs of voting rights jurisprudence. Shame!

    • JHooe44

      Despite all the noise about DOMA and Prop 8, this is (likely) the biggest ruling this year.  A tragedy for democracy, and something that we all need to rally around.

      That said, after the rulings on same-sex marriage come out this week, I’m sure this will fade to the background and allow the GOP to run roughshod over voting rights.  While we focus on changing the social landscape of the country, the GOP is busy rigging the game to make sure we never get the progress that we seek.  It’s a never-ending game, and I understand why people are so cynical about politics sometimes.

    • is here. An excerpt:

      The sad irony of today’s decision lies in its utter failure to grasp why the VRA has proven effective. The Court appears to believe that the VRA’s success in eliminating the specific devices extant in 1965 means that preclear ance is no longer needed. Ante, at 21-22, 23-24. With that belief, and the argument derived from it, history repeats itself. The same assumption-that the problem could be solved when particular methods of voting discrimination are identified and eliminated-was indulged and proved wrong repeatedly prior to the VRA’s enactment. Unlike prior statutes, which singled out particular tests or devices, the VRA is grounded in Congress’ recognition of the “variety and persistence” of measures designed to impair minority voting rights. Katzenbach, 383 U. S., at 311; supra, at 2. In truth, the evolution of voting discrimination into more subtle second-generation barriers is powerful evidence that a remedy as effective as preclearance remains vital to protect minority voting rights and prevent backsliding.

      Beyond question, the VRA is no ordinary legislation. It is extraordinary because Congress embarked on a mission long delayed and of extraordinary importance: to realizethe purpose and promise of the Fifteenth Amendment. For a half century, a concerted effort has been made to end racial discrimination in voting. Thanks to the Voting Rights Act, progress once the subject of a dream has been achieved and continues to be made.

    • From ProgressVA:

      Virginia Civic Engagement Organizations Respond to Supreme Court Voting Rights Decision

      Virginia’s civic engagement organizations this afternoon responded to the United States Supreme Court’s ruling in Shelby County v Holder, which struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act. The below statement was released by Alliance for Progressive Values, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Fair Elections Legal Network, the Richmond Chapter of the NAACP, NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia Foundation, ProgressVA Education Fund, SEIU VA 512, Sierra Club-VA Chapter, Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy, Virginia League for Planned Parenthood, Virginia New Majority, Virginia Organizing and Voice of Vietnamese Americans.

      “The right to vote is at the heart of what it means to be an American. Today, the United States Supreme Court declared we have come a long way since the tumultuous and bloody days that spurred passage of the Voting Rights Act but we know that history is never far away. Today’s decision means that Virginians must now take responsibility for holding our elected officials accountable to ensure new legislation allows our elections to remain free, fair, and accessible. As the State Board of Elections works to implement Virginia’s new voter ID law, we look forward to working with them to ensure the Commonwealth continues to honor the spirit of the Voting Rights Act and protect every citizen’s fundamental right to vote.”

      “The Supreme Court made clear this morning that federal oversight over state voting laws is constitutional, subject to Congress drafting new criteria. Our representatives must move swiftly to set aside partisan differences and approve updates to the Voting Rights Act to ensure every citizen is able to participate in our great democracy.”

    • Mark Warner’s reaction:

      “On #SCOTUS #VRA decision: Critical that we have an electoral system that is open, fair and not overly burdensome (1/3)

      Particularly important given our history of unfairly restricting access to ballot in VA. Deeply disappointed in today’s ruling. (2/3)

      Will work w/my colleagues in Congress & move quickly to put in place a fair process that ensures our elections are open to all. (3/3) #VRA”