An admission, a prediction, the Supreme Court and the Voting Rights Act

If you had any doubts that the opposition to the preclearance provisions in the VRA is politically motivated, consider these flip-flopping states:

The Supreme Court in 2009 dodged the preclearance question, but the issue is back this year in a challenge brought by Shelby County, Ala. And this time seven states — Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, South Carolina, South Dakota and Texas — are asking the court to strike down the law. Of the seven, Arizona has made the most noticeable switch between 2009 and 2013. In 2009, Arizona joined a brief supporting the law, along with North Carolina, California, Louisiana, Mississippi and New York.

Back then, Arizona and the other states said that the preclearance section of the law was “not onerous,” and that indeed, preclearance had offered “some benefits,” for example, protecting them from expensive litigation. The states supporting the law said that although some of them had expressed initial resistance to the preclearance process when the Voting Rights Act was originally adopted, “by 2006 the process for seeking preclearance had become painless and routine.” Today, however, Arizona is on the other side of the debate, saying something very different. The preclearance requirement, it now argues, is “arbitrary and burdensome,” and unconstitutional.

Four other states — Alaska, Louisiana, South Carolina and Texas — also seem to have changed their tune since 2009. Back then, Louisiana supported the law, while Alaska, South Carolina and Texas were silent on the issue, taking no position. This time, Louisiana is silent, while Alaska, South Carolina and Texas are urging the Supreme Court to strike down the preclearance provision.

I’ve been locally active in voting rights and process since about 2005-06, so I obviously care about voting. However, I am not an African-American or a member of the other racial or ethnic minorites who have historically been disenfranchised (although I’m female, of course) and I did not truly “get” how deeply and personally the struggle for voting rights resonates still, to this day, until I went to a voting rights hearing at a federal court in Cleveland in 2012. Dick Durbin and Sherrod Brown held the hearing. I was just blown away, listening, by how deep this goes. I didn’t really get it, but I get it better now. Durbin and Brown, as Democrats from Illinois and Ohio who rely on AA leaders and voters to get elected, knew it already.

That’s my admission of how incredibly thick even a well-intentioned person can be on this issue. I can read a lot of case law and focus obsessively on the details of state statutes and numbers on provisional balloting or nit-picky process and completely miss the historical and moral grounding of the issue, what it means to certain people, which is exactly what I did. Voting rights are expressed as a set or rules and state and federal laws but voting rights are much more than that to a large group of politically engaged people in this country who either took part in the civil rights movement or grew up within or around that history. The VRA is a hard-fought victory that they are enormously (and rightly) proud of and they’ve been ardently defending that victory ever since the law passed.

The VRA was renewed in Congress in 2006. It passed with big bipartisan majorities, and former President Bush signed it surrounded by civil rights leaders:

The congressional vote in 2006 was overwhelmingly and astonishingly bipartisan, with the Senate voting unanimously to extend the law and the House voting 390-33.”What the 12,000 pages of hearing [testimony] showed” is that for many of the jurisdictions, “there still was pervasive discrimination,” says Republican Rep. James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, who led weeks of hearings in the House as chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

No elected Republican wanted to be held politically accountable for gutting historic civil rights legislation in 2006. Instead they renewed the law in Congress and then took it to the Supreme Court, where they believe they need to persuade only five voters. They’re wrong. That end run around political accountability isn’t going to fly. No one who feels strongly about voting rights will be persuaded by lofty, abstract libertarian legal theories grounded in some privileged fantasy of post-racial America. If conservatives gut this law with a court order, it will be huge, politically.

This is John Lewis making his factual case on why the entire VRA should be upheld, so go ahead and read his argument because it’s great:

Evidence proves there are forces in this country that willfully and intentionally trample on the voting rights of millions of Americans. That is why every president and every Congress, regardless of politics or party, has reauthorized Section 5.

But that’s only half his argument. This is the other half:

The right to vote is the most powerful nonviolent tool we have in a democracy. I risked my life defending that right. Some died in the struggle.

Republicans really couldn’t have come up with a better method to inspire to their political opponents to organize around voting rights if they had set out deliberately to do just that.

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81 replies
  1. 1
    EMRVentures says:

    Well said.

  2. 2
    Gin & Tonic says:

    Gotta say, I liked Tom’s post for the few seconds it was up.

  3. 3
    Tom Levenson says:

    In case anyone (a) caught sight of and (b) wondered what happened to my quick item on Peter Beinart’s stuff on the Hagel farce, Kay’s post above is important, and I don’t want to distract from it. So I’ve rescheduled my post for 12:30.

    And yes — while I really hope the Supremes pull their fingers out of their asses on this one, I agree that 2012 was the harbinger for a voting rights movement that could well speed the consignment of this version of the GOP to ash heap location it has so fully earned.

  4. 4
    👽 Martin says:

    And Republicans will continue to wonder in amazement why minorities refuse to vote for them.

  5. 5
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @Tom Levenson: You sent me to the dictionary. I say that with respect.

  6. 6
    Steve says:

    Alaska is a covered jurisdiction?

  7. 7
    Tom Levenson says:

    @Gin & Tonic: Thanks. It will return (it’s the MacArthur of posts!)

  8. 8
    c u n d gulag says:

    Since we’re “One nation, indivisble…,” why can’t all 50 states and voting territories, have the SAME voting rules, and registration requirements?

    I know that the VRA does that for certain states (mostly secesh/rebel ones), but a new VRA for ALL 50 states needs to be passed, to stop the shenanigans of Conservatives trying to return this country to the 1950’s, or the 1850’s – or, hell, to before the damn Magna Carta was signed.

  9. 9
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    The right to vote is the most powerful nonviolent tool we have in a democracy. I risked my life defending that right. Some died in the struggle.

    John Lewis nails it. No real surprise there.

  10. 10
    Kay says:

    @Steve:

    I thought maybe native Alaskans? I didn’t look it up, though.

  11. 11
    Kay says:

    @Tom Levenson:

    Thanks, and I’m sorry for stepping on yours. I didn’t see your post. I check, but then a minute or so goes by…:)

  12. 12
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Tom Levenson: Truman fired it? It will fade away? It was played in a movie by Gregory Peck? Inquiring minds want to know.

  13. 13
    c u n d gulag says:

    @Tom Levenson:
    Yup.

    Nothing motivates people like making it harder to do something that should be a fundamental human and civil right.

    GOTV is still critical, folks!
    Especially if the SCOTUS decides that it’s fair to be unfair, since it’s a state’s right to set election standards.

    And even if the SC ends up on the right side of history, it’s still important.

    Voting, at least every 4 years, if not 2 years, should be MANDATORY!

  14. 14
    Tom Levenson says:

    @Kay: Not a problem. There’s time in the day for plenty of outrage…;)

  15. 15
    Belafon (formerly anonevent) says:

    @Kay: This is why this site needs a queue, so that all of your posts can be spaced at leas somewhat apart, like 10 or 15 minutes. Let a robot do it.

  16. 16
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Belafon (formerly anonevent):

    Let a robot do it.

    This is how it starts….

  17. 17
    Cassidy says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: Then BAM!, a muscle bound, ass grabing Austrian comes back from the future to tell you what to do with your uterus.

  18. 18
    WereBear says:

    Republicans really couldn’t have come up with a better method to inspire to their political opponents to organize around voting rights if they had set out deliberately to do just that.

    I have not been so astonished by the ability of a group of people to be breathtakingly stupid since I read The Reason Why:The Charge of the Light Brigade when I was ten.

    Also, Reverend Al’s show on MSNBC has been on this tenaciously since the beginning!

  19. 19
    dmsilev says:

    Sigh. Looks like certain justices have already made up their minds:

    A question posed by Chief Justice John Roberts to the Obama administration’s alwyer defending the Voting Rights Act captured the tenor of the proceedings.

    “Is it the government’s submission that citizens in the South are more racist than citizens not in the South?” Roberts asked.

    Justice Anthony Kennedy labeled the formula used for Section 5 “reverse engineering” that “obscures the real purpose.” He declared: “If Congress is going to single out states, it should do so by name.”

  20. 20
    Poopyman says:

    The congressional vote in 2006 was overwhelmingly and astonishingly bipartisan, with the Senate voting unanimously to extend the law and the House voting 390-33.”What the 12,000 pages of hearing [testimony] showed” is that for many of the jurisdictions, “there still was pervasive discrimination,” says Republican Rep. James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, who led weeks of hearings in the House as chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

    I find it impossible that even the Roberts Court could overlook these findings of fact and strike it down. And if they do, I predict some pretty serious backlash.

    ETA: Dammit! dmsilev. Sorry for the momentary granting a benefit of doubt. It’s passed now.

  21. 21
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Cassidy: That would be weird. I am, as it happens, uterus-less.

    Back on topic: I am somewhat reassured by the fact that people stood for hours to vote last November. It isn’t right that they should need to do so, but I am happy that they did. We need to make it easier for people to vote. It doesn’t have to be complicated or onerous. Making it that way just shows contempt for both democracy and voters.

  22. 22
    Kay says:

    @Belafon (formerly anonevent):

    I generally don’t weigh in on the administration of the site because I don’t do any of what I consider the day to day work of it; I don’t post open threads when you-all need one (I’m not around to do it) and I generally don’t post nights or weekends, take people out of mod overnight, all that.

    So you have to clamor for CHANGE from the comments w/out me :)

    I’m fine with whatever you do. Robots sounds good.

  23. 23
    PeakVT says:

    Could pre-clearance be applied to all states? I don’t see how that would be much of a burden to states that aren’t constantly tweaking their election laws.

  24. 24
    Zifnab says:

    @👽 Martin: If they get their way, they won’t have to care. That’s the entire point of this fight. Bring back Jim Crow and who cares about demographics anymore?

  25. 25
    Poopyman says:

    @PeakVT: I’ve always wondered why the VRA wasn’t applied to all states, thus eliminating this avenue for overturning.

  26. 26
  27. 27
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Tom Levenson: I liked mine better.

  28. 28
    👽 Martin says:

    @Poopyman: The court isn’t going to say that Congress is overreaching here. They’re going to say that Congress is discriminating against certain states by not requiring pre-clearance from every state.

    And they’re right. And we’d support them being right if we felt there was any hope in hell that Congress would approve the equivalent of section 5 for the entire nation – I mean, we say non-preclearance states doing some pretty hinky stuff here in 2012. While Texas got shut down, these other states aren’t facing the same burden. That’s unfair.

    The problem here isn’t really SCOTUS’s take on this, rather the problem is that Congress absolutely will not act on this issue because it’s not just southern states that want to discriminate, but any one with a Republican legislature – including our own House of Representatives.

    They’re going to strike this down and leave the door open to a federal all-encompassing law that does the same thing, and we’re going to have to pick up that invitation and act on it. The good news is that as successful as the gun safety advocacy has been going as late, voting rights advocacy should go as well or better – there’s a lot more people invested in it and it’s a much harder issue to oppose. But it’ll be nip and tuck whether it can get done by 2016.

  29. 29
    mikej(droid) says:

    @dmsilev: The VRA of course doesn’t say anything about which states are racist. It does include states that have historically passed unconstitutional laws.

  30. 30
    Cassidy says:

    Scumbags, all of them.

  31. 31
    Steve says:

    You could apply it to all states, sure. You could also put every American on probation instead of just the ones who have committed crimes.

    The states that are subject to pre-clearance are on the list because of decades of brazen, illegal acts of disenfranchisement. That’s why they are being stigmatized, because they earned it. Sure, one solution to the Supreme Court program is to force every state to go through pre-clearance, but that sticks in the throat a bit because it forces us to ignore the reality that these states have done a whole lot of really bad things and that not all states have sinned equally.

  32. 32
    Kay says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    About 3 PM on election day people I know started sending me pictures of voting lines on my phone, knowing I would like those. The first was this picture that made the rounds in Ohio, of student voters on line at Bowling Green, long line, Wood County is a swing county, so we were all pleased with that, but then I got Florida and other places. It really was great. Very inspiring. I would just sit there and grin.

  33. 33
    👽 Martin says:

    @Zifnab: That assumes that they can maintain some kind of apartheid style of control. That’s a very risky proposition, and the consequence if they cannot will be apocalyptic to the party.

  34. 34
    jl says:

    Frightening Supremes’ quotes on the Civil Rights Act from TPM.

    Voting Rights Act On Supreme Court Chopping Block: Why Supporters Are Nervous

    http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.....uments.php

    The blurb on TPM’s front page for the post is

    ‘ The 5 “reasons” Voting Rights Act proponents fear the Supreme Court will strike down one of its key provisions. ‘

    After reading the post I understand the reason for the scare quotes. The quotes from Roberts, Scalia, and Thomas show bad reasoning, bullshit, and no reason at all.

    At least Kennedy and Alito make some substantive points, but who knows what they will do with them in their crazy little heads. Alito is a hack, so I have prediction for him. What Kennedy WTF will do, who knows. Maybe he got old and goofy in the head.

    Frightening that this sad sack crew will probably decide the case.

  35. 35
    PeakVT says:

    Guess who made an ass of himself during oral arguments? (Guess before hovering!)

  36. 36
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Poopyman:

    I’ve always wondered why the VRA wasn’t applied to all states, thus eliminating this avenue for overturning.

    I think it’s because, at the time the law was passed, it was only the specified states that were blocking voting for African-Americans with poll taxes, literacy tests, grandfather clauses, etc. I can’t really blame the law’s writers for not realizing that other states would start throwing up their own roadblocks 40+ years later.

    I do have to join the chorus saying that the VRA should be applied to all 50 states. We’ve definitely seen the results when a modern-day Republican gets put in charge of a northern state and starts acting like it’s 1950s Mississippi.

  37. 37
    jl says:

    @PeakVT: I live in CA and I am sure OK with it. Expanding it to all the states would cover what seem to be Kennedy’s and Alito’s (stated) concerns. But that would have to get through Congress, right? If so, won’t happen any time soon.

  38. 38
    Hill Dweller says:

    From David Leonhardt on the twitter machine: Scalia: Voting Rights Act “not the kind of q you can leave to Congress” because of “perpetuation of racial entitlement.”

    Sotomayor to Alabama county’s lawyer: “Do you think the right to vote is a racial entitlement?”

  39. 39
    Mnemosyne says:

    @👽 Martin:

    The problem here isn’t really SCOTUS’s take on this, rather the problem is that Congress absolutely will not act on this issue because it’s not just southern states that want to discriminate, but any one with a Republican legislature – including our own House of Representatives.

    Funny how 90 percent of our problems can be traced back to Congress refusing to do their damn jobs, innit?

  40. 40
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @jl: I am less confident that the VRA will be upheld than I was about the ACA, but I will reiterate something I said back then. Questions and comments by the justices during oral arguments are not necessarily indicative of how they are going to decide or why.

  41. 41
    mainmati says:

    @Steve: I assume based on the Innuits and other native American minorities there.

  42. 42
    Kay says:

    @Hill Dweller:

    Sotomayor to Alabama county’s lawyer:

    I just love her. I like the way she TALKS. Like a breath ‘o fresh air in that place, I tell you.

  43. 43
    MomSense says:

    One of the things I am most proud about is volunteering on the referendum to restore same day voting rights in Maine. Voting is the most important right and responsibility in our democracy. Every time they come after our right to vote we have to fight.

    I wasn’t able to go to the Democratic convention but I vividly remember talking with one of my campaign friends from the airport as she was waiting to fly home. She had us both in tears when she described the conversations she had with Neighborhood Team Leaders in FL, OH, PA, etc. At the time they didn’t know whether or not some of the new voter suppression laws would be in effect on election day and they were scared, angry, and determined to do everything they could. I think back on my experiences doing voter registration especially working with people who didn’t realize they were eligible to vote again after felony convictions, etc. The look on their faces when they realized that their rights had been restored–it was incredible. On election night I remember crying in the campaign office in front of my friends as I read the email from my friend in FL as she was talking about her day — trying to help people who waited in line for 8 hours in Miami. She told some of the stories of the people who left the line with tears in their eyes because they just couldn’t wait any longer. She said that she didn’t have time to cry until she got in her car at the end of the day and then she just sobbed.

    I am also just beyond furious that we have to keep fighting these same fights. Voter suppression is clearly based in the most disgusting of motives. It sometimes feels like we have to keep expending so much energy and money and precious time to tread water–to just try to hold on to the rights we have (that we had to struggle and fight and die for) and it makes it so much tougher to make progress. And even though it is frustrating and horrible I am in it for the long term. Those of us who believe in equality have to dig deep. The alternative is too awful.

  44. 44
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Steve:

    Sure, one solution to the Supreme Court program is to force every state to go through pre-clearance, but that sticks in the throat a bit because it forces us to ignore the reality that these states have done a whole lot of really bad things and that not all states have sinned equally.

    After some point, you have to stop punishing states for the sins of the past and look at the sins currently being committed. There was nothing that could be done about Pennsylvania’s odious “voter ID law” ahead of time, because Pennsylvania is not subject to preclearance.

    Wouldn’t it be better for all of the states to submit their voting law changes to the federal government before making them so they can be reviewed ahead of time rather than letting them cause a mess at the voting booths and then trying to change them when it’s too late?

  45. 45
    PeakVT says:

    @Steve: Well, I think a little annoyance in the states that are clean would be an eensie-weensie price worth paying if Sec. 5 is worth keeping (which it certainly seems to be, to me).

    @jl: No, it probably wouldn’t get through this Congress. The consolation prize is that it would be a handy issue to beat Repukes with.

  46. 46
    burnspbesq says:

    @Poopyman:

    I find it impossible that even the Roberts Court could overlook these findings of fact and strike it down

    I don’t, and I’m the guy who thought the vote on the PPACA was going to be 7-2 to uphold. Nothing is impossible for five Justices with an ideological agenda.

    Losing Section 5 would be a nuisance, not a catastrophe.

  47. 47
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    @Hill Dweller: How often has it happened in the last thirty years that a colleague has punched Fat Tony in the face like that? I’m guessing they won’t be going to the opera together.

    The conventional wisdom was that when St Sandra of the Center (Bush v Gore) retired, Kennedy would drift toward the center to modify ScAlito and Thomas. My impression is that he’s just become more ideological.

  48. 48
    Kay says:

    @Steve:

    The states that are subject to pre-clearance are on the list because of decades of brazen, illegal acts of disenfranchisement.

    Isn’t this a tough political argument, though? “The states”, as if they have reputations and honor to protect? I think conservatives are going to have a difficult time politically the further they go from looking out for “the voters”, which is what these protections are about.

    I had the same problem with a lot of the hurdles they set up in the states, the voters seemed to be completely ignored. Pennsylvania was egregious, just as a matter of “customer service.” They were sending people all over hell. Just chaos. They seem to have forgotten that at its most basic voting is a state records process, and it has to be focused on voters.

  49. 49
    jl says:

    @jl: Sorry, meant Voting Rights Act, not Civil.

  50. 50
    burnspbesq says:

    @jl:

    The quotes from Roberts, Scalia, and Thomas

    Thomas asked a question? Holy Shinola, Batman!

  51. 51
    patroclus says:

    Justice Kennedy apparently asked some really aggressive questions at today’s oral argument. This is a very bad sign. As I see it, it will up to the CJ to decide whether the USSC is going to invalidate the preclearance provisions. It’s a similar position as with the health insurance law – either he injects the Court into political battles (like he would be inclined to do) or he upholds prior precedent and leaves it to the political branches to deal with it.

    We’ll see. But if the Court strikes down the law after decades, it’ll be a huge political issue. The Senate Republicans might be shamed into enacting a replacement, but I’m very doubtful about the current House.

  52. 52
    jl says:

    @burnspbesq: No, TPM dug up quotes from previous opinions and oral arguments.

    If intellectual fraud constitutes a high crime or misdemeanor, Scalia should be impeached, convicted and removed from the court.

  53. 53
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @burnspbesq: Wow, I had missed that.

    ETA: False alarm.

    @Kay:

    They seem to have forgotten that at its most basic voting is a state records process, and it has to be focused on voters.

    This. Election law should be designed up to allow eligible voters to cast their ballots as painlessly as possible, ensure that that the voters are counted and reported correctly, and do these things in a way that is as open to public scrutiny as is feasible.

  54. 54
    burnspbesq says:

    Who said irony was dead? At about the same time as the oral argument in Shelby County began, this was happening across the street from the Supreme Court.

    http://my.earthlink.net/articl.....5dfb89c436

  55. 55
    catclub says:

    @Mnemosyne: “I can’t really blame the law’s writers for not realizing that other states would start throwing up their own roadblocks 40+ years later.”

    I can. That is just not very hard to imagine.

  56. 56
    Cassidy says:

    They seem to have forgotten that at its most basic voting is a state records process, and it has to be focused on voters.

    Oh no. They haven’t forgotten. That implies some sort of “oops”, a slip of the mind, an accident of sorts. No, these motherfuckers have decided voting is no longer a fundamental right of all citizens and only the right of people they approve of. Their policies are focused on voters: making sure the “wrong” ones don’t get to vote.

  57. 57
    shortstop says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    Wouldn’t it be better for all of the states to submit their voting law changes to the federal government before making them so they can be reviewed ahead of time rather than letting them cause a mess at the voting booths and then trying to change them when it’s too late?

    As if we could get that through this Congress!

  58. 58
    Snarki, child of Loki says:

    So, would a “Voting Rights STAND YOUR GROUND” law pass constitutional muster?

    Ballots or bullets, that’s always the choice.

  59. 59
    pk says:

    “Is it the government’s submission that citizens in the South are more racist than citizens not in the South?” Roberts asked.

    I wonder if “Well Duh you Fucking Moron” is an appropriate legal response.

  60. 60
    handsmile says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    That caveat is worth recalling now, but prior to oral arguments in NFIB v. Sibelius most legal commentary seemed reasonably confident that the ACA would be upheld by the Court and by more than a narrow majority. (Why I even remember speculation that Scalia would uphold it on commerce clause grounds.) That assumption made the hostility/skepticism of the justices’ questions all the more alarming (though happily, albeit barely, not determinative).

    In this voting rights case, almost every account I’ve read asserts that the majority of the Court will invalidate Section 5 of the VRA. What we know thus far of the justices’ questions and comments today would seem only to underscore that conviction.

  61. 61
    JPL says:

    @pk: It’s a tempting argument.

  62. 62
    Kay says:

    @Cassidy:

    I meant from a political perspective, “forgotten”. Early voting is a good example. Normal people in Ohio (not politically engaged) didn’t understand at all why Republicans were so set on limiting early voting. People like early voting. It’s convenient. It honestly felt malicious, like “you like this? tough shit, voters. We’re taking it away for no reason.”

    People were just baffled by it.

  63. 63
    patroclus says:

    @handsmile: Indeed, prior to the oral argument in the Sibelius case, I had thought that only Thomas and perhaps Alito would vote to strike down the law. Then, after the oral argument, it seemed likely that they were going to overturn it and that constitutional law was at an end. Thankfully, Roberts stepped up; albeit on specious grounds in an opinion written for morons.

    Now, I’m just not sure anymore. Like I said above, I believe even Roberts would be inclined to strike it down, but might back down just because of the political ramifications. Scalia, Alito, Thomas and (now) Kennedy seem to be solid noes. This is very bad news for the voters in the preclearance states.

  64. 64
    brantl says:

    Republicans really couldn’t have come up with a better method to inspire to their political opponents to organize around voting rights if they had set out deliberately to do just that.

    Yes, they could, you already showed how they could have done it, if they voted it down in the house. They were afraid to do it, and they will let the thugs who have the lifetime appointments do it.

  65. 65
    redoubt says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: “Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars, and say, ‘These wounds had I upon Saint Crispin’s day'”

  66. 66
    Kay says:

    @pk:

    “Is it the government’s submission that citizens in the South are more racist than citizens not in the South?” Roberts asked.

    It’s dishonest. That’s Roberts problem with the law, he thinks it assumes bad intent on the part of the honorable south. That isn’t really what they’re arguing, though. They’re not showing him what these states might do, they’re showing him what they have done, and recently!
    Election law is different than a lot of law, because voters can’t remedy disenfranchisement once THAT election is over. They only get one shot, as to THAT election.
    Roberts knows this, because election law has procedural safeguards that recognize this unique aspect, like expedited orders, etc. You’re familiar with an order that keeps a polling place open. That’s a recognition that this is one shot deal. The one vote COUNTS. Can’t fix it once it’s denied, ever. There’s a second part to that, and it has to do with the inherent nature of elections. If you’re disenfranchised you can’t “throw the bums out”. You’ve lost the democratic mechanism to remedy this with the next election. It’s the whole reason for the VRA. They couldn’t cure this at the ballot box, because they weren’t allowed to VOTE.

  67. 67
    shortstop says:

    @Kay:

    It’s dishonest. That’s Roberts problem with the law, he thinks it assumes bad intent on the part of the honorable south. That isn’t really what they’re arguing, though. They’re not showing him what these states might do, they’re showing him what they have done, and recently! Election law is different than a lot of law, because voters can’t remedy disenfranchisement once THAT election is over. They only get one shot, as to THAT election.
    Roberts knows this, because election law has procedural safeguards that recognize this unique aspect

    It’s so frustrating. So frustrating and unnerving to see some of these guys repeatedly speaking as though they’re random, half-educated and wholly unethical guests on a Fox News panel — Are you calling Southerners racist? Are you going to force me to buy broccoli now? — rather than from a dignified and principled position of highest judicial authority.

  68. 68
    burnspbesq says:

    @Kay:

    Odd that these supposed originalists seems to care so little about what the drafters of the Fiftheenth Amendment had in mind. They certainly had reason to anticipate bad intent on the part of the former Confederate states. Thus the explicit reference to “previous condition of servitude.”

  69. 69
    Kay says:

    @shortstop:

    Are you calling Southerners racist? Are you going to force me to buy broccoli now?

    Exactly. That’s just what I thought of, how they worked so hard to frame the PPACA as it had been framed by the (libertarian, again!) lawyer who came up with the theory. A lot of liberals parroted it. It was easy.

    That quote will dominate, and he knew that when he said it. There is no one, no one, who has more of an aggrieved sense that HIS HONOR has been QUESTIONED than a conservative man. For God’s sake get over yourself. We’re not worried about the state of Alabama’s FEELINGS. It’s a subdivision of government. It doesn’t HAVE feelings.

  70. 70
    Poopyman says:

    @pk: IANAL, but I believe that in legalese that’s “With all due respect, Your Honor…”

    The answer, of course, is that the issue is not whether citizens of the South are more racist, but that there is more factual evidence of racial discrimination in southern states.

    You know, Mr. CJ. That stuff that legal decisions are supposed to be based on.

  71. 71
    shortstop says:

    @Kay:

    We’re not worried about the state of Alabama’s FEELINGS. It’s a subdivision of government. It doesn’t HAVE feelings.

    And again, you expect this from the guy on the next barstool. Having it come from someone on the ultimate court of the land as a cynical PR ploy to push the buttons of low-information citizens is shocking to me. Really, truly appalling.

  72. 72
    pk says:

    I don’t know what republicans think they achieve by all this nonsense. They may attain short term victories, but these kind of tactics will only strengthen people’s resolve. When you try and take away rights which people take for granted there is a terrible price to be paid and republicans are eventually going to pay for it big time. People standing in line for hours to vote should have clued them in, but apparently not.

  73. 73
    Trollhattan says:

    Holy crap, Nino really went there. God, he’s a toad.

    In expressing his deep skepticism Wednesday for the constitutionality of a centerpiece of the Voting Rights Act, Justice Antonin Scalia questioned the motivations of Congress for repeatedly reauthorizing it since it was initially passed in 1965.

    “I don’t think there is anything to gain by any senator by voting against this act,” Scalia said during oral arguments in Shelby County v. Holder. They’re going to lose votes if they vote against the Voting Rights Act. Even the name is wonderful, the Voting Rights Act — who’s going to vote against that?”

    Scalia attributed the repeated renewal of Section 5 to a “perpetuation of racial entitlement.”
    Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who asked many questions in defense of the law, appeared taken aback by Scalia’s insinuation. In the final moments of oral argument, she asked Bert Rein, the lawyer for the challengers, if he agrees.

    “Do you think think Section 5 was voted for because it was a racial entitlement?” she asked. When he ducked the question, she asked it again. He did not endorse Scalia’s sentiment.

    The Reagan-appointed jurist said lawmakers keep reauthorizing the Voting Rights Act out of fear of political repercussions. In a sarcastic tone, he described it as odd that congressional renewal has passed with growing margins over the years in spite of the fact that racism is widely acknowledged to have become less severe in the covered jurisdictions since 1965.

    http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.....hp?ref=fpa

  74. 74
    shortstop says:

    @pk: I think today’s conservatives only think in the short term. There are so many recent examples of not looking six seconds down the road: embracing unsustainable banking and lending strategies that were guaranteed to blow up internationally after making a small group of folks wealthier, creating future environmental disasters in pursuit of immediate profit, focusing on bringing down the president rather than legislating for their constituents’ employment or economic well being, enacting policies that cut the legs from under the middle class with no thought of how a consumer-based economy goes down when consumption is cut, attacking Obamacare with zero alternative plan for addressing the healthcare crisis…

    Through all this, they call us irresponsible for “not caring about our children’s and grandchildren’s future.”

  75. 75
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Trollhattan: This is the type of case where one is likely to see Nino at his worst.

  76. 76
    Trollhattan says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    Frightening thought, like discoving Malkin has half a dozen more dance vids in the queue, only with actual consequences for the nation. Any challenges to the Civil Rights Act in the docket? If they spike VRA, it will be next.

  77. 77
    Kay says:

    @burnspbesq:

    Thus the explicit reference to “previous condition of servitude.”

    It just drives me crazy when they don’t admit that voting gets different treatment. In Ohio, they line up a common pleas judge to handle emergency orders in each county on election day. There’s a recognition that once the right is denied, it can’t be restored, for that election.

    In what other circumstance do we set up an expedited last-minute order system, where you can bang on their door and get an order? An execution? Not many situations.

  78. 78
    Mnemosyne says:

    @catclub:

    I can. That is just not very hard to imagine.

    Really? In 1965, in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement, protesters having fire hoses turned on them, voting rights activists being beaten to death, you also would have been thinking, “Hey, I bet 50 years from now, conservatives will be trying to establish voter ID laws in states that don’t currently have anything resembling these problems, so we’d better make sure to make it difficult for them to do that, too.”

    Hindsight is 20/20. Prior to 2000, would you have said, “Well, of course the Supreme Court would shut down a statewide recount and award the election to the guy who got 1 million fewer votes — who ever expected them to do anything differently?”

  79. 79
    John PM says:

    Anyone else find it ironic that a black man, two Italians and an Irishman may vote to overturn the VRA?

  80. 80
    dance around in your bones says:

    Gah. Just Gah.

  81. 81
    Chris says:

    @catclub:

    That, but also, wasn’t the entire country full of assholes using vote suppression, vote corruption, ballot stuffing, etc to stay in power, even if it wasn’t racial? Wasn’t that the MO of pretty much every political machine in the country, regardless of party, ideology or ethnic makeup? Seems like grounds for federal intervention pretty much all around, even if the worst offenders (as usual) were in the South.

    Of course it also explains why the VRA didn’t target all states – it probably wouldn’t have passed if ALL the machine-friendly politicians in Congress had felt equally threatened.

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