The Next Big Whack at the Voting Rights Act
While we were all being entertained by the slandering of a returning POW, and then by the road company production of Weasel’s End in Virginia last night, the Supreme Court quietly accepted for review yet another case that involves the franchise, and the rights of minority voters to exercise it. Before we get to what it all might mean for the country that is still in the throes of John Roberts’s Day Of Jubilee, we should pause for a moment and gaze in awe at the glorious legal hypocrisy of the state of Alabama.
You may recall that the Day Of Jubilee was first declared when the Supreme Court ruled for Shelby County, Alabama in gutting Section V of the Voting Rights Act and, thereby, rendering the entire act virtually toothless. The current case involves the creation of gerrymandered majority-minority districts the defense of which Alabama has based in…wait for it…Section V of the Voting Rights Act. Pity me, Your Honor. I’m an orphan.
In dissent, Judge Myron H. Thompson said “there is a cruel irony to these cases” in light of the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in the Shelby County case. “Even as it was asking the Supreme Court to strike down” Section 5 “for failure to speak to current conditions,” Judge Thompson wrote, “the State of Alabama was relying on racial quotas with absolutely no evidence that they had anything to do with current conditions, and seeking to justify those quotas with the very provision it was helping to render inert.”
In the context of the Court’s declaration of the Day Of Jubilee, and the huge effort in the states to suppress votes and restrict the franchise, an effort that the Court itself largely has put beyond the reach of federal law, this case is part of a generalized assault not only on the voting rights of targeted populations, but also to put in place a de facto suppression of the mind, to inculcate in those targeted populations that the system has been so rigged against them that there isn’t much point in putting in the effort it would take to exercise your right to vote. Get an ID. No, sorry, get another ID. No, still the wrong one. Register sometime between 4 and 4:03 on the fourth Tuesday of Nevermember. The most effective form of voter suppression is to convince people that the franchise is out of their reach. Couple that with the increasingly deadening effect of money on our politics — something that this Court also blessed when it gave First Amendment protection to influence-peddling — and you see a kind of democratic malaise settling in, and this in a country where too many people have to be pried off the couch to vote even in the best of times. This is the way rights evaporate. First, you make their exercise inconvenient, or dangerous. Then you can easily make them disappear.