The Supreme Court has rejected a conservative challenge to the common practice of counting everyone, not just U.S. citizens, when adjusting the size of voting districts across the nation.
Without comment, the justices let stand a redistricting rule that benefits urban areas like Los Angeles and Chicago that have a higher percentage of noncitizens as residents.
Since the 1960s, the court has said that election districts should be equal in size under the so-called one person, one vote rule. Under this rule, U.S. representatives, state legislators, city council members and county board members usually represent about the same number of people.
But the court had not ruled directly on whether these districts should be counted based on the number of persons who live there or on the number of citizens who are eligible to vote.
A conservative group called the Project on Fair Representation has led the challenge to the Voting Rights Act in a case from Alabama. Its lawyers filed a separate appeal in a Texas case that urged the justices to revisit the one person, one vote rule and say that only eligible voters should be counted.
Their lawyers argued that because of “changing immigration patterns,” the standard method of counting all residents shifts political power “away from rural communities to urban centers with high concentrations of residents who are ineligible to vote.”
As the Supreme Court prepares to (I believe) pretty much gut the enforcement provisions of the Voting Rights Act, the people who are cheering it on to do that very thing are before the Court again, this time to argue in favor of the voter-suppression infrastructure they are preparing to erect in the states once the federal law gets defanged.
“If Arizona’s brazen attempt to evade the mandates of the NVRA is upheld, it will make it tougher for voters in Arizona to register, and other states with legislatures that are looking to suppress the vote will surely try to pass copycat legislation,” said Doug Kendall, president of the liberal-leaning Constitutional Accountability Center. “If the Court accepts Arizona’s most sweeping arguments against the NVRA, its ruling could severely limit Congress’ power to protect the right of Americans to register to vote.”
This is what the long march has been about, ever since respectable conservatism married itself to the angry flotsam of American apartheid. Just as the civil-rights marchers believed that it was important to move toward the ballot, because that would make all of their other goals achievable, their opponents have moved toward restricting the ballot in order to make those achievements merely temporary. The objective is not to let minority voters — or, increasingly, young voters — exercise the franchise. The primary argument brought by the proponents of the Arizona law is that it is “non-discriminatory,” a laughable claim, but one that’s likely to find a sympathetic audience among justices who already believe that voting is a “racial entitlement” (Scalia), or that white people in the South have suffered enough from the unkindness of federal law (Roberts).
Rick Hasen, an election law expert and professor at UC-Irvine School of Law, told TPM that the “implications of this sleeper case could be profound.”If the Court holds that Arizona does not have to accept the federal form for voter registrations, it could have a major effect on the power of the federal government to impose rules on states for running congressional elections,” Hasen said in an email.
And that’s why the much-ballyhooed internal examination of itself that the national Republican party released today is pretty much all my balls.
“By the year 2050 we’ll be a majority-minority country and in both 2008 and 2012 President Obama won a combined 80 percent of the votes of all minority groups,” RNC chair Reince Priebus said in a press conference debuting the report. “The RNC cannot and will not write off any demographic or community or region of this country.”
It can simply render them as voiceless as you can be in what purports to be a democracy.
When Amercia was Free:
The murder of Viola Liuzzo was one of the most shocking moments in the civil rights movement. On a winding, isolated road outside Selma, Liuzzo was ambushed and shot to death by a car full of Ku Klux Klansmen.
She was murdered while giving a ride to a 19-year-old black man, Leroy Moton, one of many civil rights marchers she had driven around Selma. Liuzzo had joined the movement’s carpool system soon after arriving in the small Alabama town. Liuzzo’s murder became international news. Her photo became a fixture in history books. Her name has been inscribed on civil rights memorials throughout the United States.
But people had far less sympathy for Liuzzo when she was murdered. Hate mail flooded her family’s Detroit home, accusing her of being a deranged communist. Crosses were burned in front of the home. Her husband, Anthony Liuzzo Sr., had to hire armed guards to protect his family.
A Ladies’ Home Journal magazine survey taken right after Liuzzo’s death asked its readers what kind of woman would leave her family for a civil rights demonstration. The magazine suggested that she had brought death on herself by leaving home — and 55% of its readers agreed.
“It was horrible,” Penny says. “People sent [copies of] this magazine that showed her body in the car with the blood and bullet holes. They called her a white whore and a nigger lover, and said that she was having relations with black men.”
Even Sally did not escape the public’s wrath. Students threw rocks at her and taunted her on the way to school, Penny says.
The family says they were even more devastated when they learned years later who had initiated the public backlash — J. Edgar Hoover, director of the FBI. To absolve itself of culpability in her death — an FBI informant was in the car with the men who killed Liuzzo — the FBI released her psychiatric records and directed a smear campaign to suggest that Liuzzo was promiscuous.
Christian Nation America responded to the death of a Voting Rights Activist in 1965 with anger and derision…directed at members of the surviving family. I’d write more here if I could but I can’t find the words.
When he was in his late 20s, John Roberts was a foot soldier in the Reagan administration’s crusade against the Voting Rights Act. Now, as chief justice of the Supreme Court, he will help determine whether a key part of the law survives a constitutional challenge.
Memos that Roberts wrote as a lawyer in President Reagan’s Justice Department during the 1980s show that he was deeply involved in efforts to curtail the effectiveness of the Voting Rights Act, the hard-won landmark 1965 law that is intended to ensure all Americans can vote. Roberts’ anti-VRA efforts during the 1980s ultimately failed. But on Wednesday, when the Supreme Court hears oral arguments in Shelby County v. Holder, he’ll get another chance to gut the law. Roberts’ history suggests a crucial part of the VRA may not survive the rematch.
At issue in Shelby County is whether a major portion of the Voting Rights Act, called Section 5, is constitutional. Section 5 compels jurisdictions with a history of discrimination, mostly in the South, to ask the Justice Department for permission—preclearance, in legalese—before making any changes to election laws. Shelby County, Alabama, is arguing that Section 5 is an extreme measure that is no longer justified because racism is no longer the problem it once was. If Section 5 is overturned, voting rights groups say, the federal government’s ability to ensure Americans are not denied the right to vote on the basis of race—at a time when race has been used as a proxy for party identification—will be severely weakened.
Shelby County offers Roberts an opportunity to complete a mission he began three decades ago. When the chief justice was a young lawyer, in 1981, Southern legislators hoped an ascendant conservative movement could pressure Reagan into opposing an extension of the VRA. In June of that year, Reagan wrote a letter to Attorney General William French Smith requesting an “assessment” of the law.
When he signed the federal Voting Rights Act on August 6, 1965, President Lyndon Johnson did not rely on understatement to express the significance of the legislation.
“Today is a triumph for freedom as huge as any victory that ever been won a on any battlefield,” Johnson told members of Congress and dignitaries assembled in the Capitol’s rotunda.
Standing beneath a large painting of the British surrender to George Washington at the Revolutionary War battle of Yorktown, and flanked by a statue of Abraham Lincoln, Johnson harkened back 350 years to the arrival of the first African-Americans at colonial Jamestown, Virginia, “in darkness and chains” as slaves.
“Today, we strike away the last major shackle of those fierce and ancient bonds,” Johnson said. “Millions of Americans are denied the right to vote because of their color. This law will ensure them the right to vote.”
The Voting Rights Act, along with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, proved to be the legislative pillars of the civil rights movement. They were pushed through Congress by Johnson after years of civil rights protests punctuated by the 1955 Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott led by Rev. Martin Luther King to King’s March on Washington in 1963. There were smaller legislative achievements along the way, such as the a limited voting rights bill Johnson shepherded through Congress as Senate Majority Leader in 1957.
Iron-fisted enforcement of the 1965 Voting Rights Act transformed American politics, especially in the South, by making sure minorities had a clear path to the ballot box and an equal shot at public service.
Forty-eight years later, after the re-election of an African-American president, the heart of that law is on trial.
The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments Feb. 27 in a case that is sure to ignite a national debate over how far the country has progressed on racial issues and whether minority voters still need extra protection.
Shelby County, Ala., opposed by the Justice Department and civil rights groups, wants two key sections of the Voting Rights Act declared unconstitutional.
On Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court said it would hear two cases challenging state and federal laws which prevent the legal union between same-sex couples.
But it’s not the only significant civil rights case the Court has decided to take up this term.
Last month, the Supreme Court said it will consider the constitutionality of a key part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the hallmark legislation from the Civil Rights era that has come under increased challenge.
The cornerstone provision is known as Section 5, which holds some states accountable to get federal clearance before making any changes to their voting laws.
Many think the Court’s decision to hear the case, announced just three days after the election, spells doom for the cornerstone provision. But whatever the justices’ decision, the case may end up, as the influential SCOTUSBlog put it, “as one of the most significant rulings of the current Term.”
Oral arguments in the case, Shelby County v. Holder, are set for next year, with a decision expected by June. Let’s take a step back and see why this case is so consequential:
What’s Section 5 again?
As we’ve explained before, Section 5 requires nine mostly Southern states — Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Alaska, Virginia, Texas and Arizona — and areas of seven others to preclear any change to a voting law or procedure with the federal government.
This review is conducted by the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice or a panel of federal judges on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. If a voting change hasn’t been submitted for review, the change can be legally unenforceable.
Section 5, which was enacted by the original Voting Rights Act, was meant to address the systemic disenfranchisement of African Americans by state lawmakers in the South since the end of Reconstruction.
Under the provision, covered jurisdictions must prove that any proposed voting change doesn’t have a discriminatory purpose or effect or would diminish minorities’ ability to elect a favored candidate.
The Supreme Court on Friday said it would decide the constitutionality of a signature portion of the Voting Rights Act.
The justices three years ago expressed skepticism about the continued need for Section 5 of the historic act, which requires states and localities with a history of discrimination, most of them in the South, to get federal approval of any changes in their voting laws.
It is the second important case involving race that the court has accepted this term. Last month, the justices heard a challenge to the University of Texas’s admissions policy that could redefine or eliminate the use of affirmative action in higher education.
The Section 5 requirements were passed during the darkest days of the civil rights struggle, paving the way for expanded voting rights for African Americans and greatly increasing the number of minority officeholders.
But critics say that the method for selecting the places requiring special supervision — nine states and certain parts of seven others — is outdated and that there is no need for imposing greater requirements for some areas of the country.
The court will be reviewing a decision last spring by a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to uphold Section 5.
First passed in 1965, the act was most recently extended in 2006 with lopsided votes in both houses of Congress and signed with fanfare by President George W. Bush.
No matter who wins the presidential race, no matter which party controls Congress, can we at least agree as reasonable adults that when it comes to voting itself the election of 2012 is a national disgrace? We ask our sons and daughters, our husbands and wives, to give their lives abroad for noble concepts like “freedom” and “democracy.” And yet we are content as a nation, and as a people, to tolerate another cycle of election rules that require our fellow citizens to sacrifice a measure of basic human dignity simply to exercise their right to vote.
For example, what happened this weekend in Florida is simply unacceptable. According to a local election official interviewed by CBS News’ Phil Hirschkorn, the last “early voter” in line for Saturday’s truncated early voting in Palm Beach County finally got to cast a ballot at 2:30 a.m Sunday morning, which means that voter waited in line for more than seven hours. In Miami, another traditional Democratic stronghold, the wait was said to be nearly as long. On Sunday, voters all over the state were begging judges and county officials for more time to vote.
This is happening not because of a natural disaster or breakdown in machinery. It is happening by partisan design. Alarmed by the strong Democratic turnout in early voting in 2008, Republican lawmakers, including Governor Rick Scott, reduced the number of early voting days from 14 to eight. When the restrictions were challenged in federal court under the Voting Rights Act, a three-judge panel said they would have a discriminatory impact upon minority voters. But only five of the state’s 67 counties are covered by the federal civil rights law.
When the remaining restrictions were challenged in federal court, a George W. Bush appointee said there was no proof that the reduced hours would “impermissibly burden” minority voters. How many hours in line must a Florida voter wait before the burden upon her becomes an “impermissible” one? If Florida’s election officials, and its Republican lawmakers, and its state and federal judges, all were required to stand in line for seven hours to vote those long lines would go away forever. You know it, I know it, and so do those officials.
The Supreme Court returns to the bench on Monday to confront not only a docket studded with momentous issues but also a new dynamic among the justices.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., center, will be scrutinized for signs of whether he has moved to the ideological center after his unexpected decision on President Obama’s health care law.
The coming term will probably include major decisions on affirmative action in higher education admissions, same-sex marriage and a challenge to the heart of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Those rulings could easily rival the last term’s as the most consequential in recent memory.
The theme this term is the nature of equality, and it will play out over issues that have bedeviled the nation for decades. “Last term will be remembered for one case,” said Kannon K. Shanmugam, a lawyer with Williams & Connolly. “This term will be remembered for several.”
The term will also provide signals about the repercussions of Chief Justice John G. Roberts’s surprise decision in June to join the court’s four more liberal members and supply the decisive fifth vote in the landmark decision to uphold President Obama’s health care law. Every decision of the new term will be scrutinized for signs of whether Chief Justice Roberts, who had been a reliable member of the court’s conservative wing, has moved toward the ideological center of the court.
“The salient question is: Is it a little bit, or is it a lot?” said Paul D. Clement, a lawyer for the 26 states on the losing side of the core of the health care decision.