Judging by the tone of oral arguments in Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District No. 1 v. Holder last week, the Supreme Court appears poised to strike down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act.
It couldn't come at a worse time.
Several justices gave the impression during questioning on April 29 that they regard discriminatory election practices as ancient history. In fact, a wave of restrictive voter ID and citizenship requirements, both pending and enacted at the state level, threaten to erect a new generation of barriers to minority voters.
Polls show that a majority of voters favor voter ID laws, but it's not the mainstream majority of voters who are at risk.
Controversial voter ID laws have been taken up in nine states this year, including Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina and Texas -- all states covered by the section of the Voting Rights Act now facing constitutional challenge. Some state legislatures are also considering laws requiring voters to show proof of citizenship before registering and/or voting. ...
State legislators pushing for the restrictive ID and citizenship requirements -- all of them Republicans -- ostensibly want to fight voter fraud. But research shows that in-person voter impersonation -- the only type of fraud that voter ID laws could possibly block -- is virtually nonexistent. The real reason that GOP-controlled legislatures want to throw up new barriers to voting, say civil rights lawyers, is to depress turnout in Democrat-friendly voting blocs.
'I think Republicans understand that it was the increased registration and turnout in 2008 that seriously damaged them in the polls,' said Laughlin McDonald, director of the American Civil Liberties Union Voting Rights Project. 'And this is a way to try and reverse that.'
For the Republican Party that for the last 50 years has been the enemy of civil rights and voting rights efforts, their continued obstruction of minorities' voting is to be expected.
The GOP sees the 2008 electoral data on the wall and it spells trouble for its overwhelmingly white, xenophobic base.
See the Pew Research Center data in the Dissecting the 2008 Electorate: Most Diverse in U.S. History report.
For the good of the Party, the wrong-voting population must be obstructed, and real Americans ought to decide elections, the GOP believes.
The opposite of this voter suppression initiative is central to democracies of course.
And people voting to decide the future of their country ought to be a central message of the Obama administration reflected in virtually every visual impression received from the presidency.
By the way, don't be surprised if in Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District No. 1 v. Holder, we get a decision that congressional authority reigns in this instance. But no one knows, Kennedy has already proven himself a corrupt jurist (in Bush v. Gore) who will do what the Party needs.
See Edward B. Foley's Out from the Shadows of Bush v. Gore, a discussion of the Minnesota Senate race that the GOP is trying to steal in the federal courts after their anticipated loss in the state supreme court in June [Kennedy was the deciding vote in Bush v. Gore]:
If all the evidence and arguments for the Contestant and Contestee in Coleman v. Franken were the same and only the parties were reversed—so that Franken were the Contestant and Coleman the Contestee—there is virtually no doubt whatsoever that the same three-judge panel [that favored Franken] would have decided the case in exactly the same way. This strong confidence in the impartiality of the panel is the highest accolade one can bestow on a tribunal tasked with adjudicating a dispute in a major statewide election, particularly one involving significance to the two national political parties of this U.S. Senate seat.
It is, regrettably, not a judgment that one confidently could make about the U.S. Supreme Court in Bush v. Gore. The queasiness that many observers have about that case, even still more than eight years later, is that the Court majority would have rejected the Equal Protection claim there had Gore been the candidate making it. Thus, whatever else one says about the relationship of Coleman v. Franken and Bush v. Gore, the three-judge panel’s ruling is distinguishable for the simple reason of its evident impartiality. ...
In a memorandum accompanying its final order, the three-judge court has written considerably—and conscientiously—about Bush v. Gore and its relevance to Coleman v. Franken. Much scholarly commentary undoubtedly will be devoted to the court’s analysis (Rick Hasen has already offered a thoughtful summary), and I plan to return to it myself after contemplating it more. But even in the first few hours after the release of this decision, it seems fair to say that the court’s rejection of Coleman’s Equal Protection claim—in addition to being impartial in the critical sense that the result would have been the same even had Franken been making the claim—cannot be characterized as an obvious misunderstanding of Bush v. Gore. Indeed, it might well be the correct understanding, the one that any other impartial tribunal would reach on the same facts.