Jun 23, 2009

Voting Rights Ruling: No Racism Anymore

Social conditions on race are what the GOP says, not the Democratic-led Congress, and certainly not empirical data.

GOP hack Chief Justice John Roberts believes racism went the way of electronic vacuum tubes and during his tenure will seek to impose this belief on any area of law that he can.

That's the political reality under which the Voting Rights Act (VRA), Section Five was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday.

Passing the Voting Rights Act in 2006, Congress concluded racism exists. Wrong, the GOP says.

The Voting Rights Act (VRA) opinion is being hailed and bashed. But the Court [at least five members] makes clear it disagrees with the VRA's assumption about prevailing racism.

John Nichols sees the opinion pulling the teeth from the Voting Rights Act.

NAACP's John Payton and the ACLU's Steven R. Shapiro applaud the Court for preserving the Act and are grateful the Court rules on narrow grounds, instead of eviscerating the Act as the GOP wants.

But narrow grounds are the best the GOP could get because the GOP-desired opinion won't write—there is no intellectually honest reasoning for the desired opinion that overturns section five of the Voting Rights Act.

Overturning Section Five, the Court would have made Bush v. Gore in comparison a model of rigorous reasoning and apolitical detachment.

So the GOP judges did what they could: Chief Justice Roberts offers his GOP view of racial history and implausibly reinterpretes the Voting Rights statute to mean what the Court says, laying the grounds for a future GOP challenge.

The four rule-of-law judges went along because that's the best that they could get and Roberts threw them some language about the good that the Voting Rights Act has accomplished.

As noted by Tom Goldstein in SCOTUSblog, the "case that went before the Court was a vehicle chosen expressly to pose the constitutional question" by activist lawyers who believe that contrary to what Congress said [in reauthorizing the act by votes of 390 to 33 in the House and 98 to 0 in the Senate in 2006 for 25 years], there is no need for the Act.

The constitutional question at hand is whether Congress overstepped its authority in deciding the Act is still needed.

But it's Congress' conclusion that racism exists that has the GOP upset.

The Court’s opinion says that Section 5 'imposes current burdens and must be justified by current needs.' And that the "statute’s coverage formula is based on data that is now more than 35 years old,” and “there is considerable evidence that it fails to account for current political conditions." (NYT) This ignores the mountain of data that Congress used to justify reauthorization.

The GOP Court will go along with the GOP as much as it can without completely embarrassing itself.

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