Feb 28, 2013

Ari Berman: Why the Voting Rights Act Is on the GOP Chopping Block

President Lyndon Johnson reaches to shake the hand of
the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. after signing the
Voting Rights Act on Aug. 6, 1965. (AP file photo)
Rights v. GOP Power—The vindication of Sen. Edward Kennedy

Will the GOP Supreme Court justices invite the social turmoil that would come by dismantling the legislative remedy to the GOP program to stop Americans from voting?

One vote, that of Justice Anthony Kennedy's, will likely decide this question.

Sen. Edward Kennedy warned the nation in 1987 that should radical statists like Robert Bork, Scalia, Alito, Thomas, Roberts and their ilk be confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court, "the doors of the federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of Americans."

Twenty-five years later, Anthony Kennedy—who replaced Bork as the nominee to the Supreme Court—will decide whether the courts may use the Voting Rights Act to secure their American right to vote, or as Sen. Kennedy feared: The courts will slam the door shut on the fingers of millions of Americans.

A decision is expected in June 2013.

The GOP has grown increasingly afraid over the last eight years that Americans of differing shades of color and other nonGOP-voting citizens will vote the Republican Party out of office.

The Party (the White Party) sees itself as entitled to rule, in opposition to the tenets of representative democracy and the U.S. Constitution.

As the 2012 campaign demonstrated anew, the GOP appeal to racism remains a central tenet of its electoral strategy, and its obstruction of voters is a self-consciously planned program.

Combine this despicable political attack—from which no elected Republican will publicly dissent—with a dismantling of the legislative regime codifying the right to vote and we see the outlines of the GOP program to remain in power in its gerrymandered state and federal legislative districts, and its more dubious effort to retake the office of the U.S. presidency.

The Voting Rights Act remains the most successful law to secure the rights of Americans to vote, in the face of GOP efforts to deny these rights on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.

The 15th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to vote even if an American is black.


Republicans today despise the 15th Amendment, with a particular animus towards the Voting Rights Act, written specifically to secure the rights of the 15th Amendment.

From The Nation:

Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires districts with a history of disenfranchising people of color to get federal approval before changing their voting procedures, is currently under review by the Supreme Court. As Nation writer Ari Berman argues, the petition against Section 5 is part of a growing movement to suppress the minority vote. “You’ve had a concerted effort to pour a lot of money into groups whose express goal and purpose is to challenge laws like the Voting Rights Act,” he says. Appearing on Washington Journal, Berman goes head-to-head with the Heritage Foundation’s Hans von Spakovsky [The man who has stoked fear and lied about impostors at the polls (Mayer)].

—James Cersonsky

Read Ari Berman's critical report on the Supreme Court's review of Section 5 for an insightful overview of the issue.

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