Blog Buzz: The End of the Votings Rights Act?

The Supreme Court struck down a key part of the civil rights legislation.

voting booths
By + More

….Will Congress address the court decision with a renovated Section 4?  Doubtful, even without Chuck Todd's conclusion that it's not "mature enough" to deal with voting rights at all.  The problem left by this decision will be to find someplace in America where state law creates endemic racial and ethnic discrimination at a level that requires federal intervention in the state legislative process.  Where might that be? [ Read the U.S. News Debate: Should the Supreme Court Strike Down the 'Preclearance' Provision of the Voting Rights Act?]On the Maddow Blog, Steven Benen said the ruling "guts" the law, and the bipartisan majorities that used to support the law will likely not resurface in today's Congress:

If we wore some kind of Rawlsian veil of ignorance, and forgot everything we know about the contemporary U.S. Congress, this wouldn't necessarily have to be considered a complete disaster. Given widespread voting problems, a competent and capable legislative branch of government might even see the ruling as an opportunity to pursue meaningful election reforms.But if we drop the veil, we see Congress as it actually is -- an institution where procedural abuses are the norm, an extremist caucus holds control of the lower chamber, the politics of extortion and hostage strategies is routine, and lawmakers struggle badly to complete even rudimentary tasks.…Indeed, I imagine GOP lawmakers will see a strong incentive not to act at all on this issue -- with the 2014 midterms coming up, and Republicans in the majority in so many state legislatures (especially in the South), the party will likely be content to reject all pre-clearance measures and encourage red-state lawmakers to enact sweeping new voting restrictions without fear of Justice Department oversight. In the process, Democratic hopes for electoral gains next November will be further undermined by institutional, not political, barriers.Snipy of Wonkette points out that the Voting Rights Act said history clearly shows the need for the legislation:

See, if you were historically a terrible racist state or part of a state, the federal government could make you do some math to show that you were not trying to be racist and horrible, and if you didn't show your work or your answer was wrong, the gubmint got to invalidate your racist voting math.…So did the Supremes leave Congress a way to fix this mess by updating the preclearance formula math? Sure, but that only works if you believe you have a functional Congress and HAHAHA YOU DO NOT.…We don't know about you but we've never loved our [expletive] do-nothing Congress less. There's just no way a body this deeply divided is going to come up with some way to fix this, so for all intents and purposes the meaningful parts of the Voting Rights Act just went out the window. And the very bestest part is that you won't have to wait long AT ALL for the bad things to happen![ See a collection of political cartoons on the Republican Party.]Josh Israel and Aviva Shen of Think Progress said these consequences would be seen in the next election because the court decision will affect voter ID laws, gerrymandering legislative maps and grassroots get-out-the-vote efforts:

The 15th amendment to the U.S. Constitution guaranteed that the right to vote shall not be abridged on the basis of "race, color, or previous condition servitude." It also expressly granted to Congress the power to "enforce this article by appropriate legislation." Though bipartisan majorities in the Congress and President George W. Bush agreed that this legislation was still needed — and 81 percent of the voter discrimination complaints brought after the laws went into effect were in areas covered by the now eliminated pre-clearance jurisdictions — Justices Alito, Kennedy, Roberts, Scalia, and Thomas have seriously defanged that power and opened the door to significantly more voter suppression.