Yesterday, in a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court effectively eviscerated the Voting Rights Act.
Without bothering to identify precisely what part of the constitution it violated, the Court invalidated Congress’ most recent identification, in Section 4, of the states subject to the operation of Section 5. Section 5 requires that the states so identified obtain prior approval of changes to their voting laws.
According to the majority decision, efforts to suppress minority voting are no longer a problem in the states subject to the act. The current coverage system, according to Chief Justice Roberts, who wrote the majority opinion, is “based on 40-year-old facts having no logical relationship to the present day.”
Evidently, the newspapers on whatever planet Roberts lives on haven’t covered the persistent and concerted efforts at vote suppression that have characterized the last two election cycles.
As the New York Times noted,
The decision will have immediate practical consequences. Texas announced shortly after the decision that a voter identification law that had been blocked would go into effect immediately, and that redistricting maps there would no longer need federal approval. Changes in voting procedures in the places that had been covered by the law, including ones concerning restrictions on early voting, will now be subject only to after-the-fact litigation.
In a saner age, the opinion would not be so devastating; it explicitly allows Congress to “update” the list of states subject to Section Five.
If we had a Congress rather than a partisan zoo, that might actually happen. As it is, however, remedial action is unlikely. When an aide to a Republican House member was asked when Congress might revisit the matter, he responded “Sometime after the Rapture.”
It’s going to get very ugly.