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This is a copy of a post that I sent earlier today to someone else who shared a concern for what Republicans have done to eradicate the ability of The Voters Rights Act of 1965 to address election laws that serve no purpose other than to prevent minority voters from casting their ballots. I have done a lot of research into the VRA and the Supreme Court's June 25th opinion in Shelby County v. Holder, which, more or less, destroyed the VRA. I have come to the conclusion that, if a particular act benefits the GOP, Republicans, including the 5 Justices presently sitting on the Supreme Court, HAVE NO SHAME. Chief Justice Roberts' rationale for his holding in the Shelby County case, if not so sad, would be laughable.
You're absolutely right when you say that, "Republican State Legislatures are waging a 'War on Democracy' . . ." but I'm not at all sure that you understand who is allowing this "war" to be waged. The real bad guy here is the United States Supreme Court, which has a majority of Republican Justices (5 Republicans and 4 Democrats).
In the 1960s, Congress recognized that certain states and voting districts had a long record of voter discrimination, and they had every intention of continuing these unconstitutional practices until Congress prevented them from doing so. In 1965, Congress did precisely that, passing The Voters Rights Act" (VRA) of 1965. As I'll explain, the VRA required every state and voting district that had a history of voter discrimination to
"pre-clear" or seek prior approval by either the Justice Department or a 3-judge panel of the D.C. Court of Appeals before any election-law changes made by such a jurisdiction went into effect.
Section 5 of the VRA requires that "covered" jurisdictions (those with a history of voter discrimination) receive federal approval, known as "preclearance", before implementing changes to their election laws. In order to receive approval, the jurisdiction must prove that the change does not have the purpose or effect of discriminating on the basis of race or language minority status; if the jurisdiction fails to meet this burden, the federal government will deny preclearance and the jurisdiction's change will not go into effect. Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act was the part of the VRA which set out the formula that is used to determine which state and local governments must comply with Section 5’s preapproval requirement. Without Section 4, it becomes impossible for anyone to determine whether or not a particular jurisdiction has to meet the requirements of Section 5, because you no longer have a way of telling a court which jurisdictions must seek pre-approval.
The purpose of the VRA was clear: Before a "covered" jurisdiction's election law changes actually went into effect and became the law, the Department of Justice or the D.C. Court of Appeals had to review the law and determine that it had a discriminatory purpose or effect. If, as you and I believe, where a jurisdiction's changes in the kinds of photographic ID that it recognizes (the changes to election laws in Texas and North Carolina come to mind) prevent Blacks and Hispanics, who almost always vote Democratic, from being able to vote serve no other purpose than to discriminate, the law in question would never be given approval under the VRA. Before the VRA became the law, every election law that was thought to have a discriminatory purpose or effect had to be litigated on a "piece-meal" basis. And, since the person(s) challenging the law had the burden of proving his/her case, one could not challenge a discriminatory election law until after the election had taken place.
On June 25th of this year, the United States Supreme Court, in a case called Shelby County (Alabama) v. Holder, the Supreme Court struck down
Section 4 of the VRA is unconstitutional and can no longer be used. Chief Justice Roberts, writing for the Majority, claimed that the criteria used by Section 4 to determine whether Section 5 (and its preclearance provisions) even applied to a particular jurisdiction was based on conditions that existed in 1965, and not "current political conditions." In plain English, this is like saying that, just because a state or voting district used to discriminate does not mean that it still discriminates.
That is B.S., and you, I and much of America know that. The United States Supreme Court is the highest Court in the land, however, and the law is what the United States Supreme Court says it is.
In my opinion, the majority-Republican Supreme Court did exactly what it intended to do: it made it difficult, if not impossible, for many minority voters to cast their ballots. And in doing so, made it infinitely easier for Republican candidates to win their elections. The Supreme Court did not question the constitutionality of Section 5 of the VRA, but until Congress re-writes Section 4 so that it is constitutional, Section 5 serves no purpose.
I don't know about you, but as far as I am concerned, members of the "Tea Party" are nothing more than Republicans with more money and less ethics: thus, America only has 2 national political parties, and one of them stands to gain everything if Section 4 is never re-written. The good news may be that, unless I am badly mistaken, American voters are fed up with most Republicans and Tea Baggers, especially after the government shut down, and with a little luck we may have a Democratic Congress and White House from 2016 through 2024. . .
As I mentioned, Shelby County was a 5-4 decision. If just one Republican Justice retires from the Supreme Court, is replaced by a Democrat, and another election discrimination case comes before the Supreme Court, the VRA, as Dr. King intended it to be, may be resurrected.