The Supreme Court just castrated the Voting Rights Act:
Handing Congress an assignment with profound political risks, a divided Supreme Court on Tuesday struck down a key part of the historic 1965 Voting Rights Act and left it to Congress to try to salvage the law as the effective ban on racial bias at the polls that it has been for nearly five decades. It appears that the future of the Act’s core depends on members of Congress being willing to impose heavy new legal burdens on their own states.
Before the Court in Shelby County v. Holder (docket 12-96) were constitutional challenges to two of the main sections of the 1965 law; the Court nullified one and left the other formally intact but perhaps in deep peril, too. The dissenters complained that, without the invalidated part, the other will be “immobilized.”
If the full potential impact of the ruling does occur, what would mainly be left to authorize challenges to racial discrimination in voting would be other parts of the law not under review Tuesday, but those parts require a potentially time-consuming process of one lawsuit at a time, persuading a court to give a remedy that applies to one state or local government per case.
See also here.
BTW, less than 2 hours later, the Texas AG unleashed their minority voter suppression plan:
Just two hours after the Supreme Court reasoned that discrimination is not rampant enough in Southern states to warrant restrictions under the Voting Rights Act, Texas is already advancing a voter ID law and a redistricting map blocked last year for discriminating against black and Latino residents. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott issued a statement declaring that both measures may go into effect immediately, now that there is no law stopping them from discriminating against minorities.
In the case of the new electoral map, a panel of federal judges found that “substantial surgery” was done to predominantly black districts, cutting off representatives’ offices from their strongest fundraising bases. Meanwhile, white Congress members’ districts were either preserved or “redrawn to include particular country clubs and, in one case, the school belonging to the incumbent’s grandchildren.” The new map was also drawn in secret by white Republican representatives, without notifying their black and Latino peers. After the court blocked the map, the legislature approved small changes to appease Democratic lawmakers last week. Now that they are free to use the old maps, however, Gov. Rick Perry (R) could simply veto the new plan and use the more discriminatory maps.
The strict photo ID requirement blocked by the DOJ and a federal court would require Texans to show one of a very narrow list of acceptable photo IDs. Expired gun licenses from other states are considered valid, but Social Security cards and student IDs are not. If voters do not have an ID — as many minorities, seniors, and poor people do not — they must travel at their own expense, produce their birth certificate, and in many cases pay a fee to get an ID.
Thanks to the Supreme Court, the DOJ no longer has any power to block these laws, even with the backing of federal judges who found blatant discrimination. Under the remaining sections of the Voting Rights Act, individuals may sue to kill these measures, but only after they have gone into effect and disenfranchised countless Texans of color.
BTW, if you think that this sucks, I think that David Kaiser is right when he predicts a return to a property requirement for voting rights:
It occurred to me this morning that the solution to Republican electoral problems is, when you think about it, obvious, and a friend of mine from a red state pointed out that a Tea Party leader has already mused about it, back in the heady days of 2010. The solution, which has a rich tradition in western and US history, is a property qualification for voting. And what is rather shocking is that there does not seem to be anything in the Constitution to prevent it.
We are going to be seeing the teabaggers lobbying for this, the only question is which is the first state where this actually is formally submitted by a state legislator. (My money is on it being Texasissippi)