There’s a lot of blame and anger in the air these days over the actions of legislative bodies in 28 states to limit voting access.
“This state.” “That state.” Pick one.
But, truth be told, that blame and anger is being directed at the wrong target. Those legislative folk are doing what the law allows. Now. If you’re angry about people - mainly people of color - being limited in voting access, I suggest the proper target is Chief Justice Roberts of the U.S. Supreme court.
More specifically, you can direct your anger at both Roberts and the U.S. Congress. That latter body did nothing specifically about voting access when it came time to renew the Voting Rights Act in 2006. And, that renewal - without dealing with a previously struck access portion - was a huge mistake. Huge!.
Let’s take a step back to a case before SCOTUS - a year or two before Congress got to the renewal stage. The case - the one Roberts was addressing - was Shelby County versus Holder.
In the original Voting Rights Act of 1965, there was a provision requiring states with a history of shutting out voters, to submit to SCOTUS any changes in their voting laws prior to adoption. With that law on the books, incidents of voter exclusion dropped dramatically. For years, things stayed pretty calm.
Then came Shelby v Holder. The petitioners claimed - with good evidence at that time - that the portion of the Voting Rights Act requiring SCOTUS approval of new voting laws was no longer necessary. The states being “punished”by the pre-approval process were doing just fine. No problems.
Stepping up to write the opinion was Chief Justice Roberts. The states in question - mainly in the South - had so few voter access problems, he reasoned, that pre-approval of changes to voting laws from then on was “unnecessary.” So, that portion of the law was eliminated.
Later, when it came time to renew the law - without the pre-approval requirement - Congress went ahead and did so. And, therein lies the problem. That missing “pre-approval” had been challenged four previous times. And Robert’s ruling was upheld four previous times.
So, States like Georgia, North/South Carolina, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi and Arkansas stopped sending SCOTUS the new laws - because of the Roberts ruling - and they were off to the races.
Now, largely Democrat communities within those states are, in many instances, being handcuffed. New laws are being passed, so restrictive, that people - mainly people of color - are being stopped at the polling place door. At the same time, Republicans have begun purging elections officials not to their liking and, as in our Arizona “fraudit,” beginning to challenge voting results for the same reason.
Naturally, with the despicable leadership/assistance of one D.J. Trump, the next step is to undermine voter confidence in our tried-and-true elections systems. An action already underway.
It would seem - to this non-attorney mind - the only way to stop what 28 states are doing to disenfranchise voters they don’t like is for Congress to again take up the 1964 Voting Rights Act and reinsert some voter protection. If not the original pre-approval requirement, then something else that will stop what’s happening in Red states.
A good case can be made that the underlying motivation for these largely
Republican attacks on our voting system is fear. Fear this nation will soon be no longer one with a White majority. Fear of emerging minorities. Fear younger voters are less attracted to the traditional two-party system. Fear the nation will be governed less by the previously White majority and more by the new multi-racial collaboration of minorities. Fear. F-E-A-R.
It’s a sad fact legislatures in certain states, now in largely Republican hands, can’t be trusted to “serve and protect” all their citizens in the most valued right of citizenship: the right to vote. The right to govern. The right to choose. Those offending legislative bodies have to be disciplined - be held accountable - be made more responsible to the very people who gave them their authority - the voter. All voters.
Congress has failed us by not re-authorizing the state accountability portion of the 1964 Voting Rights Act. Chief Justice Roberts has failed us by apparently letting himself be fooled - some years ago - by temporary acquiescence on the part of previously bad actors at the legislative level. He certainly can see now, from his lofty quarters, what’s been happening in 28 states as they’ve made voting access more restrictive.
Robert’s ruling has been proven to be a tragically flawed one. He let the GOP Genie out of the jar. It would appear only our seemingly stalemated Congress can reset the voting system. Will It?