I am always proud to be an American. Some days it is because of our government. Some days it is in spite of our government. As they sing on Broadway; “today is a ‘latter’ day”.
Last November, I blogged about the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) agreeing to hear a challenge to the Voting Rights Act. Today, in a 5-4 ruling, the Court struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act. The ruling effectively invalidates Section 5 as well.
For those who might be a little farther from this issue, The Voting Rights Act of 1965 is a law that provides for federal enforcement ensuring the rights of qualified citizens to participate in our democracy by voting. Section 4 of the Act listed States where the history of disenfranchisement and voting obstruction was so egregious that the Justice Department has been required to act as an outside observer to prevent continuing discrimination. Section 5 required that all election practices in the Section 4 States be approved in advance by the DOJ before implementation. Because of Arizona’s long and, uh, ‘proud’ history of protecting the electoral process from the annoying intrusion of Hispanic and Native American citizens, we were one of the States covered by Section 4.
Like all SCOTUS rulings, this is good news for some people and bad news for others.
I am sure champaign corks are a-popping in Governor Jan’s office. Life will be so much easier for extreme right-wing groups, Tea Party groups, evangelical political groups and white supremacist groups in Arizona elections. These groups represent a large percentage of the Governor’s base of support.
Nationally, it is very good news for those who tried so hard in the last election to convince us that “voter turnout suppression” really isn’t the same thing as “racism”. It is the same thing, of course, but, you know, having a “Voter Turnout Suppression Strategy” sounds nicer than having a “We’ll-Lose-If-We-Let-Minorities-And-Poor-People-Vote Strategy”.
At the precinct level in AZ, the ruling will make the job of election workers easier. It will no longer be necessary to jump through all the bureaucratic hoops that had been implemented to create the appearance of fairness while still discouraging or disqualifying the maximum number of non-white voters. Maybe we can go back to the 1970’s (10 years after the, now gutted, Voting Rights Act made it illegal) when everyone with brown skin or an Hispanic surname was required to read the preamble to the Constitution in English to prove they were qualified to vote. That will make the lines move a lot faster on election day; I mean, you know. for white people with proper European names. I wonder if they’ll actually put up ‘Whites Only’ signs in the polling places to steer people to the correct line or if that will just be implied. Probably the latter since I am sure the bilingual signage and ballot instructions (not to mention the ballots themselves) will likely be included in the next round of good-government’ cost-cutting.
The ruling is bad news for any qualified voter in Arizona who isn’t white or who has a Z in their surname. It’s bad news for any Liberal, Populist, or Progressive candidate or issue on the National ballot. It’s very bad, indeed, for any American who believes in freedom, fairness or who values diversity in the marketplace of ideas. I guess there aren’t as many of those people as I thought. At least there aren’t 5 of them on the Court.
Thanks to Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan for their dissent. The give me hope.
‘Shout out’ to Justice Thomas who, apparently feeling his vote was not shameful enough, chose to write a concurring opinion to highlight his belief that Federalism trumps justice and decency. Absent the Voting Rights Act and other such Federal actions, Justice Thomas would not be allowed to vote; much less sit on the Court. I have no doubt he will show equal integrity in his votes on marriage equality; choosing to toe the Tea Party-line instead of remembering that his own marriage, to a caucasian women, was illegal not that long ago when the issue was ‘left to the States to decide’.