SCOTUS: Political Calculation?
On Tuesday the 25th, the SCOTUS effectively negated the key requirement in the 1965 Voting Rights Act that says all or parts of 15 states with a history of racial discrimination get Justice Department approval before changing election laws. One argument is that the government can’t continue to rely on 40-year-old demographic data that don’t reflect changes in racial progress and society over the decades, in deciding which states and local jurisdictions have to first get clearance from Washington.
This ruling marks a dark and tragic day in the history of America. It is, however, no surprise when we consider, that five of the nine Judges were elected by republican Presidents and have not made much effort to hide their personal political ideologies, unless they had to save face in front of the American public.
Voting discrimination still exists in America and this ruling is a big step back in the Civil Rights movement.
All the more surprising is today’s ruling in which SCOTUS struck down a key part of the Federal Defense of Marriage Act, and declared that same-sex couples who are legally married deserve equal rights to the benefits under federal law that go to all other married couples. This is a landmark decision for the gay rights movement.
While this ruling is an unbelievably progressive one, it is hard to fully understand how such progressive and regressive decisions could occur in the time span of only two days coming from the same court with the same people.
The 5-4 ruling on the VRA, with the court’s conservatives in the majority shows a clear party line of the court. Voting rights experts said, in the wake of the ruling Tuesday, it would likely help Republicans, potentially setting off a string of dominoes that could bolster the GOP’s majority in the House of Representatives for years, or even decades, to come.
While the ruling on the VRA could have gone farther than it actually did, the question is, how one Supreme Court, defending one Constitution, could have come to these two conclusions simultaneously, if it wasn’t for political ideology and political calculation?
After the ruling, officials in Texas and Mississippi pledged to immediately implement laws requiring voters to show photo identification before getting a ballot. North Carolina Republicans promised they would quickly try to adopt a similar law. Florida now appears free to set its early voting hours however Gov. Rick Scott and the GOP Legislature please. And, Georgia’s most populous county likely will use county commission districts that Republican state legislators drew over the objections of local Democrats.
Tragically, on the very same day that Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis (D) drew national attention for stopping a bill that would have closed every abortion clinic in the state and outlawed abortion after 20 weeks, the Supreme Court gutted the law that kept her in office in the first place.
By failing to acknowledge the reason for why the voting situation for minorities has improved so much (the VRA being the reason), SCOTUS is opening the door for history to repeat itself, while saying, in effect, that history cannot repeat itself.