SCOTUS resets Voting Rights Act

You can tell how desperate liberals are for a distraction from the drumbeat of scandals, and a cause they can rally around, by their hysterical over-reaction to today’s Supreme Court decision on the Voting Rights Act.  Howls of outrage about disenfranchisement and the incipient return of slavery swiftly filled the air.  MSNBC host Chris Hayes pronounced himself “physically enraged” by a “devilishly clever” effort to scuttle the powerful Section 5 provisions of the Voting Rights Act by kicking the Section 4 formula “back to a Congress that will never come up with a new one.”

Presumably the alternative was to force America to live under the judgment of the 1964 Congress for the rest of eternity, denying all progress in race relations.  At issue is the formula used for determining which districts require special “pre-clearance” from the federal government before making changes to their voting procedures.  The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the current formula, included in Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, is unconstitutional because it relies upon 40-year-old data.

It’s a little sad that such a burst of common sense could only win over five of the Justices.  Race relations have obviously changed quite a bit since the Sixties, as the current President of the United States is normally eager to point out, when the topic of discussion is his own historic significance.  Today’s SCOTUS decision does not wipe out the Voting Rights Act, or “disenfranchise” a single person.  It also doesn’t give infinite latitude to voting districts to devise sinister racist vote-suppression systems.  It’s more of a “reset” than a nullification, telling the Congress of 2013 that it’s time to revisit the question of which districts are so besotted with institutional racism that the federal government can hold them guilty until they prove themselves innocent.  Funny, the self-described “progressives” are usually the ones clamoring for escape from beneath the dead hand of the past.

This has the practical effect of taking away one of the clubs Attorney General Eric Holder has been using to beat common-sense voter identification laws into the dirt; Congress can give it back by coming up with a new Section 4 formula that passes Constitutional muster.  If they’re politically incapable of drafting such a formula, that’s a problem between the voters and their representatives, not a hapless population of unworthy subjects and their black-robed Supreme Court overseers.

Fox News summarizes the case that came before the Supreme Court:

The latest decision came in a challenge to the advance approval, or preclearance, requirement, which was brought by Shelby County, Ala., a Birmingham suburb.

The lawsuit acknowledged that the measure’s strong medicine was appropriate and necessary to counteract decades of state-sponsored discrimination in voting, despite the Fifteenth Amendment’s guarantee of the vote for black Americans.

But it asked whether there was any end in sight for a provision that intrudes on states’ rights to conduct elections, an issue the” court’s conservative justices also explored at the argument in February. It was considered an emergency response when first enacted in 1965.

The county noted that the 25-year extension approved in 2006 would keep some places under Washington’s oversight until 2031 and seemed not to account for changes that include the elimination of racial disparity in voter registration and turnout or the existence of allegations of race-based discrimination in voting in areas of the country that are not subject to the provision.

The Obama administration and civil rights groups said there is a continuing need for it and pointed to the Justice Department’s efforts to block voter ID laws in South Carolina and Texas last year, as well as a redistricting plan in Texas that a federal court found discriminated against the state’s large and growing Hispanic population.

So the government’s justification for retaining an extraordinary emergency power granted nearly five decades ago was, “You can’t take this away, we’re still using it!”  The exercise of power becomes its intrinsic Constitutional justification, forever?  That doesn’t sound like what the Founders had in mind.

Not to mention that the sort of voter ID laws Obama’s Justice Department has been waging war against have not demonstrably reduced minority voting in the areas where they have been implemented.  Some have explained the increased minority vote in some of these states as an angry response against the voter ID laws themselves… but obviously nothing is preventing them from getting to the polls, not even the entirely subjective allegation that they would be somehow “intimidated” out of voting.

“The Fifteenth Amendment is not designed to punish for the past,” said the Supreme Court in today’s decision.  “Its purpose is to ensure a better future.  To serve that purpose, Congress – if it is to divide the States -must identify those jurisdictions to be singled out on a basis that makes sense in light of current conditions.”  If only more “progressives” could be forward-looking enough to understand that… or at least refrain from disingenuously claiming they don’t.

Update: A few words from Catherine Engelbrecht of True the Vote, who knows a thing or two about finding herself on the wrong end of easily-abused government power:

This is without doubt a step in the right direction for our Republic. In the months leading up to this decision, the nation has come to realize, through an assortment of scandals and revelations, just how far the federal government has reached into the daily lives of ordinary citizens. It is our hope that as the nation considers adjustments – we keep an eye toward our founding values of liberty, justice and common privacy. The process of reigning in federal abuses begins with our election systems – today’s decision serves as momentum in our favor.

For decades, voters in various states, counties and boroughs have been punished for the sins others committed in a bygone era. Washington has treated whole segments of this nation as guilty until proven innocent. Ideological bureaucrats have used this law to exact a form of racial justice on their presumed enemies while ignoring the country’s demands for basic election integrity measures. Thankfully, the Court stripped Washington of a power that was only being used as a weapon today.

An active electorate is the key to a healthy, representative republic. It is our responsibility to engage, serve and question our election systems. Today the average voter was returned an immense power in the American experiment. God help us if we do not use it wisely.



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