“New Jersey Employment and Civil Rights Attorney Discusses Supreme Court’s Decision on Voting Rights.”
“Or . . . Votes only for the Rich?”
The United States Supreme Court recently dealt a crippling, and probably fatal, blow to the Voting Rights Act of 1965, by striking down the formula devised by Congress to determine which states are covered by the Act.
Section 4(b) of the Act and Section 5 work together. 4(b), which sets the formula to be used by Congress when determining whether or not to stop a State from abusing the rights of a portion of its citizens, was essentially rendered null and void by the same notorious bloc of conservative Supreme Court Justices voting consistently with the right wing and with corporate and wealthy interests. By doing this, the Supreme Court rendered Section 5, which is the “beating heart” of the Act, and which contains all of the enforcement provisions and corrective measures, useless.
Section 5 requires covered jurisdictions, those with a history of voting discrimination, to submit any changes in their voting practices for pre-clearance by the Department of Justice with the Federal District Court in Washington, D.C. This was done because a number of states were erecting voting schemes that essentially intimidated, threatened or tricked African American or poor voters from being able to vote. Today, such dirty games are as much racially motivated as by economic and political bias. Clearly, the “red states” want to stay red. This Supreme Court wants to help them do that. The Supreme Court conservative majority also wants to help “swing” states go “red.” The easy way to do this is simply invalidate an Act whose sole purpose is to prevent schemes which tamper with the rights of poor people to vote from operating.
By rendering the decision it has, the Supreme Court has once again stood with the wealthy minority and with the conservative right wing, instead of with the substantial rights of America and what it means to be an American. As a civil rights lawyer – as a lawyer who believes in enlightened justice – I am disgusted and ashamed by this decision.
The new wave, which we saw in the last election, is for Republican and right wing rigged “machines” to create situations where lower middle class and poor voters are disadvantaged in terms of their access to voting machines. For example, such dirty tricks include providing inadequate numbers of machines to inner city voting stations that are going to be mobbed by poor people that can’t take off from work to stand in line for the time it takes to get to the very few machines those stations provide. This has the intended effect of frustrating and intimidating poor people into not showing up to vote at all or turning away to go to work before they get a chance to pull the lever. Of course, in the suburban less poor and certainly more “white” sections of those same states, where middle and upper class voters vote, people who have the time to stand on line, there is no line, because those stations have an adequate number of voting machines.
This decision is evidence of the political agenda of which the Supreme Court’s conservative majority has now become a willing and obvious participant: force cases into arbitration and away from juries. Limit rights. Play games with voting.
A deeply embarrassing and regrettable decision.