And now for the big question: does this legislation have any chance of passing? It doesn’t seem likely. The shiny new formula might satisfy Justice Roberts, but it would put four deep-red states back into preclearance jail: Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. And what would Republicans get in return? They seem to have given up entirely on appealing to non-white voters, so there’s nothing for them there. And while it’s one thing to feel obliged to vote in favor of renewing a historic law that’s currently on the books, as most Republicans did in 2006, it’s quite another to invite a vote that you don’t have to take in the first place.
So the odds seem pretty long against reviving preclearance. That may be a helluva note to usher in Martin Luther King Jr. Day with, but it’s most likely the truth. Now that blacks and Hispanics identify so overwhelmingly as Democrats, Republicans simply have no incentive to make it easier for them to vote. Nor does it seem possible to shame them into doing it, as it was even eight years ago. The GOP has simply changed too much since 2006.
Half a century ago, the fight over the VRA was a fight between racists and everyone else. Today, it’s a fight between Republicans and Democrats. You’d think that might make it an easier fight to win, not a harder one. But it’s not.