Five Years After Shelby County, A Look Back

Almost exactly five years ago I wrote a NY Times oped about the Supreme Court’s unfortunate decision striking down a key portion of the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County: The Chief Justice’s Long Game.

This part held up pretty well:

Today’s decision has real consequences. Chief Justice Roberts writes that ”regardless” of how we look at the record, “no one can fairly say it shows anything approaching the ‘pervasive,’ ‘flagrant,’ ‘widespread,’ and ‘rampant’ discrimination” in the past. If that’s true, it’s because the Voting Rights Act works.

Here’s what’s going to happen now. Texas has already announced that it will put its voter-ID law into effect, a law that was on hold under Section 5 awaiting Supreme Court review. Texas’ law, one of the toughest in the nation, requires voters lacking acceptable ID (like a concealed-weapons permit) to travel up to 250 miles at their own expense to get one.

Texas’ law will be challenged on other grounds, but winning voter-ID cases has proved to be tough business. Now Texas can also re-redistrict, freed of the constraints of Section 5, splitting Latino and black voters into different districts or shoving them all in fewer districts to make it harder for them to have effective representation in the State Legislature and in Congress. The biggest danger of what the court has done is in local jurisdictions, where discrimination is more common and legal resources to fight back are thin.

The ball is now in Congress’s court.

 

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