Nina Totenberg for NPR:
The potential to render the Voting Rights Act nearly a dead letter
In fact, 33 states have “introduced, refiled, or carried over more than 165 restrictive laws this year,” says Myrna Pérez, director of the Voting Rights and Elections Program at New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice.
Remember too that Chief Justice Roberts, in striking down the pre-clearance provision of the law eight years ago, highlighted Section 2’s importance as the law’s alternative enforcement mechanism. But Roberts has long been disdainful of the need for the Voting Rights Act, dating back to his youth as an aide in Ronald Reagan’s administration, when he unsuccessfully urged the president not to sign the amended law. Now, decades later, he presides over a 6-to-3 conservative majority on a court that is, at minimum, skeptical about the need for tough voting rights enforcement.
The Biden administration has withdrawn the Trump Justice Department’s brief, which sided with Arizona Republicans in the case. But the new administration is not siding with Democratic Party arguments either.
“They’re in an effort at damage control,” says law professor Richard Hasen, a voting rights expert at the University of California, Irvine. “What they’re trying to do is prevent the court from making bad law that will apply to more draconian voting restrictions. So this fight is less about whether the Democratic Party loses but how the Democratic Party loses.”
In the past, the Supreme Court established a variety of tests under Section 2 to prevent vote dilution in congressional redistricting, but this is the first time that the court will examine a state law that has been found to disproportionally result in the denial of the right to vote for minorities. And there is every possibility that the high court could make it much more difficult, or practically impossible, to challenge voting rights restrictions in the future.