Will anything be left of the Voting Rights Act after the Supreme Court finishes with it? It’s looking pretty grim. In 2013, the Supreme Court dismantled the part of the law that required states with a history of discrimination to get approval for changes to election rules. Last year, the court all but eliminated minority voters’ ability to use another part of the law to challenge discriminatory voting restrictions. Now, the court has signaled its interest in frustrating the law’s aim of ensuring that minority voters are adequately represented….
Nevertheless, the court’s conservative majority might be poised to rewrite Section 2 in the way that Alabama proposes. Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, in a concurrence joined by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., said that the outcome of the case was not “clearcut” in favor of those challenging Alabama’s map. That can only be true if the court is preparing to transform the law.
More ominously, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., while voting to leave the lower court order in place, flagged the only lower court decision to have embraced Alabama’s position, along with the article I co-authored examining the implications of that approach. The message is clear: The court’s conservatives are seriously considering a race-blind interpretation of Section 2 that would neuter its effectiveness.
If this comes to pass, decades of progress will be undone for minority voters. Already underrepresented, their voice in the nation’s legislatures will become fainter still.