“Turning the Tide on Voting Rights”

I have written this oped for the NY Times. It begins:

Has the tide against restrictive voting laws turned?

In the last few weeks, voting rights groups, in some instances working with the Department of Justice, have posted a series of victories that seemed unlikely when their cases against these laws were first brought. The rights of hundreds of thousands of voters are at stake.

 Another snippet:

These battles are not over, and further appeals could still lead to reversals. But there are two reasons to be optimistic that we are nearing the end of an era of increasingly restrictive voting rules imposed just about exclusively by Republican legislators and election officials over the objections of Democrats and voting rights groups.

First, the changing composition of the Supreme Court and the lower courts makes sustaining such rules less likely. If the conservative Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia were still alive, Texas would have raced to the Supreme Court with an emergency petition, but there are no longer five justices willing to uphold restrictive voting laws. The lower courts are also changing. A few years ago, if North Carolina had appealed the decision to the full Fourth Circuit, the state probably would have won. But retirements and new judges have turned the Fourth Circuit into a much more liberal court.

Second, Republican legislatures overplayed their hand. After the Supreme Court gave the green light in 2008 to Indiana’s strict voter identification law in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board and effectively gutted preclearance in Shelby County v. Holder in 2013, Republican legislatures, offering ever flimsier justifications, made laws even stricter.

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