The Supreme Court Tramples on Voting Rights…Again

The Court’s latest ruling is very bad news for the Department of Justice’s move to challenge Georgia’s new restrictive voting laws.

Justice Samuel Alito/ Getty Images

Supreme Court’s War On The Voting Rights Act

It’s important to view the Brnovich decision in the context of this Court’s approach to voting rights.

The VRA’s Second Line Of Defense: Section 2

The Shelby decision dismantled the VRA’s most important firewall, but another, weaker form of protection remained. This is the provision that the Court severely undermined in the Brnovich case.

Arizona’s Sneak Attack On Voting Rights

Compared to many other states, Arizona traditionally had reasonably fair voting laws. However, in 2016, Arizona passed two new laws that seemed neutral on the surface but were designed to make it harder for minority voters to cast their ballots.

What Does Section 2 Actually Say?

Before we consider the Court’s opinion, let’s take a look at the law itself.

The Court’s Tortured Rationale

The Supreme Court adopted a tortured rationale for upholding two Arizona laws that reduce minority voters’ ability to cast their ballots, in its Brnovich v. National Democratic Committee decision. (In Part 1 we discussed the background for this case, including this Court’s previous decision on the Voting Rights of 1965).

Kagan’s Brilliant Dissent

In a searing dissent, Justice Kagan exposed the fallacies in the majority’s opinion. She wrote extensively about the legislative history of the Voting Rights Act, pointing out that American lawmakers had always used claims about election fraud as a pretext for disenfranchising voters…whether they were Irish, Italian, Black Americans or other marginal groups. Consequently, Congress was keenly aware of states’ attempts to restrict voting, so it enacted a broad statute to allow Federal intervention.

The Court Fudged the Facts

The majority did not mention several crucial facts, which Kagan highlighted in her dissent.

Apocalypse Now

The Supreme Court has not yet completely destroyed Section 2, but it has gravely weakened the provision.

A Wall Street Democrat. Security analyst (financial institutions), former lawyer and banker.