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SCOTUSwatch: Voting Rights Act
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Games Meister
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Feb 27, 2013, 12:10 PM
 
Voting Rights Act Heads Before Supreme Court In Shelby Case

The justices are hearing arguments Wednesday in a challenge to the part of the Voting Rights Act that forces places with a history of discrimination, mainly in the Deep South, to get approval before they make any change in the way elections are held.

The lawsuit from Shelby County, Ala., near Birmingham, says the "dire local conditions" that once justified strict federal oversight of elections no longer exist
Advance approval has been successful because it requires the governments to demonstrate that their proposed election changes will not discriminate, the law's advocates say. "It moved the burden from victims to perpetrators," said Sherrilyn Ifill, the head of the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund.

Just last year, federal judges in Washington refused to sign off on two separate Texas plans to institute a tough photo identification law for voters and redistricting plans for the state's congressional delegation and Legislature. Also, South Carolina's plan to put in place its own voter ID law was delayed beyond the 2012 election and then allowed to take effect only after the state carved out an exception for some people who lack photo identification.
The provision was a huge success, and Congress periodically has renewed it over the years. The most recent time was in 2006, when a Republican-led Congress overwhelmingly approved and President George W. Bush signed a 25-year extension.
No predictions here. I doubt I need to clarify which way I lean, but I think the overwhelming bipartisan reaffirmation by Congress just six years ago says all that needs to be said.

Edit: If anything, to be truly fair, it should be extended to all states.
     
Clinically Insane
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Feb 27, 2013, 12:27 PM
 
I'm entertained by the image of Scalia and Thomas wearing Swatches.
     
Games Meister
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Feb 27, 2013, 02:03 PM
 
Scalia being Scalia

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia referred to the renewal of the Voting Rights Act as the “perpetuation of racial entitlement,” during Wednesday’s Supreme Court hearing on the law.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor challenged Scalia’s comments, asking “Do you think Section 5 was voted for because it was a racial entitlement?” She also asked “Do you think racial discrimination has ended?”
     
Clinically Insane
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Feb 27, 2013, 02:14 PM
 
Preach it, sister.
     
OAW
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Feb 27, 2013, 04:19 PM
 
Proof positive that the Voting Rights Act ... especially Section 5 ... is still needed.

Stay Classy, PA: Voter Suppression 2012 – Now with 2013!

OAW
     
Games Meister
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Feb 28, 2013, 11:30 AM
 
Originally Posted by OAW View Post
Proof positive that the Voting Rights Act ... especially Section 5 ... is still needed.

Stay Classy, PA: Voter Suppression 2012 – Now with 2013!

OAW
Well that's what interests me. With such timely examples of its necessity any ruling against the VRA will be on a technicality rather than the reality of situation, right? I think that's why we're focused on Section 5 and not the entire law itself.
     
OAW
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Feb 28, 2013, 12:16 PM
 
Originally Posted by The Final Dakar View Post
Well that's what interests me. With such timely examples of its necessity any ruling against the VRA will be on a technicality rather than the reality of situation, right? I think that's why we're focused on Section 5 and not the entire law itself.
Indeed. And the fact that the preeminent conservative justice on the SCOTUS characterized the Voting Rights Act as a “perpetuation of racial entitlement" given not only the historical record but the modern day efforts at voter suppression speaks volumes. And our good friends on the right wonder why the number of African-Americans in their ranks is practically a rounding error.

OAW
     
Games Meister
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Feb 28, 2013, 12:29 PM
 
Yeah, Scalia's logic is always amazing.

Honestly, I do see a sliver of valid reasoning by those who brought the case. In a better connected nation, racism, and racially motivated attacks on voting rights don't stop at the Mason-Dixon line. And attack on voting rights aren't limited on the basis of race.

However, I'm sure they'd rather see the oversight removed, rather than extended to all states, so all citizens can enjoy the benefits.
     
OAW
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Feb 28, 2013, 12:44 PM
 
Originally Posted by The Final Dakar View Post
Yeah, Scalia's logic is always amazing.

Honestly, I do see a sliver of valid reasoning by those who brought the case. In a better connected nation, racism, and racially motivated attacks on voting rights don't stop at the Mason-Dixon line. And attack on voting rights aren't limited on the basis of race.

However, I'm sure they'd rather see the oversight removed, rather than extended to all states, so all citizens can enjoy the benefits.
Exactly. If they were talking about extending those protections nationwide that would be one thing. Because as we can see when voting rules are arbitrarily changed the damage is already done for that election cycle. Witness the ridiculously long lines in urban areas around the country in the 2012 election ... especially in Florida. Conservatives like Scalia will argue that people can always sue or challenges such restrictions in court. But the problem is that's after the fact. Personally I think there should be national standards for how voting is conducted. Non-partisan commissions for drawing districts. Etc. Then perhaps Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act would not be needed. But until then ....

OAW
     
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Feb 28, 2013, 01:29 PM
 
I think there's a possibility they send this back to congress? Of course, given the situation in the House, I'm sure the idea of expanding the VRA would be dead in the water.

Edit: I feel like this is a liberal circle-jerk.
     
OAW
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Feb 28, 2013, 11:20 PM
 
I wouldn't call it a "liberal circle jerk". I'd say this is one of those situations that is so blatantly obvious that our conservative compatriots wisely choose to remain silent rather than attempt to defend the indefensible.

OAW
     
Clinically Insane
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Mar 1, 2013, 07:43 AM
 
This one has "Alito" written all over it.

     
Games Meister
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Mar 1, 2013, 12:05 PM
 
Originally Posted by OAW View Post
I wouldn't call it a "liberal circle jerk". I'd say this is one of those situations that is so blatantly obvious that our conservative compatriots wisely choose to remain silent rather than attempt to defend the indefensible.

OAW
I'm trying not to be that bitter or pessimistic. I suppose there's a states right angle, but I would ask if that's really practical given what we just saw last year. I also offered that if it applies to all 50 states, isn't that fair?
     
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Mar 1, 2013, 12:06 PM
 
Originally Posted by subego View Post
This one has "Alito" written all over it.
I'm going to continue to not acknowledge your swatch joke.
     
OAW
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Mar 1, 2013, 02:55 PM
 
Originally Posted by The Final Dakar View Post
I'm trying not to be that bitter or pessimistic. I suppose there's a states right angle, but I would ask if that's really practical given what we just saw last year. I also offered that if it applies to all 50 states, isn't that fair?
Yes it is fair. As I said above .... "If they were talking about extending those protections nationwide that would be one thing."

OAW
     
Clinically Insane
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Jun 25, 2013, 12:39 PM
 
I saw this decision coming, and I agree with it. While I don't see any core issues with law itself, Section 4 was hopelessly out of date and discriminatory in its own right.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/26/us...rt-ruling.html

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Tuesday effectively struck down the heart of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by a 5-to-4 vote, ruling that Congress had not provided adequate justification for subjecting nine states, mostly in the South, to federal oversight.

“In 1965, the states could be divided into two groups: those with a recent history of voting tests and low voter registration and turnout, and those without those characteristics,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote for the majority. “Congress based its coverage formula on that distinction. Today the nation is no longer divided along those lines, yet the Voting Rights Act continues to treat it as if it were.”
"Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it."
- Thomas Paine
     
OAW
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Jun 25, 2013, 12:51 PM
 
The problem with Chief Justice Robert's reasoning is that he's overly focused on "voter registration" BEFORE an election and apparently oblivious to "voter suppression" DURING an election.

OAW
     
Clinically Insane
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Jun 25, 2013, 01:26 PM
 
They're saying the "coverage formula" is almost 50 years out of date, and it is.
"Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it."
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OAW
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Jun 25, 2013, 04:35 PM
 
Originally Posted by Shaddim View Post
They're saying the "coverage formula" is almost 50 years out of date, and it is.
I understand that. And I'm not disagreeing. My point is that many of these jurisdictions are up to no good. Particularly the ones with GOP controlled state legislatures as the voter suppression thread clearly indicates. Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act was a tool ... albeit an imperfect one ... that was utilized to stop such blatant attempts at voter suppression. It would be one thing for the conservative wing of the SCOTUS to strike this section down because the "coverage formula" is outdated in the absence of a concerted, multi-state effort by GOP controlled legislatures to suppress the vote. But to do this in the midst of a political environment where conservatives are systematically trying to suppress the vote of demographics that do NOT traditionally vote for conservatives ... and then to claim that Congress should address the issue when the House is controlled by conservatives who directly benefit from the shenanigans of their state-level compatriots ... is a shamelessly transparent example of the "judicial activism" they typically decry.

Let's be clear on what just happened here. Section 5 requires that certain jurisdictions with a history of racially discriminatory voting practices get "pre-clearance" from the DOJ (or a 3 judge panel of the DC District Court) in order to change their voting laws. The burden of proof was on such jurisdictions to show that proposed changes would not have a discriminatory "intent" or "effect". It is the key enforcement mechanism of the entire Voting Rights Act and is something that I think most fair minded people would think is a pretty good idea. Now Section 4 outlines the "coverage formula" on which jurisdictions are subject to the pre-clearance requirement. It basically states that those jurisdictions that A) utilized a "test or device" to restrict the ability to register and/or vote prior to a certain date, and B) where less than half of the eligible citizens were registered to vote or participated in a presidential election on a certain date are subject to pre-clearance. Originally this date was Nov 1, 1964. It's presently Nov. 1, 1972. Section 4 is the portion of the law that the conservative bloc on the SCOTUS objected to ostensibly because it's "outdated". Ok fine. But what's often left out of the discussion in the media is that the Voting Rights Act already has a provision to allow covered jurisdictions to "bail out" of the Section 5 pre-clearance requirement. It requires a covered jurisdiction to obtain a judgement from the DC District Court that it has demonstrated nondiscriminatory behavior during the 10 years prior to request and that it has taken affirmative steps to improve minority voting opportunities. Which in my view ... adequately addresses any concerns about Section 4 being "outdated". Let me reiterate that last point ....

If any covered jurisdiction took issue with being subject to the pre-clearance requirement based upon "outdated" criteria from a "bygone era" .... all it had to do was show that it had been on its best behavior "recently"!

But it would seem that wasn't good enough for the conservative bloc on the SCOTUS. Note that the conservatives on the SCOTUS did NOT object to Section 5 which established the pre-clearance requirement (except for Justice Thomas ... but I'll refrain from commenting on that except to say that I'm not surprised ). That would have been too obvious and justifiably seen as a frontal assault on the Voting Rights Act itself. So instead they went after Section 4 ... despite an existing provision for covered jurisdictions to "bail out" ... and that has effectively gutted Section 5 nonetheless. So now they are basically telling the Congress to go fix Section 4 with a "wink and a nod" ... knowing good and damned well that's not going to happen. While in the meantime the burden of proof has now been shifted to aggrieved voters to show that voting law changes are discriminatory. But as I mentioned earlier ... even if aggrieved voters successfully sue the damage is already done. Because let's keep it real ... such lawsuits can take YEARS to resolve and elections have consequences regardless.

OAW
( Last edited by OAW; Jun 25, 2013 at 04:56 PM. )
     
Clinically Insane
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Jun 25, 2013, 10:40 PM
 
The SCOTUS simply determined that Section 4 needs a rewrite, they gave congress the opportunity to do it on their own years ago but they were rebuffed. Now they're forcing the issue to be readdressed. Hint to the other gov't branches, when the SCOTUS tells you to address an issue, you'd damned well better do it. This is not the end of the world, the law itself isn't in actual danger, despite the civil rights groups running around like Chicken Little, waving their hands in the air. There's no conspiracy, except the one fabricated in your own minds.
"Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it."
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OAW
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Jun 25, 2013, 11:42 PM
 
Originally Posted by Shaddim View Post
The SCOTUS simply determined that Section 4 needs a rewrite, they gave congress the opportunity to do it on their own years ago but they were rebuffed. Now they're forcing the issue to be readdressed. Hint to the other gov't branches, when the SCOTUS tells you to address an issue, you'd damned well better do it. This is not the end of the world, the law itself isn't in actual danger, despite the civil rights groups running around like Chicken Little, waving their hands in the air. There's no conspiracy, except the one fabricated in your own minds.
And that's where you are being overly optimistic. The SCOTUS can't "force the issue" because it doesn't have the power to make Congress do sh*t! And absent congressional action the BOTTOM LINE is that the pre-clearance provision of the legislation has essentially been nullified. What I am saying is that the PRACTICAL IMPACT of this decision is that jurisdictions with a demonstrated history of racially discriminatory voting laws can pass such legislation going forward with the full knowledge that any legal challenges won't be resolved prior to the completion of an upcoming election cycle. So at worst they receive a slap on the wrist after the fact. If you think I've misstated something here feel free to demonstrate where I'm in error.

OAW
     
Clinically Insane
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Jun 26, 2013, 02:36 AM
 
There strikes me as something of a disconnect between knocking down the law because times have changed but then not considering times have also changed such to make Congress, along with many state and local governments, utterly impotent when it comes to addressing these problems.
     
Clinically Insane
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Jun 26, 2013, 04:35 AM
 
Unless it's a Constitutional Amendment, the SCOTUS can punt whatever they want back to congress. Section 4 was outdated, and now it's gone, time for legislators to find a reasonable way of making the bill work, that actually takes into account demographics that aren't older than I am (and I'm not Spring chicken). Maybe even take the opportunity to focus on the geographic areas where voting issues have recently occurred, on both sides of the political fence and all ethnicities.
"Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it."
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Clinically Insane
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Jun 26, 2013, 04:33 PM
 
I don't think anyone is saying that's a bad theory. The problem is when you put it into the hands of people who feel gerrymandering is a legit tool.
     
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Jun 26, 2013, 05:46 PM
 
To put it another way, I think there's some spread between the proper answer and the just answer.
     
OAW
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Jun 26, 2013, 06:11 PM
 
Originally Posted by subego View Post
I don't think anyone is saying that's a bad theory. The problem is when you put it into the hands of people who feel gerrymandering is a legit tool.
Exactly. And in case people think it's just me who sees it this way or that this is a partisan thing .....

Originally Posted by Michael Steele - Former RNC Chairman
As the Chief Justice stressed “There is no doubt that these improvements are in large part because of the Voting Rights Act,” noting “[t]he Act has proved immensely successful at redressing racial discrimination and integrating the voting process.” Roberts would conclude “Those extraordinary and unprecedented features were reauthorized — as if nothing had changed.” Likewise it is reasonable for the Court to want the Congress to update them.

However, to use the success of the Voting Rights Act as a means to gut it is not reasonable. As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg aptly noted in her dissent “The sad irony of today’s decision lies in its utter failure to grasp why the VRA has proven effective. The Court appears to believe that the VRA’s success in eliminating the specific devices extant in 1965 means that pre-clearance is no longer needed.”

We should not be misled to believe that those States subject to the provisions of the Voting Rights Act have in place the political infrastructure to protect and guard against race-based denial of voting rights, whether intentional or unintentional. Lest the Court forgets: the “right” to vote does not guarantee “access” to the ballot box.

We only need to look at our most recent electoral history, to witness the difficulties still existing in the American electoral process even among those states not subject to the Act. Since 2000, presidential elections, along with countless local and state elections remain subject to allegations of abuse, fraud and civil rights violations, not to mention blatant efforts by state legislatures in Pennsylvania, Florida and Ohio to rewrite existing election laws viewed by many Americans, especially African Americans, to suppress the vote in 2012.
Michael Steele: Supreme Court ‘gut’ the Voting Rights Act | theGrio | Page 2

OAW
     
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Jul 6, 2013, 10:29 AM
 
Originally Posted by OAW View Post
Exactly. And in case people think it's just me who sees it this way or that this is a partisan thing .....
OAW
I think this is the money-shot of his statement right here;

We only need to look at our most recent electoral history, to witness the difficulties still existing in the American electoral process even among those states not subject to the Act. Since 2000, presidential elections, along with countless local and state elections remain subject to allegations of abuse, fraud and civil rights violations, not to mention blatant efforts by state legislatures in Pennsylvania, Florida and Ohio to rewrite existing election laws viewed by many Americans, especially African Americans, to suppress the vote in 2012.

Either you broaden the Act across the board or eliminate it as unconstitutional in discriminating against a handful of States. The lines have been redrawn through redistricting over so many governors of both parties in virtually all of the US States that at best, you'll show a maneuver to increase the votes of your preferred party and the disenfranchisement of the black vote as a byproduct of that maneuver, not the key purpose. If you have data showing a black turn-out that is stronger than white turn-out, how do we know we're not abusing this in other manners to disenfranchise white rural voters? We don't. Any measure in this age aimed at or for one race can and will disenfranchise another.

At some point we have to want a post-racial society. I maintain it's not possible specifically because race-o-saurs want to relive the 60's at every opportunity. Times have changed and if people can't see that, it's because they simply don't want to. Are black people still getting stopped for DWB? Yes. Just as long hairs, white punks with their hats on sideways, those with Slayer bumper stickers, latinos, etc... Are blacks still being suppressed in the work place? Yes, same as people with zits, fat people, short people, people who can't afford the latest fashions, etc... Why? Because there is no nerf world. If Justice to you is a Nerf world for this skin color, it will be at the cost of those with that skin color. That's simply where we are today.
ebuddy
     
Games Meister
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Jul 25, 2013, 01:26 PM
 
I never got to reply to this when it happened, but the Supreme Court's decision essentially nullifies the VRA. Given the current state of Congress, nothing will get passed, doubly so given the current climate where there is a concerted red states to curtail voting. So the next presidential election should be interesting.

I'm also curious how Scalia went from his dissent on DOMA where he railed against overturning passed legislation to doing just that on an act that was passed overwhelmingly (98-0 in the Senate and 390-33 in the House) just recently.

I think Ginsburg had a good point:
"Demand for a record of violations equivalent to the one earlier made would expose Congress to a catch-22. If the statute was working, there would be less evidence of discrimination, so opponents might argue that Congress should not be allowed to renew the statute. In contrast, if the statute was not working, there would be plenty of evidence of discrimination, but scant reason to renew a failed regulatory regime."
Was there a legal reason they couldn't just make it apply to all states equally rather neutering it?
     
   
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