The Supreme Court is Poised to Gut What’s Left of Voting Rights
Republican state legislatures all over the country are aggressively trying to make voting harder.
Contrast this to last year’s 35.
Pennsylvania has the most voter restriction bills in the country — 14.
Seven bills in four states seek to limit same-day registration.
Republicans keep winning elections despite espousing policies that blatantly disregard these concerns.
And the 6–3 conservative majority on the United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS) might be about to help them do it in a big way this week.
On Tuesday, the nation’s highest court is set to hear two cases that threaten to eliminate what remains of racial discrimination at the polls, what Vox has reported as “the most aggressive attacks on the right to vote to reach the Supreme Court in the post-Jim Crow era.”
The first case, Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee, involves an attempt to require voting officials to discard entire ballots cast in incorrect precincts rather than just discounting votes for local candidates for whom voters should not have been able to vote, as has always been the practice.
The second case, Arizona Republican Party v. Democratic National Committee, seeks to put a stop to so-called “ballot collection” or “ballot harvesting,” wherein voters hand their sealed and signed absentee ballots to trusted individuals to deliver to counties’ boards of elections, a practice beneficial to those without transportation, without drivers’ licenses, the ill or disabled.
Not only are six SCOTUS justices conservatives; they also have a history of overt antipathy toward voting rights, specifically the 1965 Voting Rights Act (VRA), the watershed act President Lyndon Johnson signed after enormous grassroots pressure to ensure states did not enact racially discriminatory voter registration and balloting requirements.
However, as Vox reports:
“The most important question in these cases isn’t what happens to the Arizona laws. It’s whether the Supreme Court waters down what remains of the Voting Rights Act to such an extent that it becomes virtually worthless.”
What remains of the VRA is much less effective than at its passing half a century ago after the 2013 Supreme Court Shelby County vs. Holder decision that rolled back section five of VRA requiring states to receive Justice Department “pre-clearance” before initiating changes to voting laws that may impact minority voters.
This week’s ruling could nullify the ban on discrimination, allowing states to make token efforts to appear racially unbiased while instituting barriers that traditionally impact voters of color, the majority of whom vote for Democrats over Republicans.
Two years ago, Florida voters overwhelmingly supported “Amendment 4”, restoring voting rights to 1.5 million ex-felons, except those convicted of murder or a felony sexual offense, “after they complete all terms of their sentence including parole or probation.”
The Republican-controlled Florida state senate, however, did not find this outcome acceptable.
A federal judge later blocked the order.
The state Supreme Court ultimately overturned the federal court’s ruling, allowing Gov. Abbott’s decree to stand.
Pennsylvania Republicans and officials from the GOP-led legislature asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review a state supreme court ruling requiring election officials to accept ballots postmarked by election day if they arrive within three days.
Wisconsin was prohibited from extending its election day absentee ballot deadline.
On several fronts, March is shaping up to be a very interesting month.
If the SCOTUS conservative majority has its way, November elections, 2022 mid-term elections, the 2024 presidential election, and those thereafter for generations are going to less resemble a functional democratic republic that prides itself on “free and fair elections” we expect other countries to model than a series of superficial “civic expectations” painted with the patina of capital-D “Democracy”.
Just the way the Republican party has always wanted it.
What are Democrats to do?
- Include providing voters access to automatic and same-day registration
- Fully restore the VRA
- Allow a two-week early- voting window that includes evenings and weekends
- Create a small-donor matching system that provides qualified presidential and congressional candidates $6 in public funds for every $1 raised from small donors
- Close federal campaign disclosure rule loopholes
- Curtail foreign funds in U.S. elections
- Address issues at the Federal Election Commission (FEC)
- Guarantee states use independent redistricting commissions when drawing congressional districts whose members represent diverse communities
- Establish fair redistricting standards and mandate better transparency in the redistricting process
- Require states replace paperless voting machines
- Offer new grants to enhance election security
- Develop more effective systems for auditing disputed elections
- Implement new security requirements for election system vendors that includes a mandate to report cybersecurity breaches.
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