Voter Suppression Heads to the Supreme Court

The controversy over these new voter suppression tactics is nothing new.

The act of voting isn’t supposed to be a partisan issue.  Both parties should want more Americans to exercise their fundamental right to vote but this year it’s becoming much clearer that many Republicans are not in favor of everyone voting.

Last week, the Republican attorneys general in six states filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court.  According to Think Progress, the attorneys general of Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Texas argued that the Voting Rights Act, “impedes laws intended to make it more difficult for racial minorities to cast a ballot as a reason why Court should cast a skeptical gaze on the landmark voting rights law responsible for breaking the back of Jim Crow.”  An amicus brief is a request for the Supreme Court to take on a case.

South Carolina and Texas, both Covered Jurisdictions, have not yet been permitted to enforce their voter-identification requirements, despite the fact that these laws are similar to the Indiana law upheld in Crawford. The DOJ denied preclearance for South Carolina’s voter-identification law. South Carolina has filed a declaratory judgment action, seeking reconsideration of DOJ’s preclearance denial. Trial begins on August 27, 2012.

Texas, like South Carolina, requested DOJ’s preclearance. Despite Texas’s responses to DOJ’s repeated requests for more information, DOJ still had not provided a preclearance decision six months after the State’s initial submission. By then, DOJ had rejected South Carolina’s similar law and, facing a likely similar rejection, Texas opted to file a declaratory judgment seeking preclearance. The DOJ eventually rejected Texas’s request for administrative preclearance nearly seven months after the initial submission. Trial was held from July 10 through 13, 2012, and Texas is awaiting a preclearance decision from the district court – more than a year after its legislature enacted the voter identification law.”

Translation: the Supreme Court should take up the case and view the argument that the Voting Rights Act prohibits this type of voter suppression with skepticism.   The attorneys general are saying that voter ID laws, which disproportionately impact people of color, are being blocked from going into effect by the Voting Rights Act. In sum, these Republican governors are arguing in favor of a law that disenfranchises voters more likely to vote for Democrats and against the piece of legislation that changed American a generation ago.

The controversy over these new voter suppression tactics is nothing new.  The NAACP has spoken out against these laws and the Department of Justice has filed law suits trying to block them which are reference in the excerpt of the brief above.  The flurry of attacks on voting rights has been persistent, so much so, that voter registration is down in states like Florida where these new voting restrictions are in place.

The newly filed amicus brief is presenting the argument that up until now many Republicans have avoided saying out loud.  These new voter ID laws have the explicit purpose of suppressing the vote.  For states to argue that landmark legislation like the Voting Rights Act is in the way is pretty remarkable; unfortunately, this isn’t making it’s mark in the headlines as much as it should.