Under Section 5 of the law, nine states, mostly in the South, but also including Alaska and Arizona, as well as dozens of counties, townships, cities, and elected boards in other states, must get permission, or “preclearance,” from the Justice Department or a federal court in Washington for any change in voting procedures, no matter how small, that they seek to make. [NBC News]
THERE WERE reportedly “gasps” during the oral arguments, when Justice Scalia said the indefensible. The oral arguments today in the Supreme Court means that Section 5 under the Voting Rights Act is in real jeopardy, as are others.
…And this last enactment, not a single vote in the Senate against it. And the House is pretty much the same. Now, I don’t think that’s attributable to the fact that it is so much clearer now that we need this. I think it is attributable, very likely attributable, to a phenomenon that is called perpetuation of racial entitlement. It’s been written about. Whenever a society adopts racial entitlements, it is very difficult to get out of them through the normal political processes. – Justice Antonin Scalia
This leaves me rather… well, speechless.
How Justice Scalia can deduce that a landmark law preventing discrimination is suspicious, Think Progress’s Nicole Flatow’s assessment, with which I agree, because people are afraid of being labeled racist, given the history of the 1960s, not to mention two centuries of American prejudice, is altogether stunning.
That conservative justices may win over the minority four was evident today, which would mean that key provisions in the Voting Rights Act would be struck, leaving vulnerable citizens across this country at the whims of election officials.
That sound you hear is conservatives chomping at the bit.
Sometimes, in a Supreme Court argument, a single phrase can speak volumes. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, the one member of the Court who bore the most watching because the other eight seemed clearly to divide evenly, used the phrase “trusteeship of the United States government” as a shorthand way to describe how he views the regime set up by the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Of course, he meant it as a denunciation.
If Kennedy believes that there is no way to justify any longer that kind of oversight of nine states that have to do the most to obey the 1965 law, that law may well be doomed. But it also was Kennedy who left the impression that he might be willing to go along with a potential way to short-circuit the case of Shelby County v. Holder, and allow the law to survive for some time more.
Now we wait and once again watch to see what Justice Kennedy does. Because it couldn’t be clearer that Justice Scalia believes key provisions of the Voting Rights Act, once required, are now no longer necessary.