That wasn’t necessarily the intention – although The Curmudgeon (and others) might reasonably argue otherwise – but that was certainly the result when the Supreme Court in 2013 overturned a provision in the Voting Rights Act that required certain states with a history of infringing on the voting rights of minorities to run any proposed changes in their election laws by the U.S. Justice Department to ensure that those proposed changes weren’t discriminatory. The Justice Department had long had the authority to reject any such changes it felt were discriminatory and it exercised that authority more than 700 times just between 1982 and 2006.
The very (mostly) southern states that bristled under the Justice Department’s watchful eye for more than 40 years didn’t waste any time getting down to the business of making it harder for poor people, and people of color, to vote, as the November/December 2016 edition of the magazine Mother Jones explained.
After the 5-4 Shelby decision, states passed a torrent of new voting restrictions that overwhelmingly affected minorities. On the day the decision was handed down, Texas announced that the only two forms of state voter identification it would accept were a driver’s license or a gun license—a measure the DOJ had previously blocked. Georgia moved some municipal elections in predominantly minority areas from November to May, depressing turnout by nearly 20 percent in one instance. Alabama implemented a strict voter ID law—and then shut down driver’s license offices in every county where more than 75 percent of voters were African American. Perhaps the most blatant was North Carolina’s omnibus voting law. Passed shortly after the Shelby decision, the law imposed strict ID requirements, limited the registration window, and dramatically cut early voting during times traditionally used by African Americans.
The actions of some of these states have been so outrageous that lower courts have, in a few cases, ignored the Supreme Court’s decision and ruled some of the states’ new policies unconstitutional – even courts in states like North Carolina and Texas.
Think about it: how bad does a law infringing on voting rights have to be for judges in North Carolina and Texas – Texas! – to throw them out?
Pretty damn bad, but then, that’s what happens when the Supreme Court, led by John Roberts, who has long had his sights set on overturning the protection poor and minority voters enjoyed in southern states – reaches the utterly ridiculous conclusion that racism is gone in the south and it’s time to free southern states to regulate their own elections without federal oversight.
And even with the resistance from a few brave southern courts, it’s probably going to get even worse now that the Justice Department is being led by a man whom Congress rejected for the federal bench 30 years ago because it decided he was too racist to be a judge.