The Federalist struggle continues, and this time - the battleground is the Supreme Court. The Court will soon consider Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District Number One v. Holder, a case challenging the necessity of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Southern Republicans are bringing the case before the Supreme Court, asking for an end to Justice Department oversight of election procedures. If successful – the result could have a chilling effect on the marrow of racial equity in the United States, as well as a negative impact on the future of U.S. federal oversight.
Last week's Supreme Court decision in Brunner v. Ohio Republican Party is a disastrous ruling masquerading as a populist victory. Sure, the Court stopped the Ohio Republican Party from booting almost 200,000 eligible voters off the voting rolls, but in reaching their decision, the Court pointed to two decisions that echo a single theme: Americans are not welcome in court.
The Supreme Court has endorsed an Indiana law described by one appellate judge as a "not-too-thinly-veiled attempt to discourage-day turnout." The Court's surprise 6-3 ruling in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board upheld the nation's strictest voter identification law, complete with onerous requirements that exceed the cost of the once-banished poll tax.
Through his typo-ridden decision that declared illegal the presentation of voter information in any language other than English, Iowan Polk County District Judge Douglas Staskal joined the Civil Rights Rollback Hall of Shame.
At the height of the civil rights movement of the sixties, thousands of people risked their lives to change a system of widespread, blatant racism that kept millions of people from participating in the most basic civic engagement--the right to vote. Since the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed to ensure that people of color had equal access to the polls it has been renewed and extended four times, most recently in August 2007. Originally focused on preventing racial discrimination, this important law has evolved in the past four decades to protect more communities who sometimes face difficulty in voting: people of color, people with disabilities, people with limited English proficiency, and others.
After a unanimous vote by the Senate, the Voting Rights Act was extended for 25 more years, yet despite the protections this law promises many states continue to impose restrictions on voting rights that limit people's ability to vote. We rely on the courts to defend and protect the right for everyone to vote. Discussed here are a few recent cases that illustrate the important role the courts play in helping enforce access to the polls and the ability to vote.