Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Is 'Shelby County' a Poisoned Chalice for the GOP?

Today, the Supreme Court of the United States in Shelby County v. Holder found Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 unconstitutional. Section 4 required certain states and counties with a history of discrimination to get per-clearance from the Justice Department before they could enact changes to voting laws. 

Joshua Green thinks this ruling will prove to be a "poisoned chalice" for the GOP, 
...since 2006 the U.S. Justice Department has blocked 31 attempts to change voting laws, most of them in the nine, mostly Southern states fully covered by the relevant section of the law...Most, if not all, of those proposed changes would have aided Republican electoral fortunes by making it harder for minorities to vote because most vote Democratic. But the Justice Department stepped in....These nine states,..will be able to pursue whatever changes they like, free of federal oversight....all nine states have Republican-controlled legislatures.  On its face, this looks like a big victory for Republicans. Is it really? I suspect it will turn out to be a poisoned chalice. Many of the GOP’s current problems stem from the fact that it is overly beholden to its white, Southern base at a time when the country is rapidly becoming more racially diverse. In order to expand its base of power beyond the House of Representatives, the GOP needs to expand its appeal to minority voters. As the ongoing battle over immigration reform demonstrates, that process is going poorly and looks like it will be very difficult.
Aside from Section 4, the Voting Rights Act remains in tact. The Department of Justice is free to sue to block any change in voting laws that it deems violates the VRA and can ask a Federal Judge to enjoin enforcement of the law.  However, before Justice can sue, the law has to be passed and take effect.   The SCOTUS has invited Congress to act to fix section 5, but the GOP controlled House has no interest in doing anything to encourage non-white voting.

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