As home plate umpire last week, Roberts enlarged the strike zone for Republicans. Now GOP governors, secretaries of state and legislatures are free to further discriminate against anyone unlikely to vote their way.
Like the devastating Citizens United ruling that permits anonymous right wing billionaires to flood election campaigns with unlimited cash, the Voting Rights Act decision further rigs balloting in favor of Republicans.
Section Four of the VRA, which protected voters in jurisdictions like Georgia with long histories of discriminatory practices, was ruled unconstitutional even though it was the law of the land and reauthorized in 2006 by Republicans and Democrats.
“Our country has changed,” wrote Roberts for the majority, “and while any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks to current conditions.”
The current conditions are as abysmal as those in 1965, when the VRA was enacted. In many states where the Republicans enjoy a majority, including most of those regulated by Section Four, GOP lawmakers and officials went out of their way to make voting difficult if not impossible for Democrats and most especially minorities.
“Voter ID, which is going to allow Governor Romney to win Pennsylvania, done,” crowed Republican Pennsylvania Secretary of State Mike Turzai last year in a rare display of conservative truth-telling.
Now, thanks to the Section Four decision, Republicans have free rein to double and triple their efforts by imposing all manner of obstacles with no federal protections and no recourse.
Rep. John Lewis, who had his skull fractured by white Alabama police officers in 1965 while peacefully marching for voting rights, said the Supreme Court had “put a dagger in the heart of the Voting Rights Act.”
“These men that voted to strip the Voting Rights Act of its power, they never stood in unmovable lines, they never had to pass a so-called literacy test,” Lewis said in an interview. “It took us almost 100 years to get where we are today. So will it take another 100 years to fix it, to change it?”
Naturally, the state’s rights crowd is applauding the decision, pretending that just 50 years ago African-Americans weren’t threatened with violence on Election Day; that Jim Crow never happened; that three young men registering black voters weren’t murdered in Mississippi.
In 2012, voter suppression was less sinister, less lethal, but no less toxic. It took me five minutes to vote in conservative, mostly white Cobb County. Voters in minority districts waited for hours to vote in places like Florida, where Republican officials did their best to suppress voting.
The blinding flash of the obvious might have been lost on Roberts, but not Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, who noted in her dissenting opinion, “The court errs egregiously by overriding Congress’s decision.”
Ginsberg understands Republicans have resorted to manipulating the vote knowing they can’t win national elections otherwise.
So we can expect more cynical “proof of citizenship” requirements, more bogus photo ID hurdles, fewer voting machines in districts likely to vote Democratic, and whatever else Republicans can dream up.
With the fix in, the only recourse now for Democrats is to mobilize and turn out in force for the 2014 midterms to oust Republicans wherever they’ve overplayed their hand; Ohio, Florida, Michigan, Wisconsin and even Texas could see big Democratic gains.
With enough Democrats in the office, the next task will be to update the VRA to make sure it can’t be tampered with in the future, by Republicans or their conservative umpires on the bench.
Kevin Foley is a public relations executive, author and writer who lives in Kennesaw.