The best analogy I can find to characterize the 5-4 decision of the Supreme Court to strike down part of the Voting Rights Act is to imagine a patient with high cholesterol, probably because of poor nutrition. The doctor gives the patient a cholesterol-lowering drug and the cholesterol goes down to a safer level. The doctor concludes that the patient is cured and makes the patient stop taking the pills. We all know what’s going to happen next.
“The patient is cured” states the essence of the argument of the five right-wing justices who decided that nine states no longer need to get approval from the federal government before making changes to voting procedures.
But don’t the many recent attempts to limit voters’ rights in these nine plus many other states prove that the disease has not been cured? These voting restrictions always seem to affect minorities, the poor and the young more than other groups. Keep in mind that many if not most of these new restrictions on voting were blocked by the feds, overturned by courts or repudiated by their sponsors after the election. The Latin phrase, res ipsa loquitur—a thing that proves itself—seems to apply to recent Republican attempts to prevent people from voting. We just know those good old boys are still eating bacon and fried foods slathered in gravy, yet the good doctors of law at the Supreme Court took them off their Lipitor.
But at the end of the day, this decision is going to mean little. Whatever the decision would have been, Republicans will keep introducing legislation to make it more difficult to register to vote and to vote. And when those laws pass the many Republican controlled state legislatures, civil rights groups, Democrats and organizations representing minorities will continue to take them to court. Most but not all of the laws restricting voting rights will be overturned. The controversy will continue to energize voters on both sides—but that will help the Democrats, since theirs are the voting groups targeted by Republican efforts.
Yes, registering to vote and voting will become harder in many locations. But voters will become hardier and more assertive as they react with anger to attempts to limit their rights. Groups will continue to do a better job of registering voters and escorting them to the polls on both sides, but there are more potential voters for the Democrats. The Republicans are playing a losing hand.