The Voting Rights Act after Shelby County v Holder

Autor’s note: For some reason embedding videos did not work here, it’s really a shame but I don’t have time to figure out why. Sorry for the huge block of text

The Supremes have been active the last few days… although I’m not talking about the singing Supremes:

I’m talking about the Supreme Court of the United States. Today I will be talking about Shelby County v. Holder. For a more detailed version of this and all your Supreme needs visit

So You Think You Can Vote

The Supreme Court struck down (many news outlets insert “key” here but that is just trying to get people to pay attention or even “the key” [which is ridiculous]) a section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The VRA was a helper method to ensure the provisions of the 15th Amendment (the one that gave all people, regardless of race, the right to vote).

Certain states, alright fine — mostly (if not all of them were) southern states, tried to prohibit people to vote by a few measures:

• Grandfather clause

What does this mean: You can only vote if your grandfather voted

On a scale of 1-10 how bad is this? 10, seriously awful and completely circumventing the 15th

• Poll taxes

What does this mean: You had to pay money to vote

On a scale of 1-10 how bad is this? I will go 7, it didn’t directly violate the 15th amendment (our Constitution says nothing about discriminating against class), but it’s very scary and is an awful idea

• Voter intimidation

What does this mean: People threaten blacks who would come to the polls, KKK was very involved

On a scale of 1-10 how bad is this? When the KKK is involved you pretty much have to go 10 — and they were threatening people’s families and lives.

• Literacy tests

What does this mean: Voters would be given a test (sometimes a political quiz and sometimes harder or easier)

On a scale of 1-10 how bad is this? I’ll say 5. This wasn’t an awful idea (if you take out the racism, a standardized literacy or civics test wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world) but the way it was done was really bad.

Thanks for the history lesson, pally — but what about the Voting Rights Act?

Sorry, the VRA can be summarized in section 2: “No voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, or procedure shall be imposed or applied by any State or political subdivision to deny or abridge the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color.”

The law gave the Attorney General power to overrule states laws that were deemed against the 15th amendment.

A lot of people have said that SCOTUS made the whole VRA ineffective, but I think that’s a little premature. We don’t know how the law will be reinterpreted and if SCOTUS wanted to strike down the VRA it could have.

What did the Supremes actually do?

They struck down section 4 — I JUST SAID THAT! Are you even paying attention?

Yeah, idiot — WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?

Here is section four, interpreting what it could mean is very complex and I don’t have the expertise to parse it.

The vote was 5-4, John Roberts vote the majority decision and (as I understand it) he said that the federal government should have jurisdiction over all the states or none of the states. Roberts also thinks that things have changed with race…

I think the country has changed and almost everyone would agree that this law should eventually go away — it’s a question of time.

We don’t know what these southern states will do without the VRA, also the public and media will be focused on them and that, probably, will put more pressure on them than a Congressional Act.

As Stephen Colbert had pointed out many times the VRA was a long and hard fight that would be really difficult to replicate with the partisan Congress. But, I don’t think the south will descend into tyranny and reinstitute poll taxes and the like.

It would seem if Congress could get their shit together and say that ALL states’ voting laws could be overruled Roberts would have found it constitutional (note: personally, I think that would have been the best outcome but would have garnered great criticism for “legislating from the bench”).

What do you think? Will this Supreme Court case ruin America? How big a deal is it?


~ by realfactsandbeer on June 28, 2013.

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