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How Democrats Can Save Voting Rights

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Today’s 6-3 Supreme Court decision is a turning point for American democracy.

Saul Loeb / AFP / Getty

From today Supreme Court decision that further weakens the Voting Rights Law He asserted that the only way Democrats can reverse the wave of restrictive voting laws in GOP-controlled states is to pass new federal voting rights by reducing Senate obstructionism.

Congressional action has long seemed the only realistic lever for Democrats to resist the wave of red state voter suppression laws, which are being passed, as I have written, almost entirely on the basis of the partisan line. In state legislatures, Democrats lack the votes to stop these laws. And while the Supreme Court led by John Roberts, which opened the door to these restrictions by gutting another section of the Voting Rights Act in its 2013 Shelby County Decision – Always seemed unlikely to restrict Republican-controlled states, today’s decision by the six GOP-appointed judges removed any doubt.

Republicans will understandably view the majority opinion of Judge Samuel Alito defending two disputed Arizona statutes as a green light to pass voting restrictions that could disproportionately limit the ability of minority groups to vote: “Even if the plaintiffs could demonstrate a [racial] load caused by [the Arizona laws], the ‘overriding interest of the State in preserving the integrity of its electoral procedures’ would be sufficient to avoid [VRA] responsibility, ”Alito wrote. Republican lawmakers will likely interpret Alito’s repeated emphasis on his decision on the importance of stopping “fraud” and his somewhat gratuitous attempts to vote by mail, which echo the themes of former President Donald Trump, as much more than a wink and a nod. approval of the laws that proliferate in the red states. (“Fraud is a real risk that comes with voting by mail even if Arizona was lucky enough to avoid it,” Alito insisted at one point). In any case, Alito’s decision, which was joined by all the other judges appointed by the Republican Party, underlines how thoroughly, the determination to restrict access to the vote in the name of the fight against illusory “fraud” has permeated every corner of the Republican Party. (Even rare Republican critics of Trump’s discredited claims of fraud, such as Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, have also defended the restrictive new state laws.)

While the ruling shows a strong likelihood that the Justice Department will strive to challenge those laws (starting with Georgia’s) in court, voting and civil rights advocates might appreciate the clarity the decision provides. It makes clear that if Congress does not set new federal standards, the nation is moving toward a two-tier voting system, with the red states imposing increasingly stringent restrictions that especially affect Democratic-leaning constituencies: youth, minorities. and low income. voters.

It’s no coincidence that the red states are imposing these restrictions precisely when Millennials and Gen Zers, who represent the most racially diverse generations in American history, are rapidly increasing their share of the total vote, as I wrote today. The rise of those younger generations especially threatens Republican control in Sun Belt states like Georgia, Texas, and Arizona, which Republicans now control through their dominance of older, non-urban white voters; In that way, the voting restrictions Republicans are enacting amount to stacking sandbags against a rising tide of demographic change.

After a Republican filibuster blocked their broad voting rights bill, Senate Democrats are working to unify behind a more limited plan and to persuade Democratic Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema (and perhaps others) that they change the rules of obstructionism to approve it. Following today’s decision, demands from civil rights groups to Senate Democrats and Biden to change the rules will become even more intense.

“Our elected leaders must wake up and start acting like the house is on fire, because it is, and this ruling puts more gasoline on the flames,” said Nsé Ufot, executive director of the New Georgia Project, in a statement today. groups echoed widely. “Black and brown communities gave Democrats federal power to protect the vote and pass bills like the For the People Act is what we both hope and deserve.”

In more measured (though no less passionate) language, the fierce dissent of Judge Elena Kagan and the other Democrat-appointed justices seemed to be sending the same message. Obviously, they never passed any legislation, but their tone reminded me of the pleas to the Senate majority (particularly Manchin and Sinema) from Democratic lawmakers in the states that passed these restrictive laws. We have done all that we can hereThe justices seemed to be saying: It is now up to Congress whether to protect democracy in what Kagan called “a dangerous moment for the nation’s commitment to equitable citizenship.”

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