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Juan Williams: How the Supreme Court eroded voting rights

Voter exists polling place
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If a law is working, if it is preventing trouble, isn’t that a good reason to get rid of it?

In a word, that is stupid.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the late Supreme Court Justice, famously warned such stupidity amounts to “throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.”

{mosads}Ginsburg raised her warning flag in 2013 when the Supreme Court threw away the toughest provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

And now, here comes the rain.

In the last year, Georgia and Florida — states with GOP governors and state legislatures — have passed laws cracking down on easy access to voting.

In 14 states, Republicans have signed into law roadblocks to limit voter turnout, according to The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University. Some of the groups that tend to favor Democrats, such as Black people, Latinos and college-age voters, are likely to be adversely affected by many of those laws.

Last month, Senate Republicans unanimously opposed a bill to protect voting rights nationwide.

Last week, the 6-3 conservative majority on the current high court showed little concern for voting rights. The six Republicans on the court turned down a challenge to Arizona laws that were labeled by a lower court as unfairly limiting Black and Hispanic voters.

The Arizona Republican Party’s lawyer argued before the court that allowing for ballots mistakenly cast in the wrong precinct to be counted “puts us at a competitive disadvantage relative to Democrats.”

Michael Carvin, the GOP lawyer, added that “every extra vote they [Democrats] get” as a result of local election officials’ efforts to bring disenfranchised voters into the election process “hurts us.”

Across the country, Republicans are similarly open about their goal of allowing states to limit turnout among voters not likely to support Republicans.

In the years since Ginsburg’s prophetic dissent, Democrats in Congress have repeatedly tried to get Republicans to agree to repair voting rights protections.

This year, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) even offered to give Republicans their number one demand — mandating voter identification at the polls.

But Senate Republicans still refused to support a sweeping bill to protect voting rights.

And they refused even after a poll done earlier this year by Tulchin Research for the Southern Poverty Law Center found 67 percent of respondents approved of national standards for voter registration and conducting elections.

But strong public support and fair play have not dampened GOP efforts to limit voting by people who are not Republicans.

The original sin here was the Court’s 5-4 decision in 2013 to strike down the preclearance provisions of the Voting Rights Act that allowed the Department of Justice to block any state or local law that impinged on racial minorities’ right to vote in states with a history of racial discrimination.

When then-President Trump lost to President Biden, he pushed nonsensical conspiracy theories about widespread voter fraud costing him the election. The “Big Lie” provided GOP politicians with cover to ram through more voter disenfranchisement bills.

Last week, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced that his Department of Justice will be suing Georgia for passing new laws intended to stop Black people from voting.

Meanwhile, supporters of Trump’s losing 2020 campaign have continued to undermine the nation’s presidential election with calls for audits of election results, and threats to poll workers and election officials.

As a result, the Justice Department has created a task force to protect election workers.

There is “a dramatic increase in menacing and violent threats” to election officials, Garland explained.

Calling for help, the attorney general pressed Congress to pass new laws to give the Justice Department the authority “it needs to protect the voting rights of every American.”

And Garland took a shot at the Supreme Court with a history lesson.

{mossecondads}He noted that “over 175 proposed election laws across Georgia” were stopped by the federal government under the Voting Rights Act’s preclearance provision, the law dismantled by the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision.

Garland said if the old law were still in place, it’s likely Georgia’s most recent changes to voting laws would “never have taken effect.”

Now that safeguard is gone.

In 2013, conservatives on the court ruled that since any state can be sued if its election laws are suspected to be discriminatory, there is no need for the federal government to preview changes to voting laws — even in states with a history of white political power-players stopping Black people from voting.

That’s when Ginsburg got angry.

In dissent, she pointed to the full power of the Voting Rights Act as necessary protection — the umbrella — that was preventing discriminatory laws from raining on the nation.

Now Garland is wet and angry. The Justice Department’s suit against Georgia will likely end up in the Supreme Court.

But last week the conservatives on the court called for more rain.

Juan Williams is an author, and a political analyst for Fox News Channel.

Tags 2024 presidential election Donald Trump Joe Biden Joe Manchin Merrick Garland right to vote Ruth Bader Ginsburg Voter suppression voting laws voting restrictions voting rights

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