Sadly, not many of us were surprised by the exceedingly conservative high court’s decision to uphold voter suppression laws in Texas. The Roberts’ court continues to leave a legacy that works against civil rights, just in time to negatively impact the 2014 mid-term election. I would like to talk about how these voter ID laws negatively impact targeted/marginalized populations. Not that most of the high court is interested in how we continue to oppress targeted populations, but I hope we will at least start to have more conversations around what we all need to do to expand civil rights rather than curb them. Texas’ voter ID laws intentionally create barriers for the following communities to vote: people in poverty, people of color experiencing poverty, people with disabilities, senior citizens, transgender people, and all of the intersections of these populations. In addition to the horrible impact of this action, it flies in the face of judicial tradition. Typically, appeals courts — including the Supreme Court — act to do the least harm while the laws in question work their way through the system. Allowing the law to stand while it is under appeal aggressively disenfranchises Texas voters during the important November mid-terms. Even if the law is struck down in the long run, that damage will have been done, almost certainly to the benefit of Republican candidates. Suspending the suspect law until a final decision is made would be more typical, sensible, and just. Of course those words can rarely be applied to Scalia, Alito, Roberts, or Thomas. If only we could get more voices like Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s. Justice Ginsburg composed the dissent and eloquently highlighted the damage of this verdict:
…may prevent more than 600,000 registered Texas voters (about 4.5 percent of all registered voters) from voting in person for lack of compliant identification…A sharply disproportionate percentage of those voters are African-American or Hispanic. Racial discrimination in elections in Texas is no mere historical artifact.
Both Justice Kagan and Justice Sotomayor joined Justice Ginsburg’s dissent. I want to believe there is hope that this court’s majority will soon gain a better understanding of their jobs and of civil rights.