Perhaps if it hadn’t been for the Bush v Gore Supreme Court case, we would give the Supremes the benefit of the doubt when it comes to rendering a case based on actual legal considerations, rather than political ones. Now, once again, they have presented us with a decision that, whether legally sound or not, just doesn’t pass the giggle test.
As the New York Times reported, “The Supreme Court on Tuesday (June 25, 2013) effectively struck down the heart of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by a 5-to-4 vote, freeing nine states, mostly in the South, to change their election laws without advance federal approval.
The Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965, exactly 100 years after the Fifteenth Amendment to the constitution made it unconstitutional to discriminate against African-Americans in exercising the right to vote. But the constitution is not self-enforcing; legislation has to be passed in order to carry out and enforce the mandates of the constitution. As part of the Civil Rights movement and the Great Society, Congress stepped up in 1965 and insisted that federal marshals ensure voting rights for African-Americans in those states that had historically discriminated against African-Americans.
Now the Supreme Court says that there is not sufficient current evidence that southern states would discriminate. Advocates of striking down the key provision of the voting rights act argued that the South has changed, and that such discrimination would not exist in sufficient numbers to make a difference.
But what does common sense say? It says that southern states are not ready to have full control over their elections. Consider that African-Americans make up 37.5% of the population of the state of Mississippi, more than in any other state. Yet in the 2012 presidential race, President Barack Obama received only 43.5% of the vote in Mississippi and he was soundly trounced by Mitt Romney who received 55.5%.
A cursory examination of these numbers shows that Obama received only 6% more votes than the total of African-American votes (Obama received over 95% of the African-American vote). The numbers play out that Obama received approximately 15% of the vote from Caucasian voters. There’s nothing subjective about this. Democrats in general have consistently lost southern states since 1968, the first presidential election year after the Voting Rights Act was passed.
The conservatives on the Supreme Court can argue all they want that the empirical evidence is on their side. But that’s simply not true. They are correct that there is a body of empirical evidence that helps substantiate their position, but this evidence is minimally relevant to the case. The irony of this decision is if the Supremes had sided with Al Gore in 2000, we would have a different make-up of the Court now and more just rulings. The shame continues.