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Supreme Court Guts Voting Rights Act

by Stephen Lendman Thursday, Jun. 27, 2013 at 8:39 PM

police state

Supreme Court Guts Voting Rights Act

by Stephen Lendman

America's High Court lacks legitimacy. It's supremely pro-business, anti-populist, anti-labor, and anti-rule of law fairness. It mocks democratic principles. It does so shamelessly.

On June 25, it eviscerated Voting Rights Act enforcement. It usurped congressional authority. It did so unconscionably. In Shelby County v. Holder, it ruled 5 - 4. More on this below.

A previous article said America's Supremes are notoriously hard right. Equal justice under law is more illusion than reality. Rule of law principles and egalitarian fairness don't matter. Power politics corrupts the High Court. It lacks legitimacy.

Five justices are Federalist Society (FS) members. They include Chief Justice John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy, and Clarence Thomas. They're ideological extremists.

FS began 30 years ago at Harvard, Yale and University of Chicago law schools. They're neocon bastions. Initially it was a student organization. It challenges orthodox liberalism. It corrupts itself in the process.

It menaces freedom. It advocates rolling back civil liberties. It wants New Deal social policies ended. It supports imperial wars, corporatism, and police state harshness.

It wants reproductive choice, government regulations, labor rights, and environmental protections ended. It spurns justice in defense of privilege. It defiles constitutional protections doing so.

US voting rights were constitutionally flawed by design. America's founders enfranchised adult white male property owners only.

Laborers were excluded. So were women. Slaves were considered property, not people. Native Americans, some free Black men, apprentices, felons, and persons considered incompetent were denied.

In 1810, the last religious prerequisite was eliminated. In 1850, property ownership and tax requirements no longer applied.

In 1855, Connecticut adopted the first qualifying voting literacy test. Other states followed.

In 1870, the 15th Amendment enfranchised freed slaves and adult males of all races. In 1889, Florida adopted a poll tax. Ten other southern states followed.

In 1913, the 17th Amendment allowed voters to elect senators for the first time. State legislatures did earlier.

In Guinn v. United (1915), the Supreme Court ruled grandfather clause exemptions to literacy tests unconstitutional. They violate 15th Amendment rights.

In 1920, the 19th Amendment enfranchised women for the first time. America's founders denied them.

They considered them homemakers and child-bearers alone. They denied them fundamental rights in the process.

In 1924, Native Americans were enfranchised for the first time. The Indian Citizenship Act made them citizens. Doing so included federal election voting rights.

In Smith v. Allwright (1944), the Supreme Court ruled all white primaries unconstitutional.

The 1957 Civil Rights Act was the first voting rights bill since Reconstruction. Southern opposition made it largely ineffective.

In Gormillion v. Lightfoot (1960), the Supreme Court ruled a gerrymandered Alabama district unconstitutional. It disenfranchised Blacks.

In 1961, the 23rd Amendment let District of Columbia voters participate in presidential elections. It stopped short of granting statehood and congressional representation.

In 1964, the 24th Amendment banned poll taxes in federal elections.

In 1965, the Voting Rights Act became law. It followed the 1964 Civil Rights Act. It prohibits racial, ethnic, religious and gender discrimination. It does so in schools, workplaces and other institutions. The Supreme Court ruled it constitutional.

On August 6, 1965, Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law. Section 5 requires states with prior discriminatory enfranchisement histories to obtain federal "pre-clearance" before enacting voting laws or regulations.

At issue is precluding discriminatory practices. Since 1982, pre-clearance provisions were invoked hundreds of times. In 2009, Chief Justice John Roberts lied.

"(T)hings have changed in the South," he claimed. Jim Crow's very much alive. It flourishes. It's true across America. It's reflected in how people of color are mistreated. It extends way beyond voting.

Shelby County, AL challenged the Voting Rights Act. It did so irresponsibly. It alleged the enacted 2006 Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks, and Coretta Scott King Voting Rights Act Reauthorization was unconstitutional.

Congress passed it overwhelmingly. Senators voted 92 - 0. House members concurred 390 - 33. So did George Bush. He signed it into law.

America's 15th Amendment demands it. It's the law of the land. Section 1 states:

"The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.

Section 2 states:

"The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation."

High Courts can't change it. Constitutional amendments alone permit it. Doing so requires two-thirds congressional approval. Two-thirds of the states may do it by constitutional convention.

In November 2012, Supreme Court justices accepted Shelby County's legal challenge. On February 27, 2013, they heard arguments. On June 25, they ruled. At issue is the constitutionality of Section 5 pre-clearance requirements.

Justices called Section 4(b) unconstitutional. It no longer may be used to enforce pre-clearances. Doing so guts fundamental voting rights. They're disturbingly weak already.

US elections are farcical. They lack legitimacy. Money power runs things. Duopoly power rules. Voters have no say. High Court justices further disenfranchised them.

Doing so reflects America's deplorable state. Jim Crow lives. The law of the land is lawlessness. It rages out-of-control. Constitutional rights don't matter. They lie in history's dustbin.

Rogues run America. Government of, by, and for them alone exists. No one else matters. Striking down Voting Rights Act enforcement is unconscionable. It reflects watershed anti-democratic harshness.

Without teeth, voting rights no longer matter. Pretense is gone. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg's no profile in courage. Her dissent concealed her support for privilege, saying:

Congress "with overwhelming support in both houses" agreed the pre-clearance should "continue in force unabated."

Retaining it "facilitate(s) completion of the impressive gains thus far made." Continuance guards "against backsliding." Congress alone should decide. It's "well within (its) province to (do so) and should elicit this court's unstinting approbation."

She addressed racially motivated voting barriers, adding:

"Early attempts to cope with this vile infection resembled battling the Hydra. Whenever one form of voting discrimination was identified and prohibited, others sprang up in its place."  

"When confronting the most constitutionally invidious form of discrimination, and the most fundamental right in our democratic system, Congress’s power to act is at its height."

America's duopoly and judicial rulings mock legitimate governance. High-minded rhetoric is duplicitous. It belies supporting wealth, power and privilege.

Democracy in America is pure fantasy. Farcical elections reflect it. Big money controls them. Winner-take-all subverts proportional representation.

So do deplorable voting rights. States largely go their own way. Automatically enfranchising all citizens at birth is verboten.

Uniform national election law doesn't exist. Local prohibitions are discriminatory. Ex-felons, current inmates, wrongfully imprisoned ones, others guilty of minor transgressions are denied.

Many citizens are intimidated not to vote. Other voters are lawlessly stricken from rolls. It's done with technological ease. Voting is made hard, not easy.

America's process is deeply flawed. It's too broken to fix. It has no legitimacy whatever. Things are bad enough already. High Court justices made it worse.

Doing so reflects political Washington consensus. It bears repeating. Wealth, power and privilege alone matter. It's the American way.

A Final Comment

An unprincipled Wall Street Journal editorial headlined "Voting Rights Progress," saying:

"(O)n Tuesday, the Supreme Court marked a milestone worth celebrating when it ruled that a section of the 1965 Voting Rights Act has outlived its usefulness."

Civil rights advocates know otherwise. Hard won earlier gains were lost. Right-wing politics triumphed. Bipartisan ruthlessness assured it. Profiles in courage don't exist. Rogue state governance is policy.

Not according to Journal editors. They claim racial fairness when none exists. "Far from a civil rights defeat," they said, "Tuesday's ruling is a triumph of racial progress and corrective politics."

What else would Murdoch editors say.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at

His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."

Visit his blog site at

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs Fridays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

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