At the beginning of the month, the 6-3 conservative-majority US Supreme Court essentially gave Republicans carte blanche to racially discriminate against voters.
The case was a sobering reminder that, while some Democrats like to respond to Republicans’ maneuvering to block access to the polls by saying that voters just need to, well, vote, the problem isn’t that constituents aren’t turning out.
Here are a few major voting rights stories that underscore the stakes of this history-making political moment:
Texas Democrats’ drastic move
What’s happening: Earlier this month, Texas Democrats suddenly left the Lone Star State for Washington, in an extraordinary attempt to deny their Republican counterparts the quorum necessary to pass anti-voting rights legislation.
It can be easy, in some ways, to view the Texas state lawmakers’ move purely as political performance: Democrats, too, like to disturb the normal order of things.
Native Americans’ fight for political representation
What’s happening: Meanwhile, in South Dakota, Native Americans are suing the state.
The reason is that the state, they say, has repeatedly violated the National Voter Registration Act, aka the Motor Voter Act, a federal law that requires state governments to help people register to vote when they’re seeking services through the Department of Motor Vehicles or other offices that provide public assistance.
Why you should care: In violating the act, South Dakota has made it disproportionately harder for Native Americans to cast their ballots.
Earlier this month, the Lakota People’s Law Project, Kimberly Dillon of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe and Hoksila White Mountain of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe joined the Oglala Sioux and Rosebud Sioux tribes in a lawsuit that began last September.
“In 2018 and 2020, we worked hard with tribal governments and members to ensure that the voices of Native people were heard at the ballot box. Unfortunately, in many cases, systemic discrimination prevented that. That’s why we’re joining this suit. We’re battling a long history of racism and current nationwide efforts to install new Jim Crow-style laws,” he added.
The unsettling foundation being set in Arizona
What’s happening: Republicans aren’t inflicting all this damage on voting rights on their own. The US Supreme Court’s conservatives are helping.
“The Court decides this Voting Rights Act case at a perilous moment for the nation’s commitment to equal citizenship,” Kagan wrote in a withering dissent. “It decides this case in an era of voting-rights retrenchment — when too many states and localities are restricting access to voting in ways that will predictably deprive members of minority groups of equal access to the ballot box.”
Native American activists have expressed this precise concern.
Why you should care: While at issue in Brnovich were two Republican-backed restrictive voting laws in Arizona — where the Navajo Nation played a crucial role in helping Biden put the reliably red state in the Democratic column for only the second time in 68 years — the Court’s decision will certainly embolden Republicans far and wide.
In addition, Brnovich confirmed that the Court’s conservative justices never cared about safeguarding voting rights for everyone.
Kagan’s conservative colleagues are playing the long game. And it ought to be obvious which constituents they’re setting up to be the biggest losers.