Practical effects of Shelby County v. Holder?

Supporters of the Voting Rights act think that the recent Supreme Court decision on it “guts” it, and that the ruling “will usher in a new generation of grandfather clauses, poll taxes, literacy tests, etc.” (This is largely based on very recent incidents quoted in the dissent.) The majority, of course, disagrees.


It will go a long way to continuing 80%+ of African American voters vote Democratic, even without Obama on the ticket.

Hold on while I pull up a chair.



Do tell.

I think many localities will try to sneak in provisions to reduce minority voting. I think such efforts will be highly publicized by Democratic-leaning political groups, and may backfire to some degree (hopefully).

If the national Republican party (and national party figures and presidential hopefuls) don’t strongly repudiate any such efforts to reduce minority voting, then it will be a successful attack line for their Democratic opponents, and will further push minorities into the arms of the Democratic party.

That’s all political horserace stuff. As far as what I think of the decision, I agree with Justice Ginsberg (and disagree with the majority decision).

The decision only invalidates the preclearance provision, right? If that’s correct, then the substantive reach of the VRA has not been limited in any way. Everything previously illegal is still illegal. It just means that the federal government has to wait until after a change is implemented to file suit, rather than blocking it beforehand and having the locality file suit to overturn that decision.

Another thing to note about the Voting Rights Act- localities that were singled out for pre-clearance could actually get out of this requirement by, basically, demonstrating that they aren’t racist for ten years. Many New England counties that previously required pre-clearance based on historical discrimination were able to use this clause to get out of it.

Why couldn’t the rest of the Southern counties that required pre-clearance do the same (many southern counties actually did)?

Another thing: The Court did not rule that the entire concept of pre-clearance is unconstitutional, but rather that it was impermissible to continue to use the VRA’s original formula for determining what states and localities needed to be pre-cleared. The Court expressly said that Congress can now (if it chooses) enact a new formula to determine who needs pre-clearance, using updated criteria for identifying racial discrimination.

Agreed, but given the current political climate, this effectively renders pre-clearance moot (i.e. Congress will never agree on a formula).

We won’t really know the practical effects until November 2014. Too many imponderables – really, it all depends on what elections officials in affected states and counties are or are not going to do with this between now and then. I expect some will decide to do things which will later provoke lawsuits if not DOJ investigations, but that’s only a guess.

But it was a very good guess.

Right, which is the precise situation that was utterly failing to prevent these problems before the VRA. Preclearence was put into place because post hoc piecemeal litigation doesn’t work when you have 800 jurisdictions trying to rig elections. It is an empirical fact that they can churn out new laws (or the same old ones) faster than litigation can keep up.

The practical effect of this is that if you’re a minority in parts of the South, you’re likely to find it harder to cast a vote, and for it to be worth less when you do cast it. Most of the worse hijinx concern local elections, not federal ones. And, in any event, the worst offenders are all deeply red states anyway. So there will not be a huge national impact outside the affected areas.

According to SCOTUSblog:

In other words, stuff may stay illegal, but there’s currently no way to enforce that. And, in our Congress, it may stay that way.

Is there a special technical term for a law that exists in all its stern splendor but effectively cannot be enforced? Like the ghost of justice, maybe, or perhaps thats what they mean by the “spirit of the law”.

One thing that didn’t exist in 1965 was a robust civil rights bar. But the VRA does allow for fee-shifting to victorious challengers, so maybe things will turn out differently this time since there are thousands more lawyers looking to sue. I suppose it’s even possible that Alabama might find itself preferring preclearance as the cheaper alternative.

I’ve never heard an unenforceable law called anything but “unenforceable law”.

Stuff like this makes me think my mom, a Fox News junkie, is right. The country really is going to hell in a handbasket.

She’s only wrong about the color of the handbasket – it’s red, not blue.

You guys are ridiculous. For one, the fact that in some of these States are on their way to being minority-majority, have tons of black elected officials and etc seems to be totally escaping your attention. I guess all the black voters in places like Mississippi and Georgia are so week and infantile they’ll never be able to do anything about the invincible white Gods of the South without the Federal government protecting them?

Please, you guys know a lot of these localities have black mayors now? Black aldermen/city council members etc.

I’m not saying there won’t be shenanigans–but there are shenanigans all throughout the north, in Ohio, Pennsylvania etc. The country really is very different than it was in the 60s. In the 60s almost no black person in the South had ever cast a vote in an election and almost none of them were registered. Now, they have higher participation in politics than whites in the South.

In States like Texas, Tejanos are on their way to being the largest ethnic group and I guess they’ll just be cool with being disenfranchised. It’s not like they have any political clout in Texas or anything. (And the nefarious, law in Texas that sends SDMB posters screeching like children into the night? Basically the same deal Ohio had, which obviously whatever its intent didn’t do jack or shit to hurt minority turnout in Ohio in 2012.)

When you have no black voters, “legal whack a mole” to keep promulgating new regulations is a good way to keep your district from ever having black voters. When you have nearly 80% registered and participating in politics all that whack a mole actually gets attention and leads to elected officials losing elections. Not to mention, and I know that on the SDMB this is an impossible to believe concept, whites in the South are not nearly as racist as they were in the 1960s either.

Even in places like Arizona or Texas or Ohio the various voter law stuff is only palatable because 1) it’s an easy that people easily can be confused on ("Why shouldn’t someone have to produce ID to vote? How can we prevent voter fraud??–the average voter has no idea voter fraud is rare percentage wise), 2) and it’s easy to sell it (“stop those illegals from voting!” Whatever negative thoughts you have about Texans or Arizonans, I promise even in the South and Southwest if a politician was trying to pass voting laws and said, “It’s because I don’t want blacks or Hispanics voting” they would fare very poorly in the court of public opinion. You guys act like this new assault on voting rights would happen in secret, it wouldn’t.

Also, the next time someone wants to talk poll taxes or literacy tests please shut up. Acting like this ruling in any way allows them means you don’t know anything about how the ruling and what it strikes down or what actually prohibits poll taxes and literacy tests in the first place. (Hint: not the VRA.)

Only one part of the VRA was struck down and no, for people that don’t know anything about the VRA it wasn’t “the ability to enforce it” but thanks for playing.

This is another in a long line of recent threads that’s leading me to think the posters on this forum are about as informed on the issues as the group that runs Conservapedia or the High Road Gun Forum or something like that. Nothing but hyperbole and half-facts here.

The substantive provisions of the VRA remain fully in effect. Everything illegal yesterday is still illegal today, and those prohibitions remain fully enforceable. Remember that the pre-clearance provision struck down today never applied at all to 35 states, and no one has ever suggested that that rendered the VRA unenforceable in those states.

DOJ says that it typically got about 15-20,000 preclearance submissions each year and objected to about 1% of them. The number of objectionable changes may now go up, of course, but it general these numbers suggest a few hundred cases per year would now need to be pursued via litigation rather than by preclearance objection, and of course all the people who have been handling pre-clearance requests at DOJ will be re-purposed toward that end. Moreover, it’s also likely that many of these objectionable changes would still be deterred simply by DOJ threatening to litigate; if under previous law, a locality did not opt to sue to overturn a pre-clearance objection, it may not be any more inclined to want to fight in court under the law as it now stands.

I don’t have the energy. But your post makes it clear that you’re not especially well-informed on this issue yourself. A good place to start is the amicus briefs in Shelby.

In particular, you seem to be entirely ignorant of the so-called “second generation” tactics that Ginsburg refers to in her dissent, and also of the history of Section 4.