In June, the Supreme Court struck down a central piece of the Voting Rights Act, a move that Democrats warned would lead to a resurgence of restrictive, state-level voting laws. And indeed, since that ruling, a handful of Republican-led states have already renewed such efforts. As a quick refresher, the court nixed Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, which established a formula to determine which jurisdictions with a history of voting discrimination had to get “preclearance” from the Department of Justice before revising their voting laws. The DOJ still has that preclearance power, but without Section 4, that power is largely toothless. In response, Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) this week asked state officials to resume scrubbing “noncitizens” from the state’s voting rolls. Scott launched that effort before the 2012 election, but his plan was held up by legal challenges from critics who claimed it was a blatantly partisan attempt to purge poor and minority voters, who overwhelmingly vote Democratic. “Governor Scott seemingly is bent on suppressing the vote in Florida, with his latest move coming as an unfortunate result of the recent Supreme Court decision that gutted the Voting Rights Act,” Florida Sen. Bill Nelson (D) said.
Scott himself cited the court’s decision in ordering that the voting roll review continue, saying it “has allowed our secretary of state to start working with our supervisor of elections to make sure our sacred right to vote is not diluted.”
Florida is not alone.
In 2011, Texas approved one of the strictest voter ID laws in the nation, which forced residents to show official proof of U.S. and Texas residency to obtain a state-issued voter ID. Critics said that put an onerous burden on poor and minority voters who did not have and could not afford the prerequisite identification. The DOJ, using its preclearance power, blocked it from going into effect.
On the same day the Supreme Court handed down its ruling, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott declared, “The State’s voter ID law will take effect immediately.”