With four major voting rights cases currently before the courts, access to the ballot for the upcoming midterms hangs in the balance. But the stakes could be much higher still. If one of the cases winds up before the Supreme Court, as looks likely, it could give Chief Justice John Roberts and his conservative colleagues a chance to decisively weaken safeguards against race bias in voting. And with the Republican-controlled Congress unlikely to pass new voting protections, that could usher in a bleak new era for voting in America — half a century after the issue looked to have been put to rest. “I’m very worried that the Supreme Court will take a case on the merits, and write an opinion that drastically constricts the right to vote,” said Daniel Tokaji, an election law scholar at Ohio State University. “I think that is a very real danger, given the conservative composition of this court, which has shown itself to be no friend to voting rights.” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg this week named the Shelby County v. Holder ruling, which neutered the Voting Rights Act’s strongest provision, as one of the current court’s three worst. But Shelby left open a key question: What kinds of voting restrictions is the post- version of the VRA strong enough to stop? Any of the four pending cases could give the court a chance to provide an answer.
In a brief order issued Monday, the court’s five conservative justices said Ohio’s cuts to early voting and elimination of same-day registration can go into effect, after previously being blocked by a federal judge. But a full trial on the cuts won’t happen until next year. Meanwhile, Wisconsin’s voter ID law, struck down by a federal judge as racially discriminatory under the VRA, is now back on, thanks to an appeals court ruling. Parts of North Carolina’s restrictive voting law were blocked Wednesday by a federal appeals court, while others were allowed to go forward. And a district court ruling is expected soon on Texas’s strict ID law.
At issue in all four cases: How burdensome do voting restrictions have to be, and for how many voters, before they run afoul of the courts? An estimated 1.2 million Texans who are eligible to vote don’t have an ID, and some would have to travel more than 250 miles round-trip to get one. Some Wisconsin voters have already returned their absentee ballots, and would now have to return with an ID to make them count. If the justices uphold either law, it’ll send a message that those looking to make voting harder have little to fear from the courts.
Full Article: Supreme Court could weaken voting rights — again | MSNBC.