Last Wednesday, the district court of the District of Columbia threw out a challenge to Section Five of the Voting Rights Act. The plaintiffs, a coalition of conservative legal groups from Shelby County, Alabama, argued that Section Five, which requires a number of southern states to pre-clear changes to their electoral procedures with the Department of Justice, was illegal because it seeks to correct a problem—the mass disenfranchisement of minorities—that is supposedly nowhere near as pervasive as it was back in the glory days of Jim Crow.
In its opinion, the court convincingly argued that Section Five provides a still-necessary bulwark against discrimination. But that hasn’t stopped the Project on Fair Representation—a Washington-based group that helped fund the Shelby County suit and similar efforts around the country—from pushing back.
In an interview with the Shelby County Reporter on Friday, Edward Blum, the group’s director, all but vowed that Shelby County will appeal the decision and take its case to the Supreme Court. Blum praised the plaintiffs’ states’-rights cajones, arguing that Shelby County has been forced to expend “significant taxpayer dollars, time and energy” to clear its election laws with the DOJ in accordance with Section Five.
… But here’s something that does deal in the here and now: The spate of voter ID laws, Shelby County-esque pre-clearance cases, and Section Five challenges cropping up around the country, implicitly geared towards depriving minorities of the right to vote. If Blum is going to defend the Deep South on the basis that things are getting better all the time, he also needs to account for the fact that these very real, very-in-the-moment instances of targeted voter suppression aggressively undermine his case that we don’t need laws like Section Five.
Unfortunately, the sins of the father endure. Luckily, we have laws to address that sort of thing.