In the coming weeks, high federal courts will hear important cases challenging two ways Republicans have sought since Barack Obama’s election as president to restrict voting of Democratic-leaning groups. They come at a time when efforts initially focused on restrictive voter-identification laws in Texas and other GOP-controlled states have broadened to include purging voter rolls of people who hadn’t lately voted and limiting early voting in areas with large minority populations. In early December, a federal appeals court will hear the latest version of the long-pending Texas voter ID law. In January, the Supreme Court, which is already considering a Wisconsin case challenging political redistricting, will hear an Ohio case that could produce a crucial legal judgment on the ability of state officials to purge voter rolls.
The two cases exemplify how — a half century after the Voting Rights Act democratized elections — voting-rights advocates are on the defensive, fighting moves that would make voting harder, especially for those more likely to vote Democratic. After this month’s resurgent Democratic performance in Virginia and other states, such efforts may well intensify.
The most potentially serious long-term threat to voting rights may stem from the commission appointed by President Donald Trump. Its domination by longtime voter fraud alarmists and its secretive procedures recently prompted a lawsuit against it from one of its own members, a Democrat who contends he has been cut out of its plans and information.