Voting Laws

7:05pm June 28, 2013

Top 10 Lines from Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Red Hot Voting Rights Dissent

In what was more of an open letter in the outline of a middle finger to conservative members of the court, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote a hotly worded dissenting opinion against the conservative majority’s gutting of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. A day after Justice Samuel Alito rolled his eyes as Ginsburg read her lone dissent on the court’s 7-1 affirmative action ruling, the eighty year old Associate Justice didn’t lose a step in making that point during her 37 page dissent. You can read the entire dissent opinion here.
The top 10 lines from Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s hot Voting Rights Dissent:
1. “Throwing out preclearance when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.”
2. ”The sad irony of today’s decision lies in its utter failure to grasp why the Voting Rights Act has proven effective. The Court appears to believe that he Voting Rights Act’s success in eliminating the specific devices extant in 1965 means that pre clearance is no longer needed… with this belief and the argument derived from it, history repeats itself.”3. ”Just as buildings in California have a greater need to be earthquake­ proofed, places where there is greater racial polarization in voting have a greater need for prophylactic measures to prevent purposeful race discrimination.”3. ”Alabama’s sorry history of Section 2 violations alone provides sufficient justification for Congress’ determination in 2006 that the State should remain subject to Section 5′s preclearance requirement.”

4. “The Court’s opinion can hardly be described as an exemplar of restrained and moderate decision making. Quite the opposite. Hubris is a fit word for today’s demolition of the Voting Rights Act.”
5. ”Between 1982 and 2006, DOJ objections blocked over 700 voting changes based on a determination that the changes were discriminatory.”
6. ”The Court disregards what Congress set about to do in enacting the Voting Rights Act. That extraordinary legislation scarcely stopped at the particular tests and devices that happened to exist in 1965. The grand aim of the act is to secure to align our polity equal citizenship stature and a voice in our democracy undiluted by race.”7. ”True, conditions in the South have impressively improved since passage of the Voting Rights Act. Congress noted this improvement and found that the VRA was the driving force behind it. 2006 Reauthorization ?. But Congress also found that voting discrimination had evolved into subtler second-generation barriers, and that eliminating preclearance would risk loss of the gains that had been made.”
8. Contrary to the spin from some conservatives who are trying to protect Republicans at a time when the party is losing voters and making enemies of a growing Hispanic population, there are many recent examples of voter suppression and vote related race games. On pages 16 and 17 of her dissent, Ginsburg cited several examples. Here’s a winner: ”In 2001, the mayor and all-white five-member Board of Aldermen of Kilmichael, Mississippi, abruptly canceled the town’s election after ‘an unprecedented number’ of AfricanAmerican candidates announced they were running for office. DOJ required an election, and the town elected its first black mayor and three black aldermen.” (see pages 16 and 17 for more examples)
9. ”The Court’s opinion in this case contains not a word explaining why Congress lacks the power to subject to preclearance the particular plaintiff that initiated this lawsuit — Shelby County, Alabama. The reason for the Court’s silence is apparent, for as applied to Shelby County, the Voting Rights Act’s preclearance requirement is hardly contestable.Alabama is home to Selma, site of the “Bloody Sunday” beatings of civil-rights demonstrators that served as the catalyst for the VRA’s enactment. Following those events, Martin Luther King, Jr., led a march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama’s capital, where he called for passage of the Voting Rights Act. If the Act passed, he foresaw, progress could be made even in Alabama, but there had to be a steadfast national commitment to see the task through to completion. In King’s words, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice. History has proved King right.”

10. There is no question, moreover, that the covered jurisdictions have a unique history of problems with racial discrimination in voting. Ante, at 12-13. Consideration of this long history, still in living memory, was altogether appropriate. The Court criticizes Congress for failing to recognize that “history did not end in 1965. But the Court ignores that “what’s past is prologue.”

About the Author

Lauren Victoria Burke
Lauren Victoria Burke
Lauren Victoria Burke is an opinion journalist, comms expert and political analyst focused on justice reform policy. She created Crewof42.com, a blog that covers the work of Black members of Congress, in 2009. Ms. Burke was a staffer for the Senate Democratic Policy Committee and Director of Communications for Rep. Andre Carson (D-IN). She has had a very diverse career in politics and media and appears regularly on NewsOneNow with Roland Martin, Hardball and Up on MSNBC, WVON in Chicago, WURD in Philadelphia and WOL and WHUR in Washington, D.C. She is currently the Managing Editor of Politic365 and a contributing writer for TheRoot and NBC Black where she writes opinion and analysis. Additionally, Ms. Burke has been a contract photographer for Associated Press since 2004. She has authored three books of photography including two on President Obama's 2008 campaign for the presidency and one with Marvel Comics publisher Stan Lee. Ms. Burke was born in the Bronx, New York and grew up on Long Island. She holds a B.A. in History from The American University. Here e-mail is: LBurke007@gmail.com. Twitter: @LVBurke. Instagram: LVB325.



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