Voting Rights Under Attack

On Wednesday, the US Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of Shelby County v. Holder, which challenges the key enforcement provisions of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) of 1965.

Right-wing justices Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito and John Roberts made clear their opposition to the act. Justice Clarence Thomas, the fourth member of the far-right bloc on the court was, as usual, silent, and the “swing vote,” Justice Anthony Kennedy, acidly questioned the continued relevance of the landmark ruling.

The tenor of these reactionaries suggested the existence of a five-vote majority to either overturn or eviscerate the provisions of the law that require states of the former Jim Crow South and certain other jurisdictions to pre-clear changes in voting procedures with the federal government, so as to insure the right of blacks and other minorities to vote.

The very fact that the Supreme Court agreed to hear the challenge to the Voting Rights Act, which had been rejected by the federal trial court and the Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit, is indicative of the ferocity of the assault on democratic rights being waged by the ruling class. It reflects the aggressive posture of the court’s right-wing bloc, which may be poised to usurp the power of Congress, as stipulated in the 15th Amendment of the Constitution outlawing voting discrimination based on race, to pass legislation to enforce the Amendment’s provisions. Congress has repeatedly voted to extend the VRA, most recently in 2006, when both houses voted overwhelmingly to extend the act for another 25 years (98 to 0 in the Senate, 390 to 33 in the House)…

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