One voter ID law denounced as a “poll tax” looks to be back in force. And several others are gathering steam.
Those are the early consequences of Tuesday’s Supreme Court decision eviscerating the Voting Rights Act. In the 48 hours since the ruling was announced, Republicans in several states have said they’ll move ahead with voter ID laws that disproportionately affect blacks and Hispanics. And other states look poised to join them.
In another sign of the ruling’s impact, President Obama suggested the landmark civil rights law might have played a role in his own historic election. “I might not be here as president had it not been for those who courageously helped to pass the Voting Rights Act,” President Obama said at a news conference in Senegal, where he’s on a state visit, adding that he believes the court “made a mistake” in weakening the law.
The court struck down as unconstitutional the formula by which Congress decided which areas of the country are covered under Section 5, which subjects to federal scrutiny any election changes made by certain jurisdictions with a history of race bias in elections. That means those areas—which contain a total of roughly 80 million people—are now free to change their election rules without federal oversight, unless Congress acts to fix the formula.
Texas is ground zero for measuring the impact. Just hours after the ruling was announced, Attorney General Greg Abbott said the state’s voter ID law “will go into immediate effect.” The law—the strictest in the country, and described by Attorney General Eric Holder as a “poll tax”—had been blocked last year under Section 5, after a federal court found it discriminated against blacks and Latinos, who, numerous studies show, are more likely than whites to lack ID. On Thursday, the Supreme Court officially threw out that ruling.
Voting rights advocates haven’t given up on blocking the law. On Wednesday, they charged in a new lawsuit that it violates a Voting Rights Act provision that the Supreme Court left intact, which bars deliberate racial discrimination in voting.