By Arturo R. García
It took less than two hours for Texas lawmakers to prove the Supreme Court made a mistake on Tuesday.
It’s also important to emphasize that it was Texas lawmakers who pushed to become the first to enact a voter identification law after the high court struck down Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.
“There is no doubt that these improvements are in large part because of the Voting Rights Act. The Act has proved immensely successful at redressing racial discrimination and integrating the voting process,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the 5-4 majority decision, which broke down along party lines. So the majority’s argument was that the VRA worked too well to be allowed to continue, despite being renewed by an overwhelming margin just seven years ago, for a 25-year extension.
“Congress approached the 2006 reauthorization of the VRA with great care and seriousness. The same cannot be said of the Court’s opinion today,” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in the dissenting opinion. “The Court makes no genuine attempt to engage with the massive legislative record that Congress assembled. Instead, it relies on increases in voter registration and turnout as if that were the whole story.”
It didn’t stop with Texas, of course. And as voters in Ohio and Florida are probably aware, it will not stop with the states formerly covered by Section 5. When the likes of Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and Rush Limbaugh feel emboldened enough to declare that racial discrimination is “over,” or had been “dealt with,” that points to something uglier.
In another 5-4 decision, the court ruled to send the case of Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl back to lower courts to decide whether the girl, Veronica Maldonado, should stay with her non-Native adopted parents or her biological father, Neither Brown, a member of the Cherokee Nation.
The South Carolina Supreme Court ruled in July 2012 that the Indian Child Welfare Act entitled Brown’s right to custody. Though Veronica’s biological mother was found to have notified adoption officials that Brown was a member of the Nation while placing her up for adoption, she also misrepresented his name and birthday to the Cherokee Nation’s child welfare division. By the time Brown was aware of the child’s existence, she was already living with the adoptive family in South Carolina. Her adoptive mother, Melanie Capobianco, testified regarding Brown’s heritage that it was “probably … something I read and didn’t think twice about it.”
In closing, it’s best to listen to the words of Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), who can speak first-hand to the history Chief Justice Roberts apparently glossed over in Tuesday’s decision:
We may not have people being beaten today, maybe they’re not being denied the right to participate, to register to vote, they’re not being chased by police dogs or trampled by horses. But in the 11 states of the old Confederacy and even in some of the states outside of the South, there has been a systematic, deliberate attempt to take us back to another period.
And these men that voted to strip the Voting Rights Act of its power, they never stood in unmovable lines, they never had to pass a so-called literacy test. It took us almost a hundred years to get where we are today. So, will it take another hundred years to fix it, to change it?