Friday, July 02, 2021

Two Great Ideals

If a single statute represents the best of America, it is the Voting Rights Act.  It marries two great ideals: democracy and racial equality.  And it dedicates our country to carrying them out. 

If a single statute reminds us of the worst of America, it is the Voting Rights Act.  Because it was -- and remains -- so necessary.  Because States and localities continually contriv[ed] new rules," mostly neutral on their face but discriminatory in operation, to keep minority voters from the polls.  Because "Congress had reason to suppose" that States would "try similar maneuvers in the future" -- "pour[ing] old poison into new bottles" to suppress minority votes.  

Maybe some think that vote suppression is a relic of history -- and so the need for a potent Section 2 has come and gone.  But Congress gets to make that call.  Because it has not done so, this Court's duty is to apply the law as it is written.  The law that confronted one of this country's most enduring wrongs; pledged to give every American, of every race, an equal chance to participate in our democracy; and now stands as the crucial tool to achieve that goal.  That law, of all laws, deserves the sweep and power Congress gave it.  That law, of all laws, should not be diminished by this Court.

-- Justice Kagan, with whom Justice Breyer and Justice Sotomayor join, dissenting, in Arizona Republican Party v Democratic National Committee, 1 July 2021

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