Right-Wing Media Continue To Misleadingly Reassure On Voting Rights Decision

Blog ››› ››› SERGIO MUNOZ

Right-wing media are offering multiple false reassurances to those outraged at the Supreme Court's attack on voting rights in Shelby County v. Holder, while failing to report on the progress of one possible fix.

In the aftermath of Shelby County, which held that Congress' extensive 2006 findings of ongoing voter suppression did not justify the Voting Rights Act's formula for determining which jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination must "preclear" their election changes, right-wing media are incorrectly claiming that this decision will not have an adverse effect on voting rights.

Repeating the lie that the preclearance requirement in Section 5 of the VRA - gutted when the Supreme Court invalidated the formula within Section 4 that determines which jurisdictions are subject to it - was insignificant, right wing-media continue to argue that only a "small part" of this historic civil rights law was struck down.

Megyn KellyIn their day-after analysis of Shelby County, the editors of the National Review Online proclaimed the preclearance process to be "worthless," adding "[t]he decision brings an end to the automatic and perpetual punishment of states that are guilty of crimes in decades past. It does nothing else."

On the June 26 edition of America Live, Fox News host Megyn Kelly dismissed the idea that "racism was given the stamp of approval officially by the Supreme Court yesterday." Her guest, NRO contributing editor Andrew McCarthy, repeated the right-wing myth that voter suppression that engages in systematic racial discrimination "has long ago passed to the dustbin of history" and progressives who cannot recognize its demise are demagogues and "race hucksters." From America Live:

But this argument denying the "vital scaffolding" that is Sections 4 and 5 was debunked by the actions of states that immediately reanimated voter suppression measures, previously blocked or deterred as potentially racially discriminatory by preclearance, in the hours after Shelby County was decided.

Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, and North Carolina have announced they will proceed with voter ID and redistricting measures whose racial discrimination could have been scrutinized and stopped by the preclearance mechanism of the VRA. Indeed, Texas is going forward with both a voter ID law and redistricting plan that federal courts have already found to be forms of systematic racial discrimination. Alabama, and Shelby County in particular, may be an even clearer example of how Section 5 has repeatedly and recently deterred voter suppression on the basis of race. From The New Yorker:

Reading the opinion it's possible to forget that a grand total of three African-Americans senators and two governors have been elected in the past hundred and thirty-six years, only one of them in a Southern state. In arguing that the preclearance section of the V.R.A. was outmoded and based upon aged presumptions about Southern states, the court had to bypass not only history but contemporary reality. As Justice Sotomayor pointed out during oral arguments, Shelby County--the Alabama county that brought the challenge to the Court--had failed preclearance some two hundred and forty times. Given that Section 5 of the V.R.A. allows districts covered by its provisions to move out of coverage by consistently demonstrating that their laws have no discriminatory impact, this decision was something of an end run: places that have consistently failed the litmus tests of discrimination were, in a second, given the status of those where there's been legitimate progress.  

Self-admittedly scared of being called "racist" for their opposition to the preclearance mechanism, right-wing media are offering a litany of hollow reassurances for why Shelby County will not negatively affect voters of color. If right-wing media really want to listen to the concerns of voters of color - a growing demographic that Republicans are desperately seeking to attract - perhaps they should actually report on the one reassurance about the decision they have mentioned that is actually true: Congress can, once again, reauthorize Section 4. So far, right-wing media have been silent on the efforts that were immediately launched to do just that, both on the Democratic and Republican sides of the aisle.

This omission is peculiar.

Sections 4 and 5 were reauthorized in 2006 by bipartisan majorities of 98-0 in the Senate and 390-33 in the House of Representatives, then signed into law by former President George W. Bush. The fact that many of the same congresspersons are now mobilizing to revive this bipartisan effort and save the heart of the Voting Rights Act is surely news.

At the very least, it's a more important story than dredging up demonstrably false claims about preclearance and voter suppression.

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