Once again the right-wing majority of the U.S. Supreme Court has made an outrageous attack on the hard-won democratic rights of Black and Latino/a people. On Oct. 18, they let stand the Texas voter ID law, the most draconian and restrictive voter ID law in the country.
Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan dissented. Ginsburg wrote a strongly worded seven-page document denouncing the decision:
“The greatest threat to public confidence in the elections in this case is the prospect of enforcing a purposely discriminatory law, one that likely imposes an unconstitutional poll tax and risks denying the right to vote to hundreds of thousands of eligible voters,” Ginsburg states. (houstonchronicle.com, Oct. 18)
This decision comes one week after a federal district court found the Texas law to be unconstitutional. Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos presided over a nine-day trial of the Texas law. In a detailed 143-page document, she found that the Texas law amounted to a poll tax and was therefore unconstitutional. She ruled that the Texas law could disenfranchise 600,000 voters, mostly Latino/a and Black.
In the past, Texas has had restrictive voter identification regulations. But those had been blocked under Section 5 of the 1965 federal Voting Rights Act, which required states with a history of discrimination to obtain federal permission before changing voting procedure.
But in 2013, the Supreme Court struck down Section 5, paving the way for the right-wing Legislature and governor to enforce this ID law.
Only seven forms of identification, including concealed handgun licenses, can be used to get a Texas voter ID. Other forms of identification, including college IDs, social security cards and those from federally recognized Native tribes are not allowed.
The Texas law requires a birth certificate to obtain a voter ID. The cost typically for this is $22, although if there are changes necessary because of name changes due to marriage or other reasons, the cost goes up. And many people would need a two- to three-hour round trip to a government office to obtain the voter ID. Although the state does offer a $2 or $3 birth certificate version for voters, it has done nothing to make that option known to the poor communities. That is why the federal district court ruled that this law amounted to a poll tax.
In response to this ruling, Natasha Korgaonkar of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, stated, “This battle isn’t over yet. We are committed to ensuring that the upcoming November 2014 elections be the last ones tainted by this discriminatory measure.” (houstonchronicle.com, Oct. 18)
Underneath reactionary vote
Why did the Supreme Court, always attuned to the wishes of Wall Street, uphold this racist Texas law? After all, the Civil Rights activists had fought for decades, enduring beatings, fire hose attacks, and even outright lynchings at the hands of cops and the Klan, to win the right to vote for oppressed people. Why must now that right be taken away?
The “public” explanation by the Supreme Court is that they did not wish to make a “last-minute” change to the Texas voting procedures. Of course, that is absurd. It is far more disruptive to the voting process to block people’s right to vote rather than allowing them to do so.
No, the real reason lies deep within the capitalist system itself, locked in the grip of an economic crisis that it cannot overcome.
Mired in a jobless recovery after the Great Recession, with no prospect of economic growth and expansion, the banks and corporations that rule over the political landscape are resorting to more and more austerity measures, cutbacks, the squeezing of surplus value from the labor of low-wage workers here and abroad, to maintain their parasitic sway.
Mindful that this creates fierce public resentment and growing resistance, they have chosen to erode every hard-won democratic right, especially those of the oppressed communities, in order to prevent any challenge to their dominion. Even the right of choosing between candidates who for the most part are thoroughly loyal to the capitalist system is now too much of a threat to them. It could be used as a tool by a defiant public to organize itself into a vital force for fundamental change. That is what the bankers, their politicians and their courts fear.
Along with police and vigilante murders, the imprisonment of millions of oppressed and poor youth, the deportation of millions of undocumented workers and their families, this voter ID threat must be met by the determined struggle of an united multinational working class.