As expected, the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to render Section 4[foot]This section determines the states that must preclear any attempt to change voting laws with the federal government.[/foot] of the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional. Although it kept the preclearance section (Section 5) itself, this section is pretty much useless without the presence of Section 4.
Critics of the Voting Rights Act will likely consider this a tremendous victory for federalism, given the undue burden they believe the Voting Rights Act placed on states. And they are undoubtedly right. Federalists believe that our system requires that states have much more power over their internal affairs than the federal government, and that our country runs best when states are able to meet the specific needs of their citizens relatively unfettered.
However critics of the Voting Rights Act willfully ignore the roots of federalism in white supremacy. Particularly in the south, federalism translates into two very simple words:
For the unaware those two words translate into this. And this. And this. The 13th Amendment represents an attempt to reconcile the harm done to the nation and to black men, women, and children, by in effect making anti-racism a more important principle than federalism. Before its passage individuals were citizens of individual states and through their state citizenship, were national citizens. After its passage individuals were national citizens first and foremost. The states still had any number of rights…but they could no longer constitutionally withhold those rights from black people (from black citizens). The Voting Rights Act passed 100 years later represented an attempt to further cement this important principle.
Now one could argue that this was history. That the south of today isn't the south of old. The demographics of the south are definitely changing–the South is becoming much more diverse than it was, with large numbers of non-southern whites moving into the region, and with large numbers of blacks and Latino/as coming as well.
The week before the Supreme Court heard oral arguments The Atlantic ran an excellent piece on the contemporary relevance of the Voting Rights Act. This is the key paragraph:
Since 1982, the feds told the justices in their Shelby County brief, "… approximately 2,400 discriminatory voting changes had been blocked by more than 750 Section 5 objections, approximately 400 of which involved cases with specific evidence of intentional discrimination." Without Section 5, the feds argue, minority voters would have had to sue individually, at great cost of time and money, in some cases after having lost their right to vote. Like it was before the passage of the statute.
Although there are enough instances of voter suppression in non-southern states to suggest that a number of them (Wisconsin, Ohio, and Pennsylvania come to mind) should be placed under scrutiny as well, the passage above suggests that Section 4 is still required and still relevant.
So what to do?
The reason the 2nd Amendment has the power it does is because of the NRA.
I suggest the creation of an organization devoted to preserving and extending voting laws–the National Voting Association. People already take voting seriously, as witnessed by the hours people were willing to spend standing in line. But there is no organization that has the sole purpose of protecting the right to vote. There is no organization that has the purpose of creating a shared "voter identity". Before the NRA there were people who happened to own guns. After the NRA there were "gun-owners". They understood their ability to own and use firearms as a crucial part of their identity.
We need to create the same type of identity among voters.
Now there are a couple of obvious problems with this idea, particularly as far as comparing it to the NRA.
The NRA is backed by gun manufacturers.[foot]From the Huffington Post: