The Supreme Court’s Role in Upholding Voter Suppression

In 2012, Shelby County, Ala., appealed to the Supreme Court after the United States Court of Appeals upheld the constitutionality of preclearance under the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Preclearance allows the Department of Justice to evaluate changes to voting laws in certain states and localities to determine if they are discriminatory. On June 25, 2013, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in “Shelby vs. Holder” that a coverage formula that was used to determine preclearance for states to pass new voting laws or elections stated in Section four is unconstitutional. As a result of this Supreme Court decision, voter suppression—particularly for underserved communities, elderly people, and people of color—has become more widespread in the upcoming presidential election, confiscating the voices of many in the United States. 

The Supreme Court struck down preclearance on the grounds that it was “outdated”. They claimed that race-based discrimination at the polls had been eliminated along with the need for preclearance. However, the aftermath of the decision proves otherwise. In many states, laws that had been put into place to increase voting access were almost immediately destroyed or dismantled. Voter identification laws that preclearance had restricted could now be implemented. The laws made it harder for poor people, people of color, and elderly people to vote as getting documentation and an I.D. takes time and money, including transportation costs. In Wisconsin, 64 percent of voters who do not have a voter I.D. make less than 20,000 dollars per year. On average, Black voters are likely to wait more than 30 minutes to vote and wait 45 percent longer than white voters, nationally. The John Lewis Act, formally named the Voting Rights Advancement Act, will try to reinstate the former requirements for preclearance. This bill would make an attempt to address the voter suppression laws passed by many states after “Shelby vs. Holder”. These voters could change the outcomes of many elections.  

In the states that have implemented restrictive voting laws, the electoral college will determine which candidate wins that state. However, that vote would be missing crucial voices that have been often ignored throughout history. For example, in Georgia, polling places in communities of color have been closing down. This has affected the wait times at these polling places such that the average minimum wait time in communities where more than 90 percent of registered voters are people of color is 51 minutes. In communities that were more than 90 percent of registered voters are white, however, the average minimum wait time is six minutes. This is an attempt to undermine the voices of people of color. 

Suppressing the voices of people of color will only worsen discriminatory treatment. It is hard to try to solve issues that affect certain people without their input or opinion. The Constitution gives all American citizens the right to vote, but by setting up obstacles that disproportionately affect certain people, politicians are trying to sway the election in their favor. Politicians that have implemented these laws are ignoring the people’s opinions for their own self-interest. These are only a few of the ways that voter suppression occurs in the United States. American citizens are trying to vote for who they believe will do the best to address the issues that they care about. However, suppressing the vote of certain people is telling them that their issues and voices don’t matter. 

While the United States may claim that it is a democracy, it is issues like voter suppression that call this reputation into question. A democracy is supposed to be a society where everyone’s voices are heard, but that can’t be done when politicians try to sway elections in their favor.