By Brentin Mock
After the devastating decision from the U.S. Supreme Court to evict a cornerstone provision from the Voting Rights Act, Attorney General Eric Holder said, “The Department of Justice will continue to carefully monitor jurisdictions around the country for voting changes that may hamper voting rights. Let me be very clear: we will not hesitate to take swift enforcement action—using every legal tool that remains available to us—against any jurisdiction that seeks to take advantage of the Supreme Court’s ruling by hindering eligible citizens’ full and free exercise of the franchise.”
This was a doubling down on what Holder said in his address to the National Action Network a year ago, when he said, “This Department of Justice will oppose any effort—any effort—to disenfranchise American citizens.”
The weapons available to DOJ for protection efforts are quite limited now under the Supreme Court’s ruling. The prophylactic effect that gave Justice the power to review an election change for possible discriminatory effects in jurisdictions with the worst problems are now gone. Now the DOJ and voters can in most cases only seek legal redress for discrimination after it has already happened, and then hope for the best in terms of remedy.
What many have been calling for, even before the Supreme Court’s decision, is an explicit guaranteed right to vote through amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
“Most Americans are surprised to learn that there is no provision in the Constitution or federal law that affirmatively guarantees all citizens the freedom to vote,” said ColorofChange.com executive director Rashad Robinson in a statement after the Shelby vs. Holder decision. “We need a constitutional amendment that guarantees the freedom to vote for every citizen regardless of race and that protects against attempts to disenfranchise voters regardless of where they live.”