Truth, like beauty, is evidently in the eye of the beholder. This is clear not from the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday to strike down a key provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act but from the reaction of the media.
First some background: The specific case before the high court was Shelby County, Alabama, v. Holder, Attorney General, et al.
The county, which is in one of 16 states with a history of discrimination against minority voters, enacted a voter ID law that was blocked last year by the Holder Justice Department. The country sued and the case, gaining national prominence along the way, found itself ultimately on the Supreme Court’s docket.
One problem with the allegation of “historical discrimination against minority voters” is, that to be valid, it must be demonstrated to be ongoing. But the conservative wing of the high court imposed an even narrower pragmatic lens on the case through which to view the reality of voting in the Deep South in the twenty-first century. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the 5-4 majority that the formula used to determine which states are subject to special scrutiny, as set out in Section 4 of the law, is based on decades-old voter turnout and registration data. “Since that time,” he wrote:
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Census Bureau data indicate that African American voter turnout has come to exceed white voter turnout in five of the six States originally covered by §5, with a gap in the sixth State of less than one half of one percent.
So how is the court’s decision being received? Here is Yahoo! News on the ruling:
The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that states can no longer be judged by voting discrimination that went on decades ago, in a decision that marks the end of a major civil-rights era reform. [Emphasis added]
Even if you agree that voting ID laws are unfair to minorities — an argument that has yet to be made — the palpable sigh implicit in the highlighted passage sounds pretty reactionary for a “progressive” news source.
But when it comes to wistfulness, no news source comes close to The New York Times, which apart from its headline coverage devotes a lengthy section of today’s paper to a eulogy of sorts. Included are excerpts from a February “primer” (now relegated to the “oldie but goodie” category) on the law by writer Adam Liptak and assorted tweets. Someone named Erin Branco notes on Twitter that the “NAACP says they are going to set up a hotline so citizens can call in with complaints.” Meantime, Jeff Zeleny writes that Congressman John Lewis “says he is ‘sad and dismayed.’”
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