Less than 48 hours after the Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, six of the nine states that had been covered in their entirety under the law’s “preclearance” formula have already taken steps toward restricting voting.
In a 5–4 decision, the Court’s five conservative justices ruled Tuesday that the formula, which required states with a history of racial discrimination to “preclear” changes to their voting laws with the Department of Justice or a federal judge before enforcing them, was unconstitutional. Since then, these six states have already started moving on restrictions, many of which have adverse effects on the abilities of minorities, young people, and the poor to exercise their right to vote:
- Texas: The Lone Star State saw its strict voter ID law and redistricting plan blocked by the DOJ and federal courts last year. Just two hours after Tuesday’s decision came down, the state’s attorney general issued a statement suggesting both laws may go into effect immediately. On Wednesday, Gov. Rick Perry (R) signed slightly modified congressional maps into law, apparently deciding not to veto them and reinstate the more blatantly discriminatory maps blocked by the court. These new maps will not be screened by the DOJ. And Thursday morning, the U.S. Supreme Court vacated two federal court decisions that had relied upon the VRA in blocking the voter ID law and redistricting plan.
- Mississippi: The state legislature approved a voter ID scheme in 2012, but it has not received DOJ clearance. Despite the restrictions, Mississippi’s secretary of state said Tuesday they would proceed with implementing the voter ID law and that “We’re not the same old Mississippi that our fathers’ fathers were.”
- Alabama: In 2011, the state passed a law requiring photo ID to vote, but never cleared it with the DOJ. Both the attorney general and the secretary of state said Tuesday they believed their plans could now be implemented in time for the 2014 elections.
- Arkansas: In April, the Arkansas legislature overrode Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe’s veto to pass their voter ID legislation. With preclearance out of the way, the state law can now be implemented without DOJ review.
- South Carolina: The Palmetto State passed a similar voter ID law in 2012, but DOJ at least succeeded in delaying its implementation. South Carolina’s attorney general issued a statement following the decision, lauding the Court for allowing the preclearance states to “to implement reasonable election reforms, such as voter ID laws similar to South Carolina’s.”
- Virginia: Unlike several of the other states, Virginia’s voter ID plan was not scheduled to be implemented until July 2014 anyway. But unless Congress replaces the preclearance formula before then, Virginia will also likely be able to move forward with its plan.
These moves mean that of the nine preclearance states, only Alaska, Arizona (which just had its own voter ID law struck down), and Georgia (whose own voted ID law was likely ruled unconstitutional in the same decision) have not moved to restrict the right to vote in less than two days since the ruling. The Court’s majority held that the formula for determining which states are subject to federal oversight is outdated, leaving the law without any jurisdictions requiring preclearance. If these states are any evidence, they may have just opened the door for massive disenfranchisement.