The Conservative Supreme Court Will Decide If Some Votes Are More Equal Than Others


The Supreme Court decided on Thursday that it will hear two election law related cases this term, the potential of redefining the meaning of free and fair elections.  North Carolina also asked the Supreme Court to Stay an injunction issued by the Fourth Circuit to reinstate same day registration and count votes that were cast out of district.

The first case is Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission:

:In 2000, 56% of voters in Arizona supported a citizens’ initiative that would amend the state’s constitution to establish an independent redistricting commission.  The commission considers input from both political parties.  The legislature may approve or disapprove the maps resulting from the commission’s work.

The commission’s composition is complex.  First the commission on appointments, proposes candidates.  The legislature chooses to Republicans and two Democrats.  They choose an independent to chair the commission.  Political control is limited to the governor who can remove a member for neglect or misconduct.

Despite the best efforts to keep the partisanship out of redistricting, Republican Governor Jan Brewer fired the chair person because she often sided with the two Democrats.  Eventually, the state Supreme Court reinstated the chair, noting that agreeing with Democrats is neither neglect or abuse of office.

Republicans controlled the state’s Senate by 17-3 and the House by 36-24.  However, because voters denied Republicans a supermajority in the statehouse, Republicans protested the Commission’s maps for 2012.

Arizona’s Republicans want the Supreme Court to decide that redistricting must be decided by the legislature under the elections clause of the U.S. constitution.

Now the Supreme Court will consider if the legislature has standing in this case, and if the as Arizona Republican claim, if commission’s existence violates the U.S. Constitution’s elections clause.

America prides itself on a voting process in which every vote is equal, regardless of the voters’ race, gender, class or any other factor. The reality is redistricting makes it possible for Republicans to win even when they lose the popular vote.

In 2012, Democratic House candidates received nearly 1.4 million more votes than Republicans,  yet Republicans maintained control of the House as a direct result of gerrymandered redistricting.  If the Supreme Court sides with Republicans in this case, the inequality of votes will get much worse.

As noted by Think Progress notes, while this case runs in the face of several Supreme Court precedents, the Court’s ruling in Bush v. Gore could be used by conservatives on the court to make gerrymandering even worse than it is now.

Nevertheless, there are some warning signs that the Supreme Court’s right flank wants to upset this balance. In Bush v. Gore — yes, THAT Bush v. Gore — Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas joined an opinion arguing that the Constitution prohibited Florida’s state courts from reaching certain interpretations of the state’s election law. This opinion relied on a constitutional provision providing that presidential electors must be selected “as the Legislature” of a state directs. Thus, it argued, the judicial branch of a state could not act in a way that these conservative justices viewed as counter to the legislature’s intent.

The Court is busy with vote suppression cases.

Today, North Carolina requested a stay of yesterday’s 4th Circuit’s injunction to reinstate same day voter registration and out of precinct voting.

North Carolina makes two arguments which will probably appeal to the conservative wing of the Supreme Court.

First, North Carolina wants the Supreme Court to interpret Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act under the narrow parameters set out by Judge Thomas Schroeder.  While the Fourth Circuit looked at the cumulative effect of all restrictions (i.e. early voting, same day registration etc.) Judge Schroeder preferred a piecemeal approach.  For example, if you look at reduced early voting in isolation, it really doesn’t look that bad.  If you look at it with a ban on same day registration, discounting out of precinct votes and all the other restrictions in North Carolina’s law you can recognize the systematic effort to suppress votes by minorities through a variety of mechanisms. It’s likely the Supreme Court will prefer to avoid looking at the big picture.

Second, North Carolina is arguing that changing the law this late in the game is likely to create chaos.  This argument is based on precedent and is therefore likely to succeed.

The Court also decided to hear Wisconsin’s Voter ID case.  Some estimates say 300,000 Wisconsin voters could be disenfranchised if this law is upheld.  After the court decided to hear this challenge, Justice Elena Kagen asked the Wisconsin to respond.  The outcome of this case will effect voters in Wisconsin, but will also tell us about the future of voting rights in other states.

The totality of these cases means the Supreme Court will decide the new meaning of free and fair elections and if, indeed, some votes are more equal than others.

Image: Think Progress

17 Replies to “The Conservative Supreme Court Will Decide If Some Votes Are More Equal Than Others”

  1. And, chances are that if the Supreme Court makes a decision, the republican votes will be more equal than others. Thank you Koch Brothers for “paying.”

  2. The coup as laid out by Justice Powell is almost complete. Rights as citizens are being taken away and half the country revel in it like a pig in slop.

    Just remember today in history was a great day in the history of the court.

    Forty-seven years ago today, on Oct. 2nd, 1967, Thurgood Marshall was sworn in as the newest member of the Supreme Court—the first African-American elevated to the nation’s highest bench. He once said:

    “Today’s Constitution is a realistic document of freedom only because of several corrective amendments. Those amendments speak to a sense of decency and fairness that I and other Blacks cherish.”

    The tool that replaced him, only claim to fame was putting a pubic hair in a can of coke.

    America you must be proud

  3. I have a feeling there will someday be a constitutional amendment to void the Supreme court.

    With that, take each state and lay a square grid on it. That will be the districts. It would never be changed according to politics

  4. and the gop portrays themselves as defending the constitution…..yeah right.
    anybody wanna buy a ski resort in tampa?

  5. As Republicans/Tea Partiers constantly scream that the President is trying to take their FREEDOM away, they are actively working to take the rights and actually responsibility to vote away from citizens. The Koch bought right wing of the Supreme Court thinks Corporations are people and have more rights than the citizens. This country is going to he** fast. Get out and vote people! We need to stop this runaway train of robber barons.

  6. Do you really want a court of Steve Kings, Rand Paul and Sarah Palin types?
    Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.

    H. L. Mencken

  7. Unfortunately our freedoms are chosen on the political leaning of a very self chosen few. This nation of people will never be allowed to collectively decide freedom just for what freedom isdefines for everyone. As long as politics and money are involved, freedom will always be decided on the material. One has to ask themselves why is there a need for a Tea party if the loss of freedom was at stake as they proclaim as one of their main concerns. Politics and materialism make them a necessary existence to attempt to control the amount of freedom for all for sure… So, when one see what the SCOTUS is doing, remember it has nothing to do with our freedom and our constitution as a “people concern” for sure. It has all to do with politics and the greed of a few as their rulings so clearly shows. This nation’s people better wake up and truly become collectively involved before all our freedoms are taken away by a few men in black robes that have none of our freedom concerns in mind for su…

  8. I believe Shiva that the Democrats have learned a valuable lesson on trusting the right wing gop when it comes to deciding if they trust them to choose ethical justices for the Supreme Court, or any other court for that matter.

    In the old days no matter what party a senator or congressman belonged to the majority were concerned with what was good for the people of the United States more than, “What’s in it for me?” Of course that started showing up after the dixiecrats jumped parties and contaminated the gop. Somehow like a dangerous disease these people multiplied until we have the horrors of today.

  9. I would love to ask scalia and other right wingers if in themselves, not counting actual people owning the corporations, or investing in corporations, or working in corporations, if those individual corporations have a brain, a heart, or a soul?

    I would also like to ask why is it we the people who are sharing the rights of corporations don’t have the same tax breaks as those corporations, and who will pay the justices, the senators, the congress the POTUS, and other local, state and federal expenses?

    I hope I stated my thoughts clearly.


    What we need is for a standard of ethics be imposed on the Supreme Court by the Congress so that justices are held to the same standards as Federal Court judges. For the sake of the nation the Roberts, Alito, Scalia, Thomas, and Kennedy must be impeached, and removed from the bench.

  11. Yes, I’m over 70…Do you think that would happen in my lifetime? Can’t they be impeached? How would we go about getting rid of those 5?

  12. Under normal circumstances, a Supreme Court justice is awarded a lifetime commission.

    A Supreme Court Justice may be impeached by the House of Representatives and removed from office if convicted in a Senate trial, but only for the same types of offenses that would trigger impeachment proceedings for any other government official under Articles I and II of the Constitution.

    Article III, Section 1 states that judges of Article III courts shall hold their offices “during good behavior.” “The phrase “good behavior” has been interpreted by the courts to equate to the same level of seriousness ‘high crimes and misdemeanors” encompasses.

    The key words are Under Normal Circumstances. We are not living in normal times

  13. This is getting serious. The Supremes decided in Arizona Express that rich people had a first amendment right to the speech advantages their wealth bought them.

    Now they seem poised to declare that a constitutional provision that “legislatures” may control elections of representatives means that the legislatures control districting as complete free agents, completely unfettered from their own state constitutions. In other words, a federal constitutional right to gerrymandering against their own citizens.

    So if we only get to vote for stooge candidates how are we any different than Hong Kong?

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