The Atlantic Daily: Only Congress Can Save Voting Rights Now

Voting rights had a tough day at the Supreme Court. Now it’s up to lawmakers to act.

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​​​​​In the legal battle over who gets to vote in America, Republicans just scored a point.

Today the Supreme Court effectively green-lit a restrictive voting law in Arizona. The decision will make it easier for similar laws—the likes of which continue to be passed in Republican-controlled statehouses around the country—to survive challenges. And with this ruling, the nation once again saw the Voting Rights Act weakened.

Below, our writers offer two quick takeaways that don’t require you to paw through the legalese yourself.

1. A decision like this was inevitable.

It was always a long shot for existing interpretations of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act to completely survive today’s decision. The conservatives on the Supreme Court have long signaled their hostility to that provision of the law, which allowed Americans to challenge voting laws that have disproportionate racial effects. In 2013, Shelby County v. Holder defanged proactive federal oversight of the racial effects of voting laws. Although Section 2 wasn’t completely destroyed today, as many feared it would be, the decision leaves states to make it ever harder for people of color to vote, while chasing imagined voter fraud.

— Vann R. Newkirk II, senior editor

2. Only Congress can save voting rights now.

Today’s Supreme Court decision further weakening the Voting Rights Act affirmed that the only way Democrats can reverse the wave of restrictive voting laws in GOP-controlled states is to pass new federal voting rights by curtailing the Senate filibuster. ... It makes plain that if Congress doesn’t establish new federal standards, the nation is headed toward a two-tier voting system, with red states imposing ever-tightening restrictions that especially burden Democratic-leaning constituencies—young, minority, and lower-income voters.

— Ronald Brownstein, senior editor


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Every weekday evening, our editors guide you through the biggest stories of the day, help you discover new ideas, and surprise you with moments of delight. Subscribe to get this delivered to your inbox