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(51,037 posts)
Wed Nov 29, 2023, 01:58 PM Nov 2023

A Rando Trump Judge Just Blew a Giant Hole in the Voting Rights Act [View all]


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In the movie The Matrix there is a famous interrogation scene. The hero (Keanu Reeves, playing Keanu Reeves) is being questioned by authorities, and asks for his constitutionally mandated phone call. The villain conducting the interrogation (Hugo Weaving, who hates the world of men in all movies) coldly responds, “What good is a phone call if you’re unable to speak?” He then glues Reeves’s mouth shut.

Last Monday, just before Thanksgiving, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit tried to pull a villain move on the 15th Amendment of the Constitution by gluing shut the mouths of Black people fighting for the right to vote. In a shocking and legally dubious decision, the circuit ruled in Arkansas State Conference NAACP v. Arkansas Public Policy Panel that private citizens could not sue to protect their voting rights under the law that is literally named The Voting Rights Act. Trump-appointed judge David Stras wrote the decision.

If the ruling is upheld, the attorney general of the United States will, functionally, be the only person in a position to challenge states that violate the voting rights of Black people. That means that whenever there is a weak AG like Bill Barr or Merrick Garland, red states will be free to go back to their Confederate roots and ignore the 15th Amendment’s prohibition against racism in voting.

I appreciate that talking about “the right to sue” can sound like fancy lawyer-talk, but our individual rights mean nothing if we can’t sue the government to protect them. What good is a constitutional protection against illegal search and seizure if you can’t sue the cops who break into your house without a warrant? What good is the constitutional prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment if you can’t sue the corrections officer who tortures you? Without lawsuits, constitutional protections are just suggestions that can be violated every time the government feels like ignoring them.


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