Why the Supreme Court and the coronavirus could be a lethal combination for the right to vote

Why the Supreme Court and the coronavirus could be a lethal combination for the right to vote

It remains to be seen exactly how the coronavirus pandemic will affect the 2020 election in the United States. But according to Slate’s David H. Gans, the pandemic could make things even worse for non-white voters — who, Gans stresses, were already at a disadvantage thanks to the Roberts Court as well as voter suppression efforts.


In an article published in Slate on Friday, Gans asserts that the U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling in the 2013 case Shelby County v. Holder “left a gaping hole in our Constitution’s promise of democracy and opened the door to rampant voter suppression. Now, COVID-19 is making things exponentially worse.”

Gans explains, “The 5-4 ruling in Shelby County transformed our multiracial democracy, eliminating our nation’s most successful weapon against racial discrimination in voting. It gutted the Voting Rights Act, the crown jewel of the civil rights movement. By preventing states with a long history of discrimination from instituting discriminatory voting changes, the (Voting Rights) Act — until Shelby County — helped safeguard the constitutional mandate of equal political opportunity for all citizens regardless of race.”

Gans goes on to note that since the Shelby County ruling seven years ago, non-white voters have had to contend with everything from the elimination of polling places to “millions of” voter purges. And Gans explains why coronavirus will make things even more difficult for non-white voters.

“The pandemic is exacerbating these problems,” Gans warns. “States are moving and consolidating polling places, and eliminating voting in senior citizens’ centers and nursing homes and other places designed to make it easier for older Americans to vote. This is a sensible precaution to protect public health, as COVID-19 represents a particular threat to the elderly. But on top of years of closures spurred by Shelby County, it means that it is harder than ever for individuals to find a polling place to exercise the right to vote —particularly for communities of color.”

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