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Exclusive: How the Voting Rights Act ended up back at the Supreme Court – TalkOfNews.com

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How the Voting Rights Act ended up back at the Supreme Court

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Although we’re months out from any rulings, many voting rights advocates have their eyes on the Supreme Court, which is likely to rule on a few cases this term that could affect the strength of the Voting Rights Act.

The act was passed and signed in 1965, but it was a long time in the making. Its roots trace back to the end of Reconstruction. Federal troops withdrew from the South after the Compromise of 1877, ushering in what’s known as the nadir of race relations in America. Jim Crow laws were enacted, the Ku Klux Klan rose to power, and many of the attempts Black people made to vote and exercise full citizenship were met with violence. That violence persisted well into the 1960s.

After the VRA passed, Black voter registration in the South rose immensely, and throughout the nearly six decades since it was enacted, the legislation has been both strengthened and weakened. According to Atiba R. Ellis, a Case Western Reserve School of Law professor, “In some ways, the way the Voting Rights Act has changed has been, in part, a conversation between Congress and the Supreme Court.”

On this week’s episode of The Weeds — Vox’s podcast for politics and policy discussions — we hop in the Weeds Time Machine with Ellis and go back to the circumstances that gave us the VRA, and look forward to what the policy could become in the near future.

Below is an excerpt of our conversation, edited for length and clarity. You can listen to The Weeds on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher or wherever you get podcasts.


Atiba R. Ellis

Merrill [v. Milligan] is now in front of the Court, and it concerns a redistricting plan in Alabama. Alabama went through its redistricting process, and it drew one district for its US House of Representatives that was majority Black. The plaintiffs here are basically arguing that Alabama packed Black voters into that district when it should have drawn more districts that were majority African American. And so [the plaintiffs say] that this violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.

So this has the potential of completely changing the standard for racial vote dilution cases under the Voting Rights Act and potentially making it a lot harder for plaintiffs to bring their claims.

Jonquilyn Hill

That’s not the only Supreme Court case regarding voting that could impact the Voting Rights Act coming up this summer, correct?

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Atiba R. Ellis

Another really important case, even though not directly about the Voting Rights Act, [that] would nonetheless impact the VRA is a case called Moore v. Harper. And this case comes out of North Carolina, where the North Carolina General Assembly passed another set of voting rules after a history of voting cases where both federal courts and state courts have struck down North Carolina’s efforts. But this time, the North Carolina Supreme Court strikes down the General Assembly’s rule, and the General Assembly then goes to the US Supreme Court, arguing that the independent state legislature theory should be adopted by the US Supreme Court and thus cutting out state courts from being able to rule on what the state legislatures do in regards to federal election rules.

So they’re saying, well, if it’s up to the states, and the text of the elections clause in Article 1 of the Constitution says the legislature shall make the rules. They’re saying take that literally, as in the legislature and no one else can make the rules.

Jonquilyn Hill

But it’s the court’s job to interpret the rules that they make. This is why we have three branches. This is why we have our executive, our legislative, and our judicial. And isn’t the state court technically part of the state?

Atiba R. Ellis

In my view — and, full disclosure, I co-authored a brief on the Moore v. Harper case — our argument was this makes no sense. Branches of government exist to balance the work of any one. And so for the legislature to have all the power and, depending on the version of the independent state legislature theory that you’re looking at, it could be just the state legislature and maybe the federal courts, or maybe just the Supreme Court, but not the state courts themselves. Does it make sense that a state court with its state constitution that says the state courts can check the legislature, that all that gets ignored because of this? Overarching, [this is an] ahistorical and nonsensical interpretation of the Constitution.

Jonquilyn Hill

What does the future of voting in America look like without the Voting Rights Act — or without any of its teeth, which very well may happen after this next session of the Supreme Court?

Atiba R. Ellis

I think voting becomes very challenging or very advanced, depending on what state you’re in. Because the pattern that seems to be at play these days is one of certain states wanting to take on more and more initiatives driven by the myth of voter fraud and desiring to make the rules more strict, make the regulations more rigid and onerous. Some states have even recently passed rules that would require voting be exclusively in person.

The challenge is with the stricter rules driven by voter fraud talk, does that make it too hard for people without the means to overcome these hoops to participate? And to me, that echoes the Jim Crow problems that we were talking about: the nadir of voting rights. This is an era where a full third of the country’s population couldn’t effectively vote because there were too many regulations that exploited the weaknesses of that population. And all of that discrimination fell largely along the lines of race. Does something of that sort repeat itself? Maybe not to the scope of Jim Crow apartheid, but I would think that any repetition of that could be problematic, and if history teaches us anything, a lot of that will fall along the lines of race.

And, of course, the irony is, depending on what state you look at, there’s also advancements in voting rights, right? There are some states that have embraced mail-in voting, drop boxes, same-day registration, more moderate versions of voter ID, and the like. And so I wonder whether the future might be a new “separate but equal” kind of voting map across the country, and the ease with which you can vote, the ease with which you can participate in democracy, depends on what state you’re in and what the agenda of your legislature is.

Jonquilyn Hill

I’m curious what parallels exist between the era that gave us the Voting Rights Act and our current political landscape. Because in a lot of ways, it’s different. But in a lot of ways, it feels very similar.

Atiba R. Ellis

On one level, there’s a lot of what I like to think of as the hyperregulation of the vote in the period immediately before the passage of the Voting Rights Act. You had this list of Jim Crow rules that dissuaded people from voting. And today, arguably, we have the rise of another set of rules driven by concerns around voter fraud that doesn’t exist: strict voter ID laws, more aggressive voter purges, the narrowing of opportunities to vote outside of just Election Day itself, which in and of itself creates long lines and makes voting more difficult.

We remember the footage from Georgia in the wake of their recent laws that were passed, that created long lines, and you had rules that said you couldn’t bring someone to drink water while they’re standing in line for hours on end in order to wait to vote. All of these kinds of rules have their own form of dissuasion effect that would chase people away from voting.

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But this sort of expressive harm of dissuading people from exercising the vote might well become the norm. It’s worth taking a moment to think about the effect of voter fraud talk, in the period around Reconstruction and in the Jim Crow period and even the Voting Rights Act period. And now a lot of the justification for these strict rules is preventing fraud, preserving the integrity of elections.

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Exclusive: Today in Supreme Court History: January 26, 1832 – TalkOfNews.com

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Today in Supreme Court History: January 26, 1832

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1/26/1832: Justice George Shiras Jr.’s birthday.

Justice George Shiras Jr.

The post Today in Supreme Court History: January 26, 1832 appeared first on Reason.com.

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Exclusive: Liberals Are Mad That McCarthy Named MAGA Republicans to Subcommittees on COVID and Government Weaponization – Good – TalkOfNews.com

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Liberals Are Mad That McCarthy Named MAGA Republicans to Subcommittees on COVID and Government Weaponization – Good

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House Speaker Kevin McCarthy announced members named to two select subcommittees – one investigating the origins of COVID and another looking into the weaponization of the federal government – and Democrats are livid over the addition of certain MAGA lawmakers.

“The government has a responsibility to serve the American people, not go after them,” McCarthy said in a statement.

“The Members selected to serve on these subcommittees will work to stop the weaponization of the federal government and will also finally get answers to the Covid origins and the federal government’s gain of function research that contributed to the pandemic,” he added.

McCarthy notes that the weaponization subcommittee is necessary because congressional Democrats and the Biden administration engaged in a “dangerous pattern of the government being used to target political opponents while they neglected their most basic responsibilities.”

RELATED: Conservative Victory: Dan Crenshaw Loses Race To Chair Homeland Security Committee to Freedom Caucus Member Green

MAGA Members Named to House Select Subcommittees

A couple of names that showed up on the House select subcommittees raised the ire of Democrats, particularly those associated with the MAGA movement.

Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) continued reaping the fruits of a kinship with McCarthy that would make Frank Luntz blush, being named to the COVID-19 subcommittee.

Greene celebrated the appointment, stating her intention to investigate the role of gain-of-function research, the Democrat “authoritarian” lockdowns, the ineffective vaccines forced on the American people, and Dr. Anthony Fauci’s role.

Greene will also be sitting on the House Homeland Security and Oversight Committees.

Also named to the COVID subcommittee is former White House physician Ronny Jackson (R-TX), who has consistently challenged President Biden to undergo a mental fitness evaluation.

Jim Jordan (R-OH) will chair the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government after being rejected by former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to serve on the January 6th panel.

RELATED: White House Terrified of MAGA Republicans Being Named to Committees Investigating Biden Administration

Liberals Aren’t Happy

Liberals on social media responded with outrage over MAGA Republicans representing their constituents on the select subcommittees.

Because see, it would be better to have completely partisan sham committees like the January 6th debacle.

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Democratic Congressman Don Beyer dismissed both panels as “devoted to conspiracy theories.”

This is fine by us, since these days “conspiracy theories” mostly just means “the media hasn’t admitted it yet.”

House Judiciary Democrats lambasted McCarthy for having “sold out our democracy to empower MAGA extremists.”

Richard Stengel, a former Obama administration official, also took the dismissive ‘conspiracy theory’ path.

The ‘Weaponization’ subcommittee, Stengel claims, is “a body that creates rather than investigates conspiracy theories and which will eventually undermine itself.”

We literally just watched the January 6th sham create highly directed and produced filmography rather than evidence, doctored actual evidence, created conspiracy theories, and admitted they wanted to tell people what they should believe.

If Democrats are mad about MAGA Republicans serving on committees to provide a counterpoint to Democrat and media lies, then McCarthy is most definitely doing the right thing.

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Exclusive: Why older mass shooters like the California gunmen are so rare – TalkOfNews.com

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Why older mass shooters like the California gunmen are so rare

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The gunmen in both of the recent shootings in Monterey Park and Half Moon Bay, California, had an unusual profile compared to most perpetrators of violent crime: They were both senior citizens.

The Monterey Park gunman, who killed 11 and injured nine before fatally shooting himself, was 72. The Half Moon Bay gunman, who killed seven people before he was arrested in what police have characterized as an act of workplace violence, is 66.

Mass shooters of that age are rare, especially those with no prior criminal record, as was the case with the Half Moon Bay gunman. (The Monterey Park gunman had one arrest in 1990 for illegal possession of a firearm.) According to data from the National Institute of Justice, mass shooters between 1966 and 2021 were on average 34 years old, and those over the age of 60 accounted for a little over 3 percent of all mass shootings, which are defined as shootings in which four or more people are killed.

The notion that people “age out of crime” is one of the most well-documented phenomena in the field of criminology. The California shootings should be seen as exceptions to that principle, not as nullifying examples, according to Ashley Nellis, co-director of research for the Sentencing Project, which advocates for criminal justice reform.

“The predictability of age is probably the most reliable point of data that we have about people who commit violent crime. Young people are just substantially more likely, and by extension, older people are substantially unlikely, to commit crime,” Nellis said. “It’s certainly a cautionary note to anybody who would be jumping to make policy based on these two events.”

Research has repeatedly shown that criminal activity increases throughout teen years, reaches its highest point at age 17, the oldest that someone can be charged with a juvenile crime, and subsides thereafter throughout life. Property crime peaks at a slightly younger age than violent crime. But even chronic offenders would be statistically likely to stop committing crime by around the age of 40, Nellis said.

There are a lot of theories as to why that might be. Typical milestones associated with getting older, like graduating or getting married, may put people on a trajectory that veers away from criminality. Brain development isn’t complete until the mid-20s, hindering decision-making that might lead to crime and risky behavior. Young people have less financial security, and people in poverty are more likely to commit crimes. Some crimes might be physically demanding, and older people just might not have the strength to carry them out.

But both gunmen in the California shootings buck the archetype of a violent criminal, and their motives still aren’t entirely clear. Investigators have said that the Monterey Park shooter frequented the dance studio where he killed his victims and that the Half Moon Bay gunman, who lived and worked as a forklift driver at a mushroom farm, was angry at the coworkers he shot. Previously, there have been mass shooters as old as 70, including a gunman who opened fire at a church in Vestavia Hills, Alabama, and killed three people last June.

Though age can sometimes factor into the decision to impose a less harsh sentence on young offenders, the Half Moon Bay shooter’s advanced age won’t have any bearing on the length of his sentence, as is standard practice in the US.

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He will be charged with seven counts of murder and one count of attempted murder, with a special circumstance allegation of multiple murder and sentencing enhancements for each count because of his use of a firearm, the San Mateo County district attorney announced Wednesday. If convicted on those charges, he could be facing up to life in prison without the possibility of parole. (He won’t face the death penalty, given that California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, placed a moratorium on executions in the state in 2019.)

Life sentences without parole have become increasingly common in the US over the last few decades. But Nellis argues the age of older offenders like the Half Moon Bay shooter should be considered a mitigating factor when making sentencing decisions — especially given that the use of executive clemency to release them early has become nonexistent, as she writes in a 2022 report.

“Regardless of age, somebody who does commit an act of violence like this is likely to be rehabilitated, be reformed, be ready to return to society within 10 years,” she said.

Recidivism is unlikely among older people, according to data from the US Sentencing Commission, and keeping them in prison comes at a high taxpayer cost, which includes health care bills that balloon at the end of life. It’s difficult to say how much those who’ll decide the fate of the Half Moon Bay suspect will take that data into account; his initial arraignment is Wednesday.

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