Voting Rights Act Decision Poses a Crucial Test for Republicans
by Jamelle Bouie Jun 26, 2013 4:45 AM EDT
If you’ve read a magazine at any point in the last decade, then you’ve probably heard of the Stanford marshmallow test. A young child is placed at a table with a marshmallow and told that she can eat it now or wait a while and get an even better treat. The experiment is supposed to measure a child’s capacity for delayed gratification. The longer she can wait, the more likely it is she has good impulse control, and that is associated with better life outcomes, as measured by health and educational attainment.
In overturning Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act—which sets down a formula for identifying which state and local governments have to preclear changes to voting law with the federal government—the Supreme Court has all but placed a huge marshmallow in front of the Republican Party. But instead of a sugary treat, it’s an opportunity to pursue harsh new restrictions on voting—the kinds of policies that would have been blocked under the Voting Rights Act before the court’s ruling.
Over the last three years Republicans throughout the country have launched aggressive attacks on voting rights and access to the ballot, often under the guise of voter integrity (despite the nonthreat of voter fraud). In North Carolina, Republicans have proposed bills that would cut early voting, require a narrow range of identification cards to vote (excluding student IDs, for instance), and impose lifetime disenfranchisement for felons. Likewise, in Virginia, Republican legislators have proposed a strict new voter-ID law that could disenfranchise the nearly 900,000 residents who lack the required identification. The same goes for a Mississippi bill that could keep up to 40,000 people from the polls.