Commentary, Courts & the Law

Expert: NC voter suppression law will be revived if Trump’s Supreme Court nominee is confirmed

In case you missed it the other day, U.S. Supreme Court expert Ian Millhiser posted another damning and sobering assessment of Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch. His first finding: if Gorsuch had been on the court last year, North Carolina’s “monster” voter suppression law would be in full force. This is from his latest column, “Which rights are on the chopping block if Trump’s SCOTUS nominee is confirmed?”:

In the long term, [a Justice Gorsuch] could mean massive, sweeping changes to American law. Gorsuch’s previous judicial opinions suggest that he could hobble federal regulation of the environment and the workplace. He may even support more ambitious plans to cut away a string of progressive accomplishments stretching back to the New Deal.

And in the short term, there are plenty of looming issues on the Court’s docket that Gorsuch could have more immediate influence over.

If he is confirmed, Gorsuch’s first few years on the Court is likely to feature a stream of cases involving voting rights, workers rights, LGBT rights, and the right of religious conservatives to defy laws that they object to on religious grounds. In all of these cases, the news is not good for the little guy.

And here’s his take on Gorsuch and North Carolina’s voter suppression law:

Before Scalia’s death, the Roberts Court was not friendly toward voting rights. The Court permitted state-level voter ID laws, a common method of voter suppression. It struck down a major prong of the Voting Rights Act. And it’s placed increasingly high procedural hurdles in front of litigants seeking to protect their right to vote.

In one particularly notable case, a federal appeals court struck down North Carolina’s omnibus voter suppression law. As the appeals court explained, North Carolina lawmakers “requested data on the use, by race, of a number of voting practices,” then used this data to design a voter suppression law that disproportionately targeted African Americans and that minimized its impact on white voters.

And yet, when this case reached the Supreme Court, all four of the Court’s conservatives voted to reinstate the North Carolina law. If Scalia were still alive, the law would have been in effect during the 2016 election.

Gorsuch, if confirmed, will almost certainly provide these four conservatives with the fifth vote they need to uphold laws such as North Carolina’s—even, apparently, when the law was enacted for the very purpose of preventing black people from voting.

In addition to voting rights, Millhiser lists several other issues that seem sure to go the wrong way  if Gorsuch is confirmed, including gerrymandering, union rights, transgender rights, access to birth control, discrimination by religious employers, worker rights and Trump’s Muslim ban. In other words, if you think the battle over the Gorsuch nomination is not the biggest and most important fight of 2017, you’re just plain wrong.

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