Sometimes, when the SCOTUS declines to review a lower court ruling, it is a much bigger thing than it appears to be. Like when they declined to review a decision ruling North Carolina’s voter suppression law to be unconstitutional, which has the effect of leaving the lower court’s ruling in place on the law that had been determined to blunt “with almost surgical precision” the votes of African Americans:
“This law, enacted with what the appeals court called discriminatory intent and ‘almost surgical precision’ targeting African-American voters, is meeting its much-deserved demise,” said Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project. “An ugly chapter in voter suppression is finally closing.”
The surprise twist here is that there are now five conservatives and four liberals on the court, last summer four of those conservatives wanted to let N. Carolina use “parts” of this law. They couldn’t get another vote, though, from any of the liberal justices. This year, Judge Neil M. Gorsuch would not vote with his fellow conservatives to review the law at this time, possibly signaling that the SCOTUS, for now, may be a voter suppression law graveyard.
That is huge, as voter suppression is widely known as one of the ways that Republicans win elections. Between suppressing the poor and minorities and gerrymandering, the GOP party has turned their minority position into a majority position in the legislative, executive, and now judicial branches.
These laws are consistently found to be un-Constitutional, yet they keep cropping up. We can expect to see more of them as Trump and the Republican party gear up to try to keep the legislative branch under their control in 2018 and 2020. Gorsuch is Trump’s nominee to the supreme court meaning that this decision against their party line essentially puts egg on Trump’s face. The GOP relies on suppression and gerrymandering, manipulating the boundaries of (an electoral constituency) so as to favor themselves. If their “tie-breaker” judge doesn’t break ties in their favor, they are not going to have such an easy time using their favorite tools.
This could be refiled with the Supreme Court, as it was rejected — not on merit or lack of it — on paper, it was rejected because there was unclear authority regarding who had permission to request the SCOTUS review. However, it was Gorsuch not siding with his cronies that allowed that to happen.
This doesn’t magically change the political landscape, as Gorsuch’s stance on gerrymandering hasn’t been tested but it will be; the SCOTUS will be reviewing the 2010 GOP gerrymandering according to the Washington Post.
That could change everything.
Featured image via Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain