Try Again, Anthony Kennedy–Unless You Actually Like North Carolina’s 21st-Century Poll Tax Laws

It is not hard to imagine some Supreme Court justices pleased as punch with the new vote suppression laws in Texas and North Carolina. They are 1877 lite, and at least four justices seem fine with the latter-day return to rules that make it harder for the wrong kind of people to vote. North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory expressed this pretty transparently in a radio interview with WUNC today when he compared the voter identification bill to measures that require identification to collect public benefits such as food stamps. Hard to speak in racial code any better than that. The governor also said “I frankly think our right to vote deserves similar protection that we’re giving to Sudafed.” I frankly think Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Rick Scott of Florida, and Rick Perry of Texas are all nervous that you, Pat McCrory, might outflank them on the far right edge of political discourse.

More important–assuming a stable lineup on the Supreme Court–is whether Anthony Kennedy will be concerned enough about how he is remembered fifty years from now to climb down from the perhaps well-intentioned but–if so–politically naive decisions in Shelby and Citizens United. President Obama and Attorney General Holder can do quite a bit to mitigate the vote suppression efforts that began within a couple of hours after the Shelby opinion, but, Justice Kennedy, only you can decide the historical role you will pay in making the right to vote real, or not.

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