The good news about the horrible June 25th Supreme Court decision that gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965 is that you can still use the courts to overturn voter suppression laws (here and here). The bad news is that you have to end the filibuster in order to strengthen democratic-party majorities in as many circuits and appeals courts as possible. This would mean that President Barack Obama would have to fight in a masculine way and demand that Harry Reid change the filibuster rules. So, further bad news would be that the president talks a good game but doesn't fight for anything. Or at least he doesn't fight as hard as otherwise horrific GOP governor Jan Brewer when she fights to take the free medicaid money he's offering or won't fight as hard as that spunky and very fit Wendy Davis for the self determination of women's bodies. (Hint: You should start vetoing things, even defense bills, to get what you want, unless you don't have the balls of a Brewer or a Davis. It wouldn't surprise me.)
But enough about the bad news. Let's get back to the good news again. I learned of this good news right here in my home state of Pennsylvania. One of the more depressing things about the power of the justice department to pre-clear problem states is that this is a power that's only available in nine problem states. Pennsylvania, founded by Quakers and where the Republicans aren't completely evil, was never a problem state to begin with or at least it didn't have that kind of obvious Jim Crow legacy that would warrant a vigilant federal eye. However, in 2010 when the Republicans won all three chambers in Pennsylvania, we essentially became Alabama even though we've been a blue state for what I think has been the last four presidential cycles. We're not getting the free medicaid money either because apparently alleged Christian Values republican politicians would rather you die. But enough about my awful Gov. Tom Corbett. And yes it's early but I hope this is correct.
The 2010 PA GOP trifecta meant that a voter-id law was signed into law on March 14th, 2012. They could do that because there isn't a a pre-clearance process. However, my old PENNPIC (early 80s) canvassing buddy Witold Walczak is now a big shot with the American Civil Liberties Union and they challenged the law on May 1, 2012. They didn't exactly end up winning before the presidential election but they delayed the decision not only for the 2012 presidential election but also the May Primary in 2013. These are victories that were established without the pre-clearance provisions of the Voting Rights Act that were struck down by the Supreme Court.
Two disclaimers. One: We didn't win so much on the
merits but delayed the law and of course the GOP judge originally handed
the ACLU a loss. But the state appeals court overruled with the help of
one republican judge who didn't think it was right to steal an
election, which is what voter suppression is tantamount to. Two: The
Voting Rights Act pre-clearance would be better but Witold has shown us a
way to fight back. Bottom line: You can fight Voter ID and other voter-suppression tactics without the voting-rights act. But it's definitely
harder. The trial for a permanent injunction begins July 15th, 2013, here in Pennsylvania.
This brings us as to why we need as many judges in the federal court system as possible. The truth of the matter is that the Senate leadership has to change the filibuster -- even if it's only a narrow change that just changes it for presidential appointments and judicial seats -- in order to fight for the voting rights of blacks, Latinos, seniors, and pretty much every other voting demographic of the Democratic Party. It really should have been done earlier. You might even want to eliminate the filibuster for everything or at least make Charles Grassley speak for 80 hours straight in order to do things. How about getting 60 votes to stop everything? Use your discretion and common sense, Harry.
But here are the stakes. All of the nine states, presumably the worst states although there were voter-ID laws introduced pretty much everywhere or read this Brennan Center report, are within circuits that not only have vacancies for judge seats but also have vacancies on the more powerful appeals courts.
It's not just that the more judges that are appointed by Obama increases your odds of having a decent decision. You also have a chance to stack the appeals courts. Some are out of reach such as the fifth circuit where evil Texas lurks and where Republicans have a 10-to-5 appeals-court majority. But there are two vacancies in that appeals court so as of now it would seem to be a good idea to fill those vacancies. Furthermore, I believe there are 8 vacancies within the ranks of the district judges. These need to be filled immediately!
Likewise, even though democrats control the appeals-court majorities in the ninth, eleventh, and fourth circuits, there are vacancies in all those circuits except the fourth. Not to mention the other circuits where there are vacancies which is all with the exception of four appeals courts as of June 21, 2013. The more judges that are appointed by the president the better your chances of winning these kinds of suits. In some cases you can't pick your federal judge as its done by some kind of lottery system. In other cases you can. I think I picked a Unitarian appointed by Jimmy Carter in one of my federal cases. I did pretty well.
It really needs to be done now. Tell Harry Reid to change the filibuster so that we can appoint judges that respect the rights of minorities and/or democrats to vote. The president's only legacy could be his appointments. I hope he understands. Yes I know that the Penny Pritzker/Fracking/Banking lobby runs the White House but I don't understand why. Barack Obama isn't running for reelection. Perhaps, quite frankly, he needed that coalition financially to win in 2008 and 2012. But he doesn't need it now. Unless the president is on the post-presidential-wealth road. I suppose if you want Goldman Sachs to give you several hundred thousand in speaking fees post presidency you might want not to ever prosecute them for theft or slow down the appointment of judges that might recognize even a white-collar thief. I hope that's not the reason although a net worth of $100 million does sound nice. A not bought-off black president -- who really cared about the voting rights of people who got him elected twice -- would fight to remove the filibuster every single day. That president (non-bought-off I hope) might also want to make it easier to strike down voter suppression at the federal level at least so the Democratic Party can retake the House in 2014. That way you could leave a real legacy with legislation. I'd like to think the president has thought of this already. But I'm not sure.
So let's give the president some public encouragement. It looks like he needs it.
Sign the petition. End the Filibuster Harry Reid. Appoint judges. Protect Voting Rights. Related: Also sign the Daily Kos petition urging Harry Reid to make the real filibuster a talking filibuster. Sort of related: Yes this would affect my case against Gidas Flowers and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC). Somewhat related: You can read a summary about my complaints against the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC) here. You can read the complete statement against the somewhat shoddy work of Catherine Leete and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC) here.