You’ve probably heard about what a lousy couple of weeks it’s been for Republican voter restriction laws. Texas, Michigan, Kansas, Wisconsin and especially North Carolina, all controlled by Republicans, all got their collective asses handed to them by federal judges.
But what you haven’t heard much about is WHO these federal judges are or why they’re suddenly striking down the GOP’s voter suppression schemes. Would it surprise you to find out that many of these judges were appointed by President Obama? It’s true!
In the Texas ruling, 15 judges heard the case and 9 of them ruled against the “draconian” Voter Id laws that Republicans rushed to pass after the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act. Of the 9 judges that struck down the law, 3 were from Obama and 1 was from Clinton. The rest were G.W. Bush and Reagan. It’s important to note that the other 6 judges that supported the law were all appointed by Reagan and Bush as well and without the 4 Obama and Clinton appointments, the law would almost certainly still stand.
In Michigan, U.S. District Court Judge Gershwin A. Drain, appointed by Obama, not only struck down a law designed specifically to increase the time it takes the black community to vote (thus making the already long lines even longer) but she was also quite clear that the reasoning behind the law was “tenuous at best.”
And in North Carolina, the three judges that annihilated the overtly racist voter restriction law were appointed by Obama (2) and Clinton (1). This ruling is the most important because it didn’t just find the law unconstitutional, it called attention to the flagrant nature of the law:
In response to claims that intentional racial discrimination animated its action, the State offered only meager justifications. Although the new provisions target African Americans with almost surgical precision, they constitute inapt remedies for the problems assertedly justifying them and, in fact, impose cures for problems that did not exist. Thus the asserted justifications cannot and do not conceal the State’s true motivation. “In essence,” as in League of United Latin American Citizens v. Perry (LULAC), 548 U.S. 399, 440 (2006), “the State took away [minority voters’] opportunity because [they] were about to exercise it.” As in LULAC, “[t]his bears the mark of intentional discrimination.” Id.
Faced with this record, we can only conclude that the North Carolina General Assembly enacted the challenged provisions of the law with discriminatory intent. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the district court to the contrary and remand with instructions to enjoin the challenged provisions of the law.
It doesn’t get any clearer than that.
But why are all these cases going so badly for Republicans now? They’ve been suppressing votes since 2010 when they took full control of a number of state legislative bodies.
2 reasons: 1. Obama has appointed a LOT of judges and 2. The Supreme Court can no longer overrule them.
There are 179 seats on the Court of Appeals, the last stop before the Supreme Court, and 55 of those seats are filled by Obama appointees. 10 seats are not filled because Republicans are blocking any further nominations but that still leaves an entire third appointed by Obama.
There are also about 677 District Court (a step below the Court of Appeals) seats, 263 of which are filled by Obama appointees. Again, a little more than a third. All of them lifetime appointees.
This is a radical swing of the judiciary to the left. Even if Obama went out of his way to appoint centrist judges (which he did not), Republicans tend to put right wing ideologues in lifetime appointments and even a move to the center is still a massive leftward movement for the country.
And on top of all of this lovely news is the fact that the Supreme Court is no longer dominated by a conservative wing. This frees the lower courts to strike down all of the egregious voter suppression Republicans have passed because they know that even if the highest court in the land deadlocks, the original ruling will stand.
Republicans call this “legislating from the bench” but the rest of us call it “upholding the Constitution.”
Long after Obama is gone from the White House, his judicial appointees will continue to solidify and advance his evil liberal agenda of securing people’s rights. It’s Obama’s last laugh and it’s a hearty laugh indeed.
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