How the Supreme Court’s 2022 term will help the Republican agenda

After overturning Roe v. Wade and erased the constitutional right to obtain a last-trimester abortion, the Supreme Court begins its new term this week, poised to weaken legal protections against discrimination. Make no mistake: five people, a mere majority on the ground, will fundamentally reshape our society over the next nine months.

On Tuesday, the second day in office, the court will hear a case that will define the power of the Voting Rights Act to prevent racially discriminatory redistricting plans. After the 2020 census, Alabama, like all other states, drew new legislative district lines. State lawmakers drew the lines for the House of Representatives so that only one of the seven districts would be a majority black district, even though blacks make up 27% of the state’s population.

Five people, a simple majority on the ground, will fundamentally reshape our society over the next nine months.

Registered voters, the Alabama Chapter of the NAACP, and others challenged this redistricting plan as illegally diluting the power of black voters. Essentially, they successfully argued in lower federal court that the plan consolidated many black voters into one district and dispersed other black voters to the other six districts. The legal problem is that such a plan prevents black voters from being able to elect the candidate of their choice in all but one constituency. This amounts to vote dilution, a violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. In January, a three-judge panel of trial court judges – two appointed by President Donald Trump and one appointed by President Bill Clinton – concluded that there was most likely a violation of the Human Rights Act. vote and told state lawmakers to redraw district lines to create two majority black neighborhoods.

But weeks later, five conservative Supreme Court justices, over objections from the three liberal justices and Chief Justice John Roberts, suspended that decision until the High Court could hear the case. The court’s conservative majority allowed Alabama to prepare for the midterm elections by using district lines that have already been declared a substantially probable violation of federal law — a chilling sign for voting rights under this court.

The Alabama case is not the only one dealing with discriminatory voting rights and redistricting. Before next summer, in what could be the most hard-hitting case of the term, the judges will decide whether to accept an extremist doctrine known as the “independent state legislature” theory. This argument indicates that only state lawmakers, not state court judges, have the final say on federal election issues, including redistricting.

Without state judicial review, federal judges are the only ones who can review the decisions of state legislators regarding federal elections and the nomination of presidential electors. But federal judges can only intervene when there is a question of federal law. And if, as expected, the court erodes federal suffrage protections, federal judges will not be able to act as a safety valve. In sum, if the Supreme Court is giving state legislators carte blanche to make decisions about federal elections, look for more racial and political gerrymandering of federal legislative district lines. This ends up diluting the right to vote, discriminating against voters based on their race or party affiliation.

These four cases will probably be the most striking examples of the disturbing direction of the current Supreme Court.

On Halloween, the court will approach racial discrimination from a very different angle. The court will hear oral arguments in two highly anticipated cases that ask whether colleges and universities can use race-based affirmative action programs as part of their admissions process. These programs are of course intended to help create more diverse student bodies and to help remedy an old system of discrimination. The current legal standard, established by the court in 2003, allows colleges and universities to use race as a factor in their admissions processes. But the fact that the court took the cases almost certainly indicates that the court wants to change the current law and find that race-based affirmative action violates the Constitution. There really is no reason to agree to hear these cases unless the court wants to change the current framework.

Finally, later this term, the tribunal will deal with another type of discrimination: discrimination based on membership of the LGBTQ community. In this case, an artist wants to refuse to design marriage websites for same-sex couples because she argues that same-sex marriage violates her religious beliefs. The legal issue for the would-be website designer is that a state anti-discrimination law prevents discrimination on the basis of, among other things, LGBTQ status. Expect the court to continue its trend of protecting those who express religious objections, even in the face of anti-discrimination laws.

These four cases — and the likely weakening of legal protections against discrimination — are likely to be the most stark examples of the current Supreme Court’s ominous direction. This tribunal does not steer our country to the right. At least five judges have and will continue to veer sharply to the right. And in the short term, there is no legal or political process to stop these purposefully unelected judges from erasing many of our legal protections against discrimination.

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