The Supreme Court has decided that changing Alabama’s Congressional districts three days before the filing date for the primaries might not be a good idea. They might be right, too.
But if we were to believe Vox and several other outlets, we would this is the reimposition of Jim Crow.
The background argument is on the shape of Alabama’s Congressional districts. This map has been designed to benefit the party that drew the maps. This is bad, normal, and is called gerrymandering. Everyone does it when they have the power to do so.
The effect of this current map is that Alabama is likely to have just one district where African Americans are the majority of voters and where it is likely that an African American will be returned. We’d also expect this to be a member of the Democratic Party, which is where the bias might come in. The argument is that the map should be drawn to make two such districts. Maybe this is righteous and just, too.
The Supreme Court has just ruled on this and said, in essence, run the elections on the current maps. This brings Vox to say: “ The Supreme Court’s newest attack on voting rights, explained.” “Attack” seems pretty strong to us. “A deeply alarming decision that suggests that the Court’s Republican majority is about to cut away one of the few parts of the Voting Rights Act that it hasn’t already gutted or killed,” it continues. So does that.
The decision doesn’t say that it’s OK to confront a Black voter with a newspaper in Hebrew to test literacy – and an actual example of what used to happen under Jim Crow. It says there’s a reasonable time limit before an election to make these sorts of complaints and demands for change. Elections are complicated things, once we’ve got close to them we should let them happen even if the rules aren’t perfect.
Vox then tells us that: “There’s still a fairly obvious problem with Kavanaugh’s opinion. Alabama will not elect its new slate of US House members until November. It’s now February — nine months before the date of the general election and more than three months before the state’s next primary election. The state simply is not in a “period close to an election,” unless we count the entirety of 2022, and therefore the entirety of any year in which an election is held, as “close to an election.” “ Which is one of those things that is not, not wholly and entirely, true.
The closing date for filing to run in the Republican primaries is Friday. That’s this Friday, February 11. Here.
As the Supreme Court actually details in its ruling:
The State says that those individuals and entities now do not know who will be running against whom in the primaries next month. Filing deadlines need to be met, but candidates cannot be sure what district they need to file for. Indeed, at this point, some potential candidates do not even know which district they live in. Nor do incumbents know if they now might be running against other incumbents in the upcoming primaries.
We’re not a court so we don’t know whether that’s entirely right in law. But we do know that that’s different from Vox saying that the state isn’t in a period close to an election. We’re also absolutely certain that the idea that this isn’t perfect but don’t mess it up even more right now isn’t the same as gutting the Voting Rights Act – or as is meant in emotional terms at least, reimposing Jim Crow.
Sadly this extremism in view is not limited to Vox. The Intercept and Vice make much the same points. “The Supreme Court just undercut Black voters’ power in Alabama—and signaled that it’s likely to further gut the Voting Rights Act. “ is from Vice. The Intercept gives us “Supreme Court’s Alabama Ruling Is Major Step Toward Dismantling Voting Rights Act”
Actually reading the ruling gives us – and, of course, any journalist interested in doing so – the information that it is standard that complaints about voting rules and regulations should not be dealt with when this will interfere, that is be too close to, the actual election itself. Which, as we’ve said, seems to start on Friday.
Quite why so many media outlets want to run with such an extreme version of the story is unknown of course. We’d run with the bias angle ourselves, that insistence that more D in the House is a good idea so anything said to boost that is a good idea. For we’d really prefer to believe that than that no one did check to see when the election started and how that links in with what’s actually in the case documents.