Wednesday, January 09, 2008

When is a Supreme Court Justice No Longer a Supreme Court Justice?

When they become political hacks for their party, that’s when.

In their infinite wisdom, the Framers of our constitution saw fit to make the term of Supreme Court Justice for life. That, they reasoned, would prevent Justices from being swayed in their opinion by threats of losing their job. Historically this was a good move as it gave lots of Justices free rein to rule as they saw the rule of law, rather than how it might or might not affect those aligned with their political beliefs.

But like everything else these days, we are now being shown that Supreme Court Justices no longer hold themselves above the political fray. As a matter of fact, now that a political void has opened, with the exit of Karl Rove, Bush’s henchman who brainstormed voter suppression techniques all over the country, someone has risen to fill that void: Supreme Court Justices.

Case in point: the Supreme Court is currently hearing a case brought by the Indiana Democratic Party, a case that challenges the constitutionality of a voter id law recently passed by the Indiana legislature. This law requires that all voters in Indiana present a photo ID of themselves upon entering their polling place. A valid photo ID is necessary in Indiana in order to cast a ballot in that state.

The argument went there, as it went in Texas during this past legislative session, that having a voter photo ID with an expiration date would prevent voter fraud. Never mind the fact that a case of voter fraud had never been documented in Indiana. No, Democratic Party lawyers argued, the law was specifically targeting the poor who had no cars to drive, or the elderly who were no longer driving – both groups likely Democratic voters.

Seems like a one-two punch and down for the count, doesn’t it? And if we had an apolitical Supreme Court, that would be the case. But no. According to this Washington Post article, certain Justices are paying too much attention to some things, and not enough attention to others:

“The state of Indiana said the law, which requires voters to present a government-issued photo ID with an expiration date, was approved to prevent fraud by impersonators. Smith noted that the state has never prosecuted such a fraud case, but Roberts said that is because ‘it is a type of fraud that's hard to detect.’ “

“Roberts seemed more interested in a lower court's finding that those challenging the law had not found ‘a single person’' who had tried to vote but was turned away because of the law.”

There. Chief Justice Roberts is apparently cooking up statistics that don’t exist about a fraud that is “hard to detect” – and because it is hard to detect it is all that more insidious so we must redouble our efforts to prevent this. And then, almost in the same breath, declared that the photo ID law fair because no one who tried to vote was ever turned away because of the law.

And that would be logical on its face if it were not for the fact that the intent of the photo ID law was to discourage voters from ever showing up at the polls. That is the reason the law went into effect, you know. Not to turn away voters, but to preclude them from showing up altogether.

So of course there was no evidence of turning away voters. There was no one to record that evidence.

Reason number seven thousand four hundred and eighty-nine to vote a straight Democratic ticket: now it’s not just the House, the Senate and the entire Executive branch that Americans fear will do away with their rights as citizens. Now, the icon that was, in the past, the last bastion that Americans had to uphold their rights has been compromised by those who crave to hold on to power, even in the face of thundering opposition by a majority of Americans.

Haven’t we all had enough yet?

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