Congress has what it takes to achieve universal suffrage
Re “The Supreme Court’s starring role in democracy’s demise” (Opinion, Sept. 7): Professor Carol Anderson suggests, in her excellent piece, that a new amendment to the Constitution may be necessary to achieve universal suffrage. Yet the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments all expressly direct Congress to pass legislation enforcing, and, of necessity, interpreting these amendments.
The sad fact is that when the court issued the Williams v. Mississippi decision in 1898, many in the North had lost interest in the plight of Black Americans in the South. So the court’s decision was accepted. The understanding of the public is very different now. The entire populace, with the exception of a small racist fringe, believes that every citizen has the right to vote. Even today’s Supreme Court would be reluctant to challenge Congress by taking a position so contrary to the national consensus.
So there is a path forward. Congress should pass a Voting Rights Act that applies uniformly to every state. A constitutional amendment is not necessary to achieve universal suffrage. Just a Congress that is willing to assert the current will and understanding of the people.
High court has had a problem with democracy for decades
Racism in America certainly has been abetted by the Supreme Court (“The Supreme Court’s starring role in democracy’s demise”). But the problem goes even deeper — the Supreme Court seems to have a problem with democracy itself.
In 1875, the Supreme Court denied a woman named Virginia Minor the right to vote, effectively banning half the population from voting. It took 45 years to overturn that antidemocratic decision with the passage of the 19th Amendment.
In 1937, the Supreme Court prevented millions of poor people from voting by legalizing poll taxes. That antidemocratic decision was overturned in 1964 by the 24th Amendment, which banned poll taxes.
In 1970, the Supreme Court upheld states’ right to prevent service members under the age of 21 from voting in state and local elections. The very next year, that antidemocratic decision was overturned by the 26th Amendment, lowering the voting age to 18.
More recently, a series of antidemocratic Supreme Court decisions, such as Citizens United v. FEC, have extended our inalienable constitutional rights to corporations and opened the floodgates to big money in politics, degrading our democracy into an oligarchy of, by, and for wealthy elites. Overturning those antidemocratic decisions will require another constitutional amendment.