Before dawn on Saturday morning, the Supreme Court issued a terse, unsigned ruling that, in effect, endorsed Texas’s voter-ID law, the most restrictive such law in the nation.
On October 9, in a 147-page opinion that followed a two-week trial on the facts, the Federal District Court in Corpus Christi had struck down the law, known as Senate Bill 14, as patently discriminatory, the equivalent of a poll tax. A week later that court’s injunction was overturned by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Appeals Court for the Fifth Circuit. It was this stay of the injunction — in effect a decision to let the voter-ID law go into effect — that the Supreme Court left in place in on Saturday with its 57-word decision. The decision did not articulate the Court’s reasoning, but a blistering dissent made clear that its basis was not Senate Bill 14, but rather the confusion that a change so close to the election might create.
How is it possible that, given overwhelming public concern about the direction of the country, we could be facing historically low turnout in the midterm elections on Nov. 4?
The question isn’t new. As trust in government has swung up and down in the past half century, turnout for midterm races, as in presidential years, has varied relatively little, each staying within a 10-point range. Studies of nonvoters have found many reasons, but one of the big ones is that people know a single vote rarely if ever determines the outcome of an election.
For the past few weeks, as Scotland debated the wisdom of independence, Reuters has been asking Americans how they would feel about declaring independence today, not from the United Kingdom, but from the mother country they left England to create. The exact wording of the question was, “Do you support or oppose the idea of your state peacefully withdrawing from the United States of America and the federal government?”
It was hard to imagine many people would support secession. Forget the fact that the cautionary lesson of the Civil War is top of mind for many people as we commemorate its 150th anniversary; just in terms of dollars and cents, who in their right minds would give up all the money they’ve already paid into the Social Security and Medicare systems? Besides, most states get more back from the federal government than they put in.