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June 26, 2013 11:23 AM Marching Back Across the Bridge

By Ed Kilgore

With a kind of sick fascination, I’m trying to keep track with how rapidly southern Republicans take advantage of yesterday’s Supreme Court decision striking down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act to restrict the franchise. You’d think after years of claiming that Section 4 and Section 5 were unnecessary, they’d pause a decent interval before proving the point of voting rights advocates that prior review of voting changes in the Deep South were a practical necessity. But oh no, per this AP story from Bill Barrow:

Across the South, Republicans are working to take advantage of a new political landscape after a divided U.S. Supreme Court freed all or part of 15 states, many of them in the old Confederacy, from having to ask Washington’s permission before changing election procedures in jurisdictions with histories of discrimination.
After the high court announced its momentous ruling Tuesday, officials in Texas and Mississippi pledged to immediately implement laws requiring voters to show photo identification before getting a ballot. North Carolina Republicans promised they would quickly try to adopt a similar law. Florida now appears free to set its early voting hours however Gov. Rick Scott and the GOP Legislature please. And Georgia’s most populous county likely will use county commission districts that Republican state legislators drew over the objections of local Democrats.

Meanwhile, in Washington, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor was a lonely Republican voice indicating, however nonspecifically, an interest in congressional action to “fix” Section 4. From the House Speaker and the Senate Majority Leader, we’ve heard crickets. And across the South, we’ve heard cheers from Republicans eager to return to a time when the feds didn’t interfere with the sovereign ability of white southerners to decide who was worthy to vote. It’s like watching a tape of the 1965 march across the Edmund Pettis Bridge in Selma in reverse.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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