You don’t throw away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you’re not getting wet.
The late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg shared that obvious piece of wisdom in a dissenting opinion in a 2013 case called Shelby County v. Holder. In that case, the Court struck down a portion of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and its 2006 reauthorization. That law had required certain states to obtain preclearance from federal authorities before changing their voting laws. Congress had imposed this requirement on certain states, such as Georgia, with a history of racial discrimination against voters. The purpose of the approval requirement was to demonstrate that the change did not deny or abridge the right to vote based on race. Justice Ginsburg’s dissent warned that this law remained necessary to “guard against backsliding” and she illustrated this point with her famous umbrella analogy.
Right now in Georgia, it’s not just raining, it’s pouring, and there’s no umbrella to be found. Last week, the Georgia legislature enacted new restrictions on voting that critics say will reduce voter turnout, with a disproportionate impact on Black voters. New provisions include, among other things, limiting the number of ballot drop boxes, restricting the use of provisional ballots, banning mobile voting, requiring a photocopy of identification documents to accompany mail-in ballots, and making it a crime to provide food or water to voters waiting in line. Drop boxes and mobile voting have been heavily used in Fulton County, a majority-Black county that is also the state’s most populous. President Joe Biden said that the new legislation “makes Jim Crow look like Jim Eagle.” OK, maybe that analogy lacks the eloquence of Justice Ginsburg’s umbrella line, but you get the point — this is a serious act of discrimination against Black voters.