Op-EdOpinion

KIPPINS: Recent Attacks on Voting Rights Underscore the Need for a Black Woman Supreme Court Justice

With voting rights under attack, we need Supreme Court justices who will follow the clear commands of our Constitution’s voting rights amendments now more than ever. Across the country, Black women are leading the charge to protect our democracy — in our communities, in Congress, and in our courtrooms.

It is time for America to have its first Black woman justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Attacks on voting rights in the wake of the 2020 election are so numerous that it’s easy to lose track. Right now, the Supreme Court is considering a case that the conservative justices are likely to use either to strike down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act or to narrow its enforcement so much that states will be able to get away with even more voter suppression than they already do.

There is a long history of voter suppression coming from the conservative majority on the Supreme Court. Many of the worst abuses that target Black Americans’ ability to vote today follow from a 2013 Supreme Court decision that ignored the plain text of the Fifteenth Amendment and gutted the Voting Rights Act, opening the floodgates for politicians to employ tactics that would have previously been blocked. Racist voter roll purges, voter ID laws, and poll closures are just some examples of the kinds of abuses that have been sanctioned or enabled by the conservative justices on the Supreme Court.

Attacks on protections for voting rights are not the only anti-democracy rulings from the conservative justices that disproportionately hurt communities of color. In decision after decision, they swept aside the Constitution’s text and history, and Supreme Court precedent, to lift limits on spending in elections, giving an outsized voice to the overwhelmingly white and male group of ultra-wealthy Americans with the means to spend big influencing elections.

We need a plan to fight back, and that plan needs to include Black women in decision-making positions throughout our constitutional democracy, both federal and state, in legislative, executive, and judicial branches. Black women have been at the forefront of the fight to outsmart and out-organize the Republican voter suppression machine. That’s not surprising; Black women have led the fight for a real democracy for centuries, and we have a unique position from which to understand the intersecting forms of oppression that can shut people out of the democratic process. Now we need a Black woman on the Supreme Court who will champion our rights and our experiences.

As we strategize about the future of voting rights, we have to remember the courts as a key part of that strategy, and that means we need a pro-democracy Black woman in the room when the courts are making decisions about our voting rights.

In the entire history of our judicial system, no Black woman has ever been nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court. For this country’s entire history, the Court’s decisions about cases critical to our rights and our freedoms have been decided without a single Black woman in the room.

We’re making sure Black women everywhere know how important it is to have a Black woman justice to stand up for our democracy and our rights. I’m proud to be a part of the SheWillRise campaign to raise awareness about the need for a Black woman justice and build a movement of Americans ready to demand her confirmation, because the democracy we leave the next generation depends on all of us fighting back against the assault on our democracy now.


Kristine A. Kippins is the Constitutional Accountability Center’s director of policy and a member of the SheWillRise Collective.

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