« Initial thoughts on the resignation of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor | Main | Texas: Dems' attorney wants TAB records »

Why the replacement for Justice O'Connor is important to voting rights lawyers

Rick Hasen writes in the New Republic Online: No doubt the coming Senate hearings to confirm Sandra Day O'Connor's successor will focus on hot-button issues like affirmative action and abortion. This is understandable, of course, since O'Connor's replacement with a more conservative justice could mark a change in direction for the Court on these topics--two years ago, for instance, she granted a twenty-five year reprieve to affirmative action programs, and a few years before that she was the decisive vote in striking down state bans on partial birth abortion.

But while these issues will grab the headlines, O'Connor's departure from the Court could have equally startling consequences in an area of the law that may not even come up during the Senate hearings: election law. It is possible, even likely, that her resignation will lead to both the deregulation of campaign financing and a serious challenge to major parts of the Voting Rights Act. Such changes would, in turn, mean radical shifts in the way elections are conducted in the United States.

In 2003, O'Connor was the decisive fifth vote in McConnell v. FEC when the Court upheld McCain-Feingold, Congress's first major revamping of federal campaign finance law in a generation. In the case, she voted to bar political parties from collecting large soft-money contributions from corporations, unions, and wealthy individuals; she also endorsed limits on so-called issue ads, which corporations and unions had previously used as a backdoor way of participating in campaigns. -- The New Republic Online: Rock the Vote

Thanks to Rick Hasen who mentioned this piece on his blog this morning.