SCOTUS South Carolina Decision Isn't The Only Voting Right Fight To Watch | Crooked Media
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May 23, 2024
What A Day
SCOTUS South Carolina Decision Isn't The Only Voting Right Fight To Watch

In This Episode

  • The United States Supreme Court sided with Republicans in a decision over South Carolina’s disputed congressional map. Last year, a lower court ruled that the map was an unconstitutional racial gerrymander because it “exiled” thousands of Black voters from a district that was becoming increasingly competitive to make it safer for the Republican incumbent. On Thursday, The Supreme Court’s conservative majority reversed that decision in a ruling that will likely make it harder for Black voters to bring racial gerrymandering cases in the future. Marc Elias, longtime attorney for the Democratic Party and founder of the voting rights website Democracy Docket, breaks down some other big, ongoing fights over voting rights heading into the election.
  • And in headlines: The Department of Justice announced it’s suing Live Nation over an alleged monopoly of the entertainment industry, Senate Democrats launched an investigation into a meeting last month between oil companies and former president Donald Trump, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting a massive hurricane season this year.


Show Notes:



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Tre’vell Anderson: It’s Friday, May 24th. I’m Tre’vell Anderson. 


Priyanka Aribindi: And I’m Priyanka Aribindi and this is What a Day, the show where we are far more respectful of your time than the standing ovations at the Cannes Film Festival. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yes, they gave Kevin Costner’s new western movie a ten minute standing ovation. And I promise you, it ain’t that good. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, we are only demanding five over here, standing every time you listen to the show. [laughter] [music break] On today’s show, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration warns Americans about even more hurricanes and extreme storms this summer. Plus, Norfolk Southern, the train company behind the disastrous derailment in Ohio last year, has agreed to pay the federal government more than $300 million for cleanup efforts. 


Tre’vell Anderson: But first, the Supreme Court on Thursday sided with Republicans in a decision over South Carolina’s disputed congressional map. Last year, a lower court ruled that the map was an unconstitutional racial gerrymander. It said state GOP lawmakers had, quote, “exiled” thousands of Black voters from a district that was becoming increasingly competitive in order to make it safer for the incumbent, a white Republican. But on Thursday, the Supreme Court’s conservative majority reversed that decision and sent the case back to the lower court, giving the civil rights groups challenging South Carolina’s Republican map the opportunity to try again. But they need a different argument. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Well, right wing flag lover Justice Samuel Alito wrote the majority opinion here, so we were not off to a great start from the beginning. What did he write? 


Tre’vell Anderson: So he wrote that the groups that brought the case basically hadn’t done enough to prove that race and not politics, was the reason lawmakers moved these Black voters out of the district. Alito wrote, quote, “the circumstantial evidence falls far short of showing that race, not partisan preferences, drove the districting process. He also wrote that courts should give state legislatures the benefit of the doubt over claims they drew maps with discriminatory intent. To start with the assumption they were acting in, quote, “good faith,” which you know. Does he know American history? 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. Okay. Uh. The classic benefit of the doubt, which uh is all but certainly not deserved at all. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Listen. Not here. 


Priyanka Aribindi: No. The court has a history of preferring not to make decisions that will impact an upcoming election. So does this decision mean anything for the election we’ll be seeing in November? 


Tre’vell Anderson: In the short term, the court’s decision Thursday doesn’t really mean anything for the 2024 election. In March, a lower court said South Carolina would have to use the disputed map regardless of how the justices ruled, because there wasn’t enough time to redraw it. But in the long term, the consequences could be severe. The court’s decision will almost certainly make it harder for Black voters to win racial gerrymandering cases, since race and political affiliation, especially in the South, are so closely linked. And it’s really hard to disentangle them. But that’s what they’ll have to do now. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. Okay, so what did the liberal justices have to say about that? 


Tre’vell Anderson: Justice Elena Kagan wrote in her dissent for the three liberal justices, quote, “what a message to send to state legislators and mapmakers about racial gerrymandering. Those actors will often have an incentive to use race as a proxy to achieve partisan ends, and occasionally they might want to straight up suppress the electoral influence of minority voters. Go right ahead, this court says to states.” 


Priyanka Aribindi: But you know, like you said, while these South Carolina civil rights groups now face bigger hurdles to prove their case, it’s not completely dead. So where else are we seeing big fights over voting rights and ballot access right now? 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah, I have the same question. Priyanka. So I spoke with Marc Elias. He’s a long time attorney for the Democratic Party. He notched dozens of court wins against former President Trump and his allies in cases over the results of the 2020 election. And his firm currently represents the Democratic Committees for House, Senate, and State Legislative Races. He’s also the founder of the website Democracy Docket, which tracks these kinds of voting rights fights. I started by asking Marc about the places he’s keeping an eye on right now. 


Marc Elias: Yeah, so there are a lot of them. Look, Republicans know that their only chance of winning in November is to make it harder to vote and easier to cheat. And right now, we are definitely in the harder to vote part of the program. Republicans have filed are in court in 60 separate cases right now. So we have litigation in Wisconsin where we’re trying to restore the ability of voters to use drop boxes. We are fighting lawsuits in Arizona, where Republicans are trying to literally throw out the rule book, the election procedure manual. Uh. We are in court in Michigan. We are in court in Georgia. Like if you name a state, uh we are there. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely. I want to talk a little bit about being in court in Nevada, specifically, earlier this month, the Trump campaign and the RNC filed a lawsuit looking to block Nevada from counting Mail-In ballots received after Election Day. Nevada is likely to be one of the key swing states in this election. Can you give us an understanding of like, what’s the latest in this case? 


Marc Elias: Yeah. So first of all, I think it’s really important to note, as you did, that this is the first lawsuit that Donald Trump’s campaign has been involved in since the post- election in 2020. Right. So they saved their powder for this one. And what they are saying is that if you vote by mail, but due to post office delays due to something that is not your fault, right? Your ballot gets postmarked by election day so that no one here is talking about ballots cast after Election Day. These are ballots cast before Election Day. But because the Post office is slow, or the county office didn’t pick up the mail that morning, uh your ballot doesn’t get there until the day after the election. They want those ballots thrown out. This is the lawsuit that they have filed in Nevada. They have filed similar lawsuits in other states. I think that this is a prelude to a broader attack that the Trump campaign and the RNC want to bring against vote by mail generally, and really anything other than voting in person on Election Day. 


Tre’vell Anderson: And let’s talk about that, because the AP reported that the Nevada suit was the 83rd election related suit filed by the Republican Party. We are about six months or so away from Election Day. How is this Nevada suit, you know, reflective of a of a broader strategy on behalf of the party regarding restricting ballot access leading up to the election? 


Marc Elias: Just some numbers that will help illustrate this for your audience. In 2020, there were about 94 lawsuits filed before Election Day. There are right now 143 pending voting lawsuits in court. We are likely to hit probably someplace between 250 and 275, which is, you know, frankly, more than double, maybe triple of where we were just four years ago. And a lot of the growth we’ve seen has not been because there are more pro voting lawsuits filed, although there are marginally more pro voting lawsuits filed because we saw Republicans pass a series of voter suppression laws in 2021, in 2022, and 2023. But a lot of the growth that we are seeing are actually anti voting groups, voter suppression organizations, the Republican Party, but also their allies literally going to court to force voter purges to challenge laws that protect election workers. You know, we’re just seeing the other side use the courts a lot more to try to undermine free and fair elections. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Your firm represents the Democrats committees for House, Senate, and state legislative races. Talk to us a bit about what y’all are doing to kind of counter the RNC, the Trump campaign and their allies.


Marc Elias: Yeah. So look, my law firm, we are in court right now in more than 50 cases in 20 states. You know, we brought and won some really important redistricting cases. To make sure that Black voters have an opportunity to vote in legal districts in Alabama and Louisiana. And in Georgia, we, uh succeeded in redistricting litigation in New York. But on the voting front, you know, not only are we trying to restore drop boxes in the state Supreme Court in Wisconsin, we have won victories already this election cycle in Florida and in Georgia and in Montana, where, as you know, there’s a critical Senate race. We had a victory earlier this year in North Carolina, where there’ll be a very important governor’s race. So, you know, we look at this very holistically, not just in the context of what does it mean for a handful of swing states for president. But, you know, the goal here is to make sure that every eligible voter can cast their ballot and have it counted. And also to make sure in these other states where there are key swing House districts, legislative chambers, governors, and the U.S. Senate, you know, voters are protected there as well. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. And looking to after the election, where do you expect to see any big fights over how ballots are counted? 


Marc Elias: Yeah. So look, um in 2020, I was privileged uh to represent President Biden and the Democrats in the 60 plus lawsuits that Donald Trump brought to try to overturn the results of the election. We won all but one of those cases. And I think that the lesson we all need to take away from that is that we are going to see Republicans contest elections pretty much everywhere. You know, after 2022, we saw Republicans contest elections in Arizona, even though they had lost by wide margins. Donald Trump has recently said that he believes he won the election last time in Minnesota State, that he lost by 200,000 votes. He has said at a rally that he believes he’s going to win New York and New Jersey. So I think we have to listen to Donald Trump and the Republicans and take them literally and seriously, that they are going to contest the election results and try to stop the count, try to stop the lawful counting of ballots everywhere. You know, the big lie and election denialism is the thing that unites the modern Republican Party, and we need to be prepared for that to take place in every corner of this country. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. And how do you think that those kind of fights will look different, or I should say, perhaps even similar to what we saw after the 2020 election? 


Marc Elias: Look, so I’m quite worried. Um. First of all, our election systems were tested in 2020. And then when Democrats tried to pass meaningful election reform bills. Republicans block them. Right. So you have a lot of election officials who are tired. They retired. They don’t want to they don’t they don’t want to be part of this anymore. So you have a lot of vacancies, number one. Number two, you’ve had a lot of bad people. If you had a lot of good people get out. You had a lot of bad people try to get in. Right? Election deniers are trying to get into election offices. So that’s a problem. Number three, the Republican Party is all in this time. You know, last time, you know, there was always that sense that Donald Trump and the crazies were in charge. But you much more get a sense right now that the institutional Republican Party is shoulder to shoulder with Donald Trump in a way that it wasn’t necessarily after 2020. And then finally, let’s not forget, ultimately, when Donald Trump didn’t get what he wanted, he resorted to violence, right? We had a violent insurrection at the nation’s Capitol. And so all of the guardrails that were in place in 2020 that we thought the Republican Party might reestablish in 2021, in 2022 and 2023, we now know they ripped out. So I think we need to assume that we will see aggressive litigation and worse. And we, those of us who care about free and fair elections and about protecting democracy, we need to be prepared in court and in the court of public opinion and elsewhere to make sure that our institutions hold. 


Tre’vell Anderson: That was my conversation with Marc Elias, longtime attorney for the Democratic Party and founder of the voting rights website Democracy Docket. 


Priyanka Aribindi: That is the latest for now. We’ll get to some headlines in just a moment. But if you are enjoying our show, please make sure to subscribe and share it with your friends. We’ll be right back after some ads. [music break]




Tre’vell Anderson: Let’s get to some headlines. 


[sung] Headlines. 


Tre’vell Anderson: In important news for the Swifties out there. Hey Priyanka, how are you doing? Remember in 2022 when Ticketmaster had a meltdown while y’all were trying to buy Eras tour tickets? 


Priyanka Aribindi: I will never forget it. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Well, listen, the government listened to you all. The DOJ announced on Thursday that they are suing Live Nation, the world’s largest concert platform and the parent company of Ticketmaster, over an alleged monopoly of the entertainment industry. They say that Live Nation has been boxing out competitors, driving up prices and violating antitrust laws. Attorney General Merrick Garland said at a press conference Thursday that it is time to break it up. 


[clip of Attorney General Merrick Garland] Live Nation relies on unlawful, anti-competitive conduct to exercise its monopolistic control over the live events industry in the United States and over the fans, artists, independent promoters and venues that power the industry. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Live Nation responded to the suit in a statement on their website, saying, quote, “calling Ticketmaster a monopoly may be a PR win for the DOJ in the short term, but it will lose in court because it ignores the basic economics of live entertainment.” 


Priyanka Aribindi: Listen, I’m not a lawyer, so like my only response to that is to shut up. [laughter] I am on the side of the DOJ. I will be there at Live Nation with my pitchfork. They are going down. I’ve never rooted so hard for the government in my life. [laughter] Also on Thursday, Senate Democrats launched an investigation into a meeting last month between oil companies and former President Donald Trump. They are looking into the ethics of this alleged political quid pro quo that was put on the table. The Washington Post first reported on May 9th that these oil and gas execs offered the former president a deal. They would rake in a billion dollars for Trump’s campaign if he commits to reversing dozens of Biden’s pro-environmental policies if he’s elected. The Senate investigation is actually the second congressional inquiry into the alleged deal. Democrat Jamie Raskin, the head of the House Oversight Committee, requested information from the companies involved earlier this month, and Trump is still playing footsie with oil execs. At a fundraising event in Houston this week, he rambled about how he’d expand drilling projects if he wins the presidency. This man repeatedly, every single time tells us who he is. We should believe him. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely. Norfolk Southern, the owner of the train that derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, last year, has agreed to pay more than $310 million to settle with the federal government over the disaster. The crash caused hazardous materials and chemicals to spill into the small village, devastating its environment. According to the Justice Department and the Environmental Protection Agency, the money will go toward the ongoing effort to clean up the mess left behind after the disaster and improve rail safety in hopes of preventing other derailments. Last month, Norfolk Southern agreed to pay $600 million to East Palestine residents who were impacted by the derailment, not to mention the millions more they’ve already agreed to pay for other long term cleanup and recovery programs for the local community. Altogether, the railroad company is expected to pay close to $1.7 billion for its role in the disaster. 


Priyanka Aribindi: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, said on Thursday that forecasters are bracing for the highest ever hurricane season this year. According to the administration, they expect between eight to 13 hurricanes and more than two dozen named storms in the coming months. These extreme storms are likely to cause major damage when they make landfall. Hurricane season officially begins on June 1st, so now is a good time to start prepping. We’re talking bottled water, flashlights, batteries, all the things. If you need a master list, consult with Josie Duffy Rice. She is like the number one most prepared person for an emergency who I know. We gotta bring her on the program maybe as a special segment to discuss. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely. We can do that. Make sure y’all preparing now y’all. 


Priyanka Aribindi: And those are the headlines. 




Tre’vell Anderson: That is all for today. We are off on Monday for Memorial Day, but we’ll be back with you on Tuesday. And as always, if you like the show, make sure you subscribe. Leave a review. Launch your own presidential cash for oil scam and tell your friends to listen. 


Priyanka Aribindi: And if you are into reading and not just Justice Elena Kagan’s blistering dissents like me, What a Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at I’m Priyanka Aribindi. 


Tre’vell Anderson: I’m Tre’vell Anderson. 


[spoken together] And see you in hell Ticketmaster. 


Priyanka Aribindi: I will not be seeing you. I’m not going to be there. You’ll be there, not you. Ticketmaster. Ticketmaster will be there. We won’t. We will not. Got it. Just got all of it. [laughter] [music break]


Tre’vell Anderson: What a Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Our associate producers are Raven Yamamoto and Natalie Bettendorf. We had production help today from Michell Eloy, Greg Walters, and Julia Claire. Our showrunner is Erica Morrison and our executive producer is Adriene Hill. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.