The Roberts Court at 10

Campaign Finance and Voting Rights: Easier to Donate, Harder to Vote | Chapter 2


Justice is, at least superficially, a complicated one. But the story of his decisions in the area of campaign finance and voting isn’t. Since becoming Chief Justice in 2005, John Roberts and his conservative colleagues have transformed our democracy, moving the law dramatically to the right in campaign finance and voting rights cases. Under his tenure, the Supreme Court has made it easier for corporations and the wealthiest of Americans to spend huge sums of money to elect candidates to do their bidding, and harder for Americans to cast their vote on Election Day.

Since Roberts became Chief Justice, hardly a term has gone by without a major ruling sharply limiting campaign finance legislation. In a string of six rulings virtually all decided by 5-4 votes – three written by the Chief Justice himself – the Roberts Court has given corporations the right to spend unlimited sums of money in Citizens United v. FEC, struck down contributions limits designed to prevent the wealthiest of Americans from giving inordinate sums of money in McCutcheon v. FEC, and made it harder for government to enact public financing laws that empower small donors and combat corruption in cases such as Arizona Free Enterprise Club’s Freedom Club PAC v. Bennett. These rulings, together, make it difficult to enact new limits on the role of money in politics, even as corporations and the wealthiest of donors spend unprecedented sums of money – into the billions – to elect their favored candidates. The opinions of Chief Justice Roberts in the area of voting rights are especially stark by comparison. Roberts joined the 2008 ruling upholding Indiana’s voter-identification law and wrote the majority opinion in Shelby County v. Holder striking down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act and turning a blind eye to the Constitution’s express grant of power to Congress to protect the right to vote free from discrimination.


More from Voting Rights and Democracy

Voting Rights and Democracy
November 9, 2022

False claims about Pennsylvania mail-in ballot deadline circulate online

Social media posts claim a court ruling in the US state of Pennsylvania allows the...
By: David H. Gans, by Natalie Wade, Manon Jacob
Voting Rights and Democracy
October 26, 2022

RELEASE: New Constitutional Accountability Center Amicus Brief Shows That the So-Called Independent State Legislature Theory Is a Fabrication that Cannot Be Squared with Constitutional Text and History

WASHINGTON, DC – Earlier today, the Constitutional Accountability Center (CAC) filed a brief at the...
By: David H. Gans
Voting Rights and Democracy
October 19, 2022

Why US Courts Are Allowing Voters in 4 States to Use Rejected Congressional Maps

Voice of America
WASHINGTON — When midterm elections get under way next month, voters in several Republican-controlled states will...
By: David H. Gans, by Masood Farivar
Voting Rights and Democracy
October 4, 2022

Justice Jackson Takes Originalist Approach on Voting Rights

Bloomberg Law
Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson invoked the original meaning of the US Constitution in her first...
By: David H. Gans, by Kimberly Strawbridge Robinson
Voting Rights and Democracy
October 4, 2022

Further erosion of voter protections signaled by Supreme Court

Courthouse News Service
Weary of attacks on Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, the justices appeared more...
By: David H. Gans, by Kelsey Reichmann
Voting Rights and Democracy
October 4, 2022

RELEASE: Thanks to Justice Jackson, Progressive Originalism Emerged at the Supreme Court This Morning: CAC Reacts to Oral Argument in Alabama Redistricting Case

WASHINGTON, DC – Following oral argument at the Supreme Court this morning in Merrill v....
By: David H. Gans