The case began in the early 1980s when the Democratic National Committee sued the RNC for voter suppression tactics that targeted about 45,000 people in low-income and minority areas. The RNC subjected minority voters in New Jersey to misleading election notices, the intimidating placement of off-duty police around polling places, and the unlawful practice of “voter caging” whereby unfounded voter challenge lists are compiled from returned mass direct mailings.
The case, DNC v. RNC, resulted in a 1982 decree in which the RNC agreed not to engage in voter caging and intimidation activities or to target minority voters.
Despite the consent decree, the RNC began using similar tricks in Louisiana in 1986. Under the guise of fraud prevention, the RNC facilitated voter caging programs and other tactics. Commenting on the program, Kris Wolfe, the Midwest RNC political director, sent a memo to Lanny Griffith, the Southern RNC political director, saying “I would guess this program will eliminate at least 60,000 to 80,000 folks from the rolls…If it’s a close race…this could keep the black vote down considerably.” The DNC filed a contempt motion to reopen the case and enjoin the RNC from conducting the Louisiana programs. Once again, the RNC voluntarily agreed to a consent decree rather than fight the claims in court. The result was a 1986 decree [PDF] in which the RNC agreed not to do any ballot security programs anywhere in the country without prior court approval.
More than 20 years later, on November 3, 2008, the RNC moved to terminate the 1982 and 1986 consent decrees. The RNC claims the consent decrees hamstring their efforts to combat voter fraud, despite the fact that voter fraud is less common than death by lightning.
Well, they got the Supreme Court. Now's as good a time as any to get "official" permission to suppress the vote again. Beats winning by actually getting more votes than the other guys, I guess.