Reactions to the Supreme Court's Voting Rights Act ruling

Reuters

News microphones wait to capture reactions from U.S. Supreme Court rulings outside the court building in Washington, June 25, 2013.

Article Highlights

  • The #SCOTUS decision to strike down section 4 of the Voting Rights Act restores a fundamental constitutional order.

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  • All 50 states are entitled to equal dignity and sovereignty under the law.

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  • The #SCOTUS decision in Shelby County v. Holder acknowledges that the South is a different place than it was in 1965.

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Visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute; author of "The Unintended Consequences of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act"; director of the Project on Fair Representation, an Alexandria-based not-for-profit legal defense foundation that provided counsel to Shelby County

The Supreme Court's decision to strike down Section 4 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act restores a fundamental constitutional order that America's laws must apply uniformly to each state and jurisdiction. All 50 states are entitled to equal dignity and sovereignty under the law.

While the Voting Rights Act was "a triumph for freedom as huge as any victory that has ever been known on the battlefield," as President Lyndon B. Johnson put it at the time of its adoption, the court's decision Tuesday acknowledges that the South is an altogether different place than it was in 1965. The affected jurisdictions should no longer be punished by the federal government for conditions that existed more than 40 years ago. The ruling represents a recognition by the Court of the enormous improvements in minority electoral opportunities in the states covered by the law. It also underscores Congress's failure to modernize the law in light of all these positive changes.

To clarify, the Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, the central tenet of which is a formula to determine which jurisdictions should be subject to the conditions of Section 5. That aspect of the legislation, which is still in effect and will be until 2031, requires that proposed voting changes in selected jurisdictions be pre-cleared by the U.S. attorney general or the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia to ensure that the suggested changes have neither the purpose, nor the effect, of discrimination based on race or color.

In 2009, the Supreme Court gave Congress the opportunity in Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District Number One v. Holder to revise the provisions of the Voting Rights Act that had been reauthorized in 2006. Yet neither Congress nor the Obama administration acted.

African Americans and Hispanics routinely win elections in majority-white districts in Texas, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina and other states. If Congress finds factual data showing that disenfranchisement of minorities is occurring in jurisdictions throughout the country, it can and should create new directives to deal with this injustice.

 

 

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