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March 7, 2015

Supreme Court Strikes Down Key Piece of Voting Rights Act

In a 5-to-4 split, the Supreme Court has found Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional, ruling that the formula by which states, counties, and localities are selected for preclearance of all changes to election laws and procedures by the Justice Department is based on outdated data.

Here are the opinions in Shelby County v. Holder. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority, Justice Clarence Thomas concurred, and Justice Ginsburg wrote the dissent.

NBC News: “Congress has renewed it four times, most recently in 2006, with overwhelming margins in both houses. But the law still uses election data from 1972 to determine which states, cities and counties are covered.”

Associated Press: “The court did not strike down the advance approval requirement of the law that has been used, mainly in the South, to open up polling places to minority voters in the nearly half century since it was first enacted in 1965. But they said lawmakers must update the formula for determining which parts of the country must seek Washington’s approval for election changes.”

  • PhilSimms

    Good luck trying to get Congress to agree on that new map/formula. NEVER gonna happen. The voting rights act is now DEAD.

    • DownriverDem

      Gee, with the voting scams we saw in 2012 who could think that we don’t need the law? I am white and can see it very clearly.

    • easton

      Dead for the time being. It will come back and after one of the conservative fossils dies off he will be replaced by a liberal and this will be overturned. A court that disregards precedents has no expectation that there precedents will be upheld.

  • CJR

    I sincerely hope Congress makes it universal.
    Restricting voting rights is no longer a regional issue. It’s nationwide at this point.
    But, I doubt this Congress will be able to pass a resolution honoring Abraham Lincoln.

  • Chredon

    I guess that clears the field for states to impose voting restrictions on the poor and minorities again.

  • Lorehead

    This is becoming a common tactic of the Republicans on the Court. (Scalia doesn’t like being called that, but sometimes he slips and says “Republicans” or “Democrats” himself.) Declare that Congress needs a do-over on the technicalities, and then count on the Republicans in Congress to obstruct it.

  • serena1313

    Actually the Supreme Court struck down Section 4 on the grounds the formula
    (used to determine what states must be pre-cleared) is “outdated,” not
    Section 5 which gives the federal government the power to require pre-approval.

    So absent Section 4, the core of the VRA, Section 5 is
    essentially rendered moot until Congress updates the formula.
    But given the acrimonious political climate permeating the halls of
    Congress reaching an agreement anytime in the foreseeable future is
    highly unlikely. And the states with the worst record of voter
    discrimination are once again free to impose voting restrictions

    It is instructive to note, too, that since last Tuesday’s ruling, four
    of the nine states: Texas, Mississippi, South Carolina and Virgina are reinstating voter laws and gerrymandered maps that were
    previously blocked by the DoJ & the federal courts.

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