SCOTUS Strikes Down Major Sections of Voting Rights Act

A story that doesn't directly impact Colorado, but nonetheless of major importance–Washington Post:

The Supreme Court on Tuesday freed states from special federal oversight under the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965, saying the data Congress used to identify the states covered by it was outdated and unfair.

The vote was 5 to 4, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and the other conservative members of the court in the majority.

The court did not strike down a provision allowing special federal oversight but said Congress must come up with a new formula based on current data to identify which states should be covered. Proponents of the law, which protects minority voting rights, have said it will be extremely difficult for a Congress bitterly divided along partisan lines to come up with such an agreement. [Pols emphasis]

The act currently covers the southern states of Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia, as well as Alaska and Arizona, and parts of seven other states. It requires them to receive “pre-clearance” from either the attorney general or federal judges before making any changes to election or voting laws.

Reaction to today's 5-4 ruling from Rep. Diana DeGette of Colorado:

“Today is a sad day. I am deeply disappointed in the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act. The Act has played a critical role in assuring voter equity for almost 50 years, and today’s action by the Court undermines that progress. The right to vote is the most fundamental right of our democracy, and I am saddened and angry that the Supreme Court today took steps to undermine that right for millions of Americans.”

Colorado Senate Majority Leader Morgan Carroll summarized the bottom line today:

There is about 0% chance that Congress can re-enact a new formula under Section 4.

Despite the acknowledgement by the court that "pre-clearance" protections still are needed in areas of the country historically subject to voting discrimination, there is very little chance that the Republican-controlled House will take any meaningful action to satisfy the court's requirement for a new formula to determine where such additional protection is necessary. In short, even if the Supreme Court is correct that criteria from 1965 is no longer fully applicable today, our busted Congress is very unlikely unable to do anything about it.

The end result, no protections, could be far worse than outdated protections.

16 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. This is a reflection of the thinking in Citizens United: the Court finds something it thinks isn't 100% about the current law, invalidates the whole thing, then expects the dysfunctional Congress to fix it.

    What are the chances that the city of Shelby would have escaped preclearance under any new map that was reasonably researched? My guess: 0% – under any reasonable map, the plaintiff would have still been covered by preclearance requirements. This case should never have come before the Court IMHO, for lack of reasonable expectation of success on appeal.

  2. DavieDavie says:

    The only new formula envisoned by SCOTUS and the House is:

    "If Republicans like us take away your vote, well, you didn't need it anyway"

    "Corporations are People too"

    "Guns are more important than lives, except if you are a zygote"

  3. The real consequences here will be in affected states who figure they can now get away with a mid-term redistricting gerrymander that screws minority voters. The DOJ can still sue under Section 2, but it's a lot harder to do that than to prevent the screwing under Section 5.

  4. DaftPunkDaftPunk says:

    As an issue of jurisprudence I find curious the rationale of invalidating congressional findings.  Historically courts have given great deference to legislative fact-finding.

    I haven't read today's decision, but I compare it to the decision in Gonzales v. Carhart:

    The court found that there is "uncertainty [in the medical community] over whether the barred procedure is ever necessary to preserve a woman's health"; and in the past the court "has given state and federal legislatures wide discretion to pass legislation in areas where there is medical and scientific uncertainty."[2] Nevertheless, an editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine identified the case as a landmark: "This is the first time the Court has ever held that physicians can be prohibited from using a medical procedure deemed necessary by the physician to benefit the patient's health."[5]

    In one case, the court held that bad data can be used to restrict liberties, and in the other, that bad data cannot be used to protect liberties.  If one defines judicial activism as results-oriented jurisprudence which seeks a rationale to arrive at the desired decision, this surely qualifies as such an act.


  5. Diogenesdemar says:

    Isn't it amazing that those five fuckers didn't have any problem recently  upholding Congress's writing of mandatory arbitration legislation ????

    … Nah !!!!!

  6. ParkHill says:

    Why is this a constitutional issue as opposed to a legislative one?

    15th Ammendment:

    Section 1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States of by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.

    Section 2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

    • They found that the legislation wasn't "appropriate" – that it was, essentially, based on antiquated data and that there were few voter discrimination cases in the areas designated, so it couldn't be "appropriate" any more.

      Of course, the reason why there was so little discrimination wouldn't have to do with the DOJ actually using its preclearance powers to prevent discrimination now, would it?

    • Republican 36 says:

      Park Hill I agree with you. The 15th Amendment gives the Congress the power to pass laws to enforce it. Today the Supreme Court decided that sovereign equality between the states trumps an individuals right to vote even though Congress enacts and the federal courts, including the U.S. Supeme Court, regularly uphold laws that impact only a few states or one region of the nation. The majority's logic is rather silly and is a ruse. There are many, many laws on the books whose original factual underpinnings no longer exist but the reason the law was enacted still does and the Voting Rights Act fits into that category. The voter suppression laws we've seen the Republicans enacting across the nation, based on the unfounded assumption that illegal aliens are voting in droves, is a perfect example as to why the VRA should remain untouched by the Supreme Court. As Phoenix Rising points out below, the Texas Attorney General immediately announced that Texas will enforce not only voter ID statutes but it can now draw congressional district lines in a manner that is discriminatory. The U.S. Supreme Court, in the name of equal sovereignty between the states, has endorsed a policy that gives free rein to those who would suppress the right to vote among certain kinds of people. They have endorsed the return of discrimination which was exactly what the VRA was designed to prevent. Whether the same factual basis that existed in 1965 exists today is irrelevant. The majority should be ashamed of themselves. 

  7. Gray in Mountains says:

    I have read hundreds of Supreme Court decisions. I am always amazed when they are so able to ignore what is clearly going on all over the country and being widely reported such as voter suppression. This is a nasty blow to democratic values

  8. And so it begins: Texas AG Greg Abbott has declared that the discriminatory voter ID law that had been held up because it failed preclearance would now go forward without delay.

    I'm guessing they'll be following up by giving the finger to the DOJ regarding their prejudicial redistricting maps, too.

    • AristotleAristotle says:

      Texas is an absolutely fascinating look at the one party system Republicans there are truly implementing. From rampant executions to rewriting history to this… If you thought fascism couldn't happen anywhere in America, well, it is happening in Texas.

      • ParkHill says:

        2020 will be the Demographic Winter of Texas Discontent.

        • Diogenesdemar says:

          Ahem … assuming that those "Demographics" are permitted to have their vote …

          • roccoprahn says:

            Right. No argument there.

            Although it looks like the one person filibuster by courageous Democratic Senator Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth), who was kangaroo courted by tex-ASS reds into ending it, was called instrumental nonetheless in running out the clock on the asinine and primitive anti-choice legislation proposed by the republicans.

            Good for her. The only way the Bill comes up again this go around is if thick rick calls an "emergency session". And with his 500 executions schedule, I wonder if he will.

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