The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that a key provision of the landmark Voting Rights Act cannot be enforced unless Congress comes up with a new way of determining which states and localities require federal monitoring of elections. The justices said in 5-4 vote that the law Congress most recently renewed in 2006 relies on 40-year-old data that does not reflect racial progress and changes in U.S. society. 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 the justices did say lawmakers must update the formula for determining which parts of the country must seek Washington’s approval, in advance, for election changes. Chief Justice John Roberts said for the conservative majority that Congress “may draft another formula based on current conditions.”
A deeply divided Supreme Court has limited use of a key provision in the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965, in effect invalidating the key enforcement provision that applies to all or parts of 15 states with past history of voter discrimination. The case involved Section 5, which gives federal authorities open-ended oversight of states and localities with a history of voter discrimination. Any changes in voting laws and procedures in the covered areas — which include all or parts of 16 states — must be “pre-cleared” with Washington.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday struck down a key part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 — the map that determines which states must get federal permission before they change their voting laws. Civil rights activists called the decision devastating, and a dissenting justice said it amounted to the “demolition” of the law, widely considered the most important piece of civil rights legislation in American history. The ruling, a 5-4 decision by Chief Justice John Roberts, leaves the future of the law deeply uncertain because it will be up to a sharply divided Congress to redraw the map, if it can agree on one at all. “In practice, in reality, it’s probably the death knell of this provision,” said Tom Goldstein, the publisher of SCOTUSblog and a Supreme Court analyst for NBC News. … Roberts cited census data showing that black voter turnout now exceeds white turnout in five of the six states originally covered by the law. “Our country has changed, and while any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks to current conditions,” Roberts wrote for the court.
With the Supreme Court’s ruling Tuesday on the Voting Rights Act, Mississippi and Texas announced they’re ready to move forward with their controversial voter identification laws. Eleven states in the past two years have approved laws that would require voters to show identification at voting booths. But Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act required some of those states with a history of voter discrimination to get “precleared” by the federal government before making any changes to voting laws. A separate part of the law known as Section 4 relies on a federal formula to determine which states would be covered under that “preclearance” regime. Requests by Texas and Mississippi for clearance in their voter ID laws were pending with the federal government when the high court struck down the constitutionality of the act’s Section 4 on Tuesday, which also appears to have nullified Section 5.
Black and Hispanic lawmakers are infuriated by Tuesday’s Supreme Court decision striking down a key provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, calling it a huge setback for the political rights — and influence — of minority voters. These minority lawmakers believe there eventually could be an effort by Republican-controlled legislatures in some Southern states to challenge majority-minority congressional districts, threatening the power of African-Americans, Hispanic and minority lawmakers. Democratic leaders and rank-and-file members also see little chance that the current Congress — with its deep partisan divisions and GOP-controlled House — will do anything to address the high court’s ruling or the concerns of minority groups nationwide. “Today, an activist Supreme Court cynically legislating from the bench in Jim Crow style, engaged in an historic overreach, ignoring their own precedents and disregarding clear and convincing evidence of ongoing discrimination at the polls,” declared Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.).
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote a fiery dissent to the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision Tuesday striking down the part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that determines which cities and states need to seek approval from the Department of Justice before changing their voting laws. The provision was designed to focus attention on areas with a history of discrimination. “Hubris is a fit word for today’s demolition of the VRA,” Ginsburg wrote. Here are five key excerpts from her dissent:
“When confronting the most constitutionally invidious form of discrimination, and the most fundamental right in our democratic system, Congress’ power to act is at its height.”
“Demand for a record of violations equivalent to the one earlier made would expose Congress to a catch-22. If the statute was working, there would be less evidence of discrimination, so opponents might argue that Congress should not be allowed to renew the statute. In contrast, if the statute was not working, there would be plenty of evidence of discrimination, but scant reason to renew a failed regulatory regime.”
“Just as buildings in California have a greater need to be earthquake proofed, places where there is greater racial polarization in voting have a greater need for prophylactic measures to prevent purposeful race discrimination.”
In an opinion brimming with a self-confidence that he hides behind a cloak of judicial minimalism, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., writing for a conservative Supreme Court majority in Shelby County v. Holder, cripples Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. The court pretends it is not striking down the act but merely sending the law back to Congress for tweaking; it imagines that Congress forced its hand; and it fantasizes that voting discrimination in the South is a thing of the past. None of this is true. In the Shelby decision, we see a somewhat more open version of a pattern that is characteristic of the Roberts court, in which the conservative justices tee up major constitutional issues for dramatic reversal. First the court wrecked campaign finance law in Citizens United. On Tuesday it took away a crown jewel of the civil rights movement. And as we saw in Monday’s Fisher case, affirmative action is next in line, even if the court wants to wait another year or two to pull the trigger. Imagine striking down affirmative action and the Voting Rights Act in the same week!
Editorials: Supreme Court and the Voting Rights Act: Goodbye to Section 5 | Heather Gerken/Slate Magazine
The Supreme Court struck down the crown jewel of the Civil Rights movement today. Section 5 was the most powerful tool in the movement’s arsenal. Although I’m a law professor and thus supposed to be opining on the court’s decision and Congress’ potential response, I want to spend a little time mourning Section 5’s passing before hashing out the consequences. To understand why Section 5 was special, you have to know a bit about its history. The brutal attacks on civil rights marchers crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge provided the push needed to pass the Voting Rights Act. When the Voting Rights Act passed in 1965, almost no African-Americans were registered to vote in the Deep South due to brutal repression and sickening legal chicanery. Civil rights litigators and the Department of Justice were doing their best to help. They filed lawsuit after lawsuit to make it possible for blacks to register. But every time a court deemed one discriminatory practice illegal, local officials would switch to another. Literacy tests, poll taxes, burdensome registration requirements—these techniques were all used to prevent African-Americans from voting. Southern voting registrars would even resign from their positions as soon as a lawsuit was on the cusp of succeeding, thereby sending the case back to square one. The Voting Rights Act aimed to change all of this.
I have called the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA) a “sacred symbol” of American democracy. For that reason, the Supreme Court’s momentous decision holding unconstitutional a part of the Act – Section 4, for short — that had continued to apply, nearly fifty years later, uniquely to the South, is itself laden with deep symbolic meaning. But what is that meaning? In truth, the decision will express such radically different meanings to different people that we will not be able to forge common ground regarding even the threshold question of what the decision is “about.” Starting from such irreconcilable symbolic places, any discussion of the actual opinions themselves will be almost beside the point.
The preclearance provision of the Voting Rights Act required that all or part of 15 states submit their election changes to federal officials for approval. Today, five members of the Court ruled that the Section 4 coverage formula of the Voting Rights Act is unconstitutional and can no longer be used to require that areas preclear their election rules with federal officials. The Court invalidated the coverage formula because the Justices believed the formula was based on outdated election data from the 1960s and 1970s. Today’s Supreme Court decision is a setback for democracy. Unfortunately, today’s decision gives politicians even more power to unfairly manipulate election rules and target Americans based on how they look or talk. There is overwhelming evidence that unfair voting rules remain a very real threat—too many political operatives currently manipulate rules to diminish the voices of growing minority communities.
Mississippi voters could have to start showing photo identification at the polls by the June 2014 federal primaries, Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said Tuesday after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled certain state and local governments no longer need federal approval to change their own election laws or procedures. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 has required Mississippi and other areas with a history of racial discrimination, mainly in the South, to get clearance for changes as large as implementing a voter ID law to as small as relocating a precinct. Justices said the Voting Rights Act does not reflect racial progress made in the United States over the past 48 years, even after it was last renewed in 2006. They said the preclearance portion of the law can’t be enforced unless Congress comes up with a new formula to determine which state or local governments should be covered, based on what Chief Justice John Roberts called “current conditions” in the United States.
New Jersey: Legislation To Allow In-Person Early Voting During Special Election Advances | Politicker NJ
Legislation sponsored by Senator Nia H. Gill to improve access to the polls and maximize turnout in the fall elections by giving voters the opportunity to vote early during the Special Election called by Governor Christie, at the same polling place, for the November General Election was advanced today by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee. The measure is scheduled to be considered today by the full Assembly. “The governor has created a confusing election schedule for New Jersey voters by calling a Special Election in mid-October, and in the process is wasting $12 million in taxpayer money,” said Senator Gill (D-Essex and Passaic). “His decision will mean two elections will be held just weeks apart, which may lead to decreased voter participation. The least we can do is provide voters the opportunity to cast their ballots for the General Election on the same day, which will ensure a more convenient alternative for voters and improved access to the polls.”
Voter identification legislation in North Carolina will pick up steam again now that the U.S. Supreme Court has struck down part of the Voting Rights Act, a key General Assembly leader said Tuesday. A bill requiring voters to present one of several forms of state-issued photo ID starting in 2016 cleared the House two months ago, but it’s been sitting since in the Senate Rules Committee to wait for a ruling by the justices in an Alabama case, according to Sen. Tom Apodaca, R-Henderson, the committee chairman. He said a bill will now be rolled out in the Senate next week. The ruling essentially means a voter ID or other election legislation approved in this year’s session probably won’t have to receive advance approval by U.S. Justice Department attorneys or a federal court before such measures can be carried out. “I guess we’re safe in saying this decision was what we were expecting,” Apodaca said in an interview.
Officials in Texas said they would rush ahead with a controversial voter ID law that critics say will make it more difficult for ethnic minority citizens to vote, hours after the US supreme court released them from anti-discrimination constraints that have been in place for almost half a century. The Texas attorney general, Greg Abbott, declared that in the light of the supreme court’s judgment striking down a key element of the 1965 Voting Rights Act he was implementing instantly the voter ID law that had previously blocked by the Obama administration. “With today’s decision, the state’s voter ID law will take effect immediately. Photo identification will now be required when voting in elections in Texas.” The provocative speed with which Texas has raced to embrace its new freedoms underlines the high-stakes nature of the supreme court ruling. Civil rights leaders declared the judgment to be a major setback to the fight against race discrimination in the south that has been a running sore in the US since the civil war. “This is devastating,” the reverend Al Sharpton told MSNBC. Benjamin Todd Jealous, president of the NAACP, called the outcome “outrageous. The court’s majority put politics over decades of precedent and the rights of voters. We are more vulnerable to the flood of attacks we have seen in recent years.”
The European Union on Tuesday congratulated Albania for its “overall orderly” parliamentary election despite violent incidents, but urged the Balkan country to complete the process in accordance with international norms. “We condemn the reported cases of violence and expect that these incidents will be fully investigated and perpetrators brought to justice,” the EU‘s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, and Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule said. “Now it is important that the remaining stages of the election process are conducted in line with EU and international standards,” they said.
Polls have opened for the Mongolian presidential election, with surveys suggesting incumbent Tsakhia Elbegdorj will win a second term. All three candidates are promising fairer wealth distribution from a mining boom. Voters in Mongolia went to the polls on Wednesday morning with election campaigning dominated by a national debate over mineral rights. Recent polls indicate that President Elbegdorj will retain the presidency, campaigning on a policy of using foreign cash to drive development. Since he was elected for a first term in 2009, Elbegdorj has also led a drive against corruption.Elbegdorj’s main challenger is likely to be Mongolian People’s Party (MPP) candidate Baterdene Badmaanyambuu, a former champion wrestler. Baterdene – who is particularly popular among rural voters – has portrayed himself as being committed to upholding national unity and has helped to draw up a new environmental protection law amid concern about the ravages of the recent mining boom.
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai yesterday filed an application at the Constitutional Court of Zimbabwe seeking to nullify the proclamation by President Mugabe setting July 31 as the date for the harmonised elections. The application came as MDC-T delegates from the country’s 10 provinces gathered in Harare to sign Mr Tsvangirai’s nomination papers ahead of the sitting of the Nomination Court at Mapondera Building on Thursday. It also followed a recent meeting the MDC-T convened in the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights boardroom earlier this month to brainstorm on what it called “Strategic Election Litigation” designed to increase the workload of the Constitutional Court to prevent it from dealing with cases on time.