The week was dominated by the announcement of several Supreme Court decisions, one of which invalidated Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, effectively eliminating the ‘pre-clearance’ provisions of Section 5. Response to the decisions was swift, with several States announcing decisions to implement voter ID requirements within hours of the ruling. While lawmakers began considering steps to be take to revive Section 5 protections, the prospect for Congressional action is bleak. In addition to voter ID, the release from pre-clearance made the use of lever machines in New York City municipal elections this Fall almost certain and set the stage for a new redistricting battle in Texas. President Obama nominated two new commissioners for the Federal Election Commission and his commission on election reform held its first public hearing in Miami. Testimony presented at the hearing is available here. Protests against the Malaysian Election Commission continued as it was revealed that food coloring had been used instead of indelible ink in the May elections.
On its last day of the term, the Supreme Court delivered two more blows to the Voting Rights Act. Two days ago, the court ruled that the law’s key provision, which requires several states to pre-clear voting changes with the government, was invalid. Then on Thursday, it vacated two voter discrimination cases in Texas that could have long-term repercussions in the battle for voting rights. Here’s what happened: Texas had appealed two rulings by the D.C. federal court — one blocking a set of 2011 redistricting maps, and another blocking its voter ID law — that found both policies were discriminatory under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. On Thursday, the Supreme Court sent both cases back to the federal court for “further consideration” in light of its decision to strike down the VRA’s pre-clearance formula. That means the federal court will most likely have to reverse both decisions, given that pre-clearance no longer exists.