Some experts say the U.S. Supreme Court’s announcement Friday that it will hear a case challenging the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act’s Section 5 means this pivotal part of the 47-year-old law is dead and the court is finally ready to bury it. Some members of the court have complained about Section 5 in more than one case since Congress last renewed the VRA in 2006. Section 5 requires some states — the key is some, not all — to get permission, or “pre-clearance,” from the Justice Department or a federal court before changing their election laws. The affected states, including Texas, are those determined under the act to have a history of discriminating against minority voters. Most are in the South.
“Coming after the reelection of an African-American president and rising minority turnout, I have little doubt these justices will say, as [Chief Justice John] Roberts said in a campaign finance case, ‘Enough is enough.'” law professor Rick Hasen wrote on the Election Law Blog. (bit.ly/T24lzF)
Hasen said previous election law cases show that Roberts won’t shy away from his conservative leanings this time, as some say he did in his now-famous opinion upholding most of the “Obamacare” Affordable Care Act this year.
“I don’t expect statesmanship or blinking from Court conservatives this time,” Hasen wrote.
But wait. Very recent federal court rulings found discrimination against minority voters in Texas cases on political redistricting and voter ID. Both of those rulings came under Section 5, and neither action was allowed to go forward as the Legislature had approved it.
So if Section 5 goes away, what protects minority voters in Texas against similar legislative misdeeds?