A divided Supreme Court on Tuesday invalidated a crucial component of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965, ruling that Congress has not taken into account the nation’s racial progress when singling out certain states for federal oversight. The vote was 5-4, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and the other conservative members of the court in the majority. The court did not strike down the law itself or the provision that calls for special scrutiny of states with a history of discrimination. But it said Congress must come up with a new formula based on current data to determine which states should be subject to the requirements. Proponents of the law, which protects minority voting rights, called the ruling a death knell. It will be almost impossible for a Congress bitterly divided along partisan lines to come up with such an agreement, they said. There could be immediate consequences from the court’s ruling. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said his state would move forward with a voter-ID law that had been stopped by a panel of federal judges and would carry out redistricting changes that had been mired in court battles.
In Pennsylvania, a Philadelphia elections lawyer, Kevin Greenberg, said the decision would have no direct impact on the commonwealth, since it was not one of the states or other jurisdictions requiring Justice Department review of any changes in election law or procedures.
But he said the ruling was another indication of the court’s deference to state election laws – one of the reasons that opponents of Pennsylvania’s voter-ID law chose last year to fight it in state courts instead of federal court.
The act covers Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia, as well as Alaska, Arizona, and parts of seven other states. It requires them to receive “preclearance” from the U.S. attorney general or federal judges before making any changes to election or voting laws.
Roberts said the court had warned Congress four years ago that its decision to continue using a formula based on “40-year-old facts” would lead to serious constitutional questions.
“Congress could have updated the coverage formula at that time, but did not do so,” Roberts wrote in Shelby County (Ala.) v. Holder. “Its failure to act leaves us today with no choice but to declare [the formula] unconstitutional.”
Full Article: Voting Rights Act: What Now? – Philly.com.