SCOTUS Alters the Voting Rights Act

by Ryan on June 25, 2013

in Culture,Law

The Supreme Court struck down a controversial section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 which had recently been reauthorized by Congress in 2006.

While the most of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 still remains in effect, Section 4, which dealt with singling out particular states with a history of low black turnout and/or “tests and devices” like literacy tests to depress the minority vote, was determined to be no longer necessary by a 5-4 decision.

The usual justices voted for (Roberts, Alito, Scalia, Kennedy, and Thomas) or against (Breyer, Ginsberg, Sotomayor, and Kagan) tossing Section 4.  Part of Chief Justice Roberts’ opinion dealt with the fact that since this section has been in effect, it has had the benefit of having served its purpose.  From what I understand, individuals still have recourse against any perceived voting discrimination, and the states still have to seek federal approval for certain voting changes.  Amendments 15 (allowing blacks to vote) and 24 (abolishing the poll tax) are still in effect.  Also, states will have more freedom over voter id laws, for example.

Of course, Obama and Holder are “disappointed” and Jesse Jackson and crew are hinting at racism or actually saying racist things about Justice Thomas, who happens to be black and happened to vote with the majority!  Unfortunate, but not surprising.

My sense is that Roberts and the majority recognized that the part of the law in question, as well as the civil rights movement in general, did its job in eliminating “tests and devices” which once prohibited people from voting.  Ultimately, Congress needs to tweak Section 4 if it wishes to revive it.

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