Posted in: Politics

Voting Rights Act Faces Supreme Court Scrutiny

voting-rights

Today the Supreme Court will begin to determine the future of the Voting Rights Act as it hears arguments for and against the landmark piece of legislation born out of the Civil Rights Movement.

The Voting Rights Act has been widely viewed as the most effective civil rights legislation in American history and has been upheld five times by the Supreme Court. The issue at hand today is whether a certain provision, section 5, discriminates against the nine predominantly southern states and parts of several other states to which it exclusively applies.

The law requires that states and districts with a history of racial prejudice get approval from federal officials before making changes to voting laws. The intention was to prevent discriminatory voting procedures before they happen, such as placing polling places in intentionally inconvenient locations and creating purposely restrictive voting requirements. Areas affected by the law must seek permission from the Justice Department or a federal court before they can make changes that would affect voting procedure or voter turnout.

The case today is Shelby County v. Holder. Justice Sonya Sotomayor questioned whether Shelby County was the best part of the country to bring forth the case.

“Some parts of the South have changed,” Justice Sotomayor said. “Your county pretty much hasn’t. You may be the wrong party bringing this.”

The formula Congress created to cover areas of the country with a history of discrimination has not been changed since 1975 and relies on data from 1972. Justice Elena Kagan asserted that the formula seemed to be working pretty well, despite its age.

The law’s challengers now want to know if Congress violated the law when it reauthorized the Voting Rights Act without updating the decades-old formula. Reauthorization of the law in 2006 was astoundingly bipartisan, with the Senate voting unanimously and the House voting 390 to 33.

Justice Antonin Scalia views the continuation of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act as a perpetuation of racial entitlement and asserted that it was not the kind of question that could be left to Congress.

“Whenever a society adopts racial entitlements, it is very difficult to get out of them through the normal political processes,” Justice Scalia said.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, often considered a swing vote between the Supreme Court’s liberal and conservative justices, also questioned whether the law was valid today.

“The Marshall Plan was very good, too — the Northwest Ordinance, the Morrill Act — but times change,” Justice Kennedy said.

Chief Justice John Roberts pointed out that Massachusetts currently has the worst black turnout in elections when compared with whites, in contrast with Mississippi, which currently has the best.

“Is it the government’s submission that the citizens in the South are more racist than the citizens in the North?” Chief Justice Roberts asked

supreme-court-voting-rights-act

Whichever way the justices lean on this matter, a decision is not expected until June. The Supreme Court may decide to strike Section 5 down as unconstitutional or send the law back to Congress.

The Voting Rights Act was first passed in 1965 and outlawed discriminatory voting practices that had led to widespread disenfranchisement of African Americans for nearly a century after the end of the Civil War. The act was passed after a hard-fought Civil Rights campaign and was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson a year after the the Civil Rights Act. The Supreme Court hearing on the Voting Rights Act today came just over an hour after President Barack Obama and members of Congress unveiled a statue of Rosa Parks in the nearby US Capitol.


[Images via ShutterStock]

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5 Responses to “Voting Rights Act Faces Supreme Court Scrutiny”

  1. Ajay Jain

    The Voting Rights Act (VRA) must be upheld by the supreme court: Discrimination is alive today unfortunately; Liberty and justice for all is openly sabotaged and the Supreme Court is inviting trouble of great magnitudnal proportions if it dares to fail its ultimate mandate: to uphold everyone's constitutional rights. The entire nation will speak against it because the Voting Rights Act (VRA) is not about political parties; the Voting Rights Act (VRA) is about individual rights protection. Bank on it! it is time to review; the Supreme Court's "entitlements" as, it is no longer acting as an unbiased institution and that, your magistrates , can be amended. get up and do your job or we will make it happen! count on it! Now Even if you are dumb enough to believe that all is OK with the world and there are no reasons to have the voting rights law on the books. Then why are the the parties at opposite end's on this? Why are the Republicans in America trying to keep people from the poles? Well I will tell you what I think. I think there may be a dozen or two, man and women in America that have the means to buy the power it wants to call all shots in this Country. The only way they can obtain this right now is get the people they went in office. To buy them so to say. But they know they can be stopped at the voting polls.They know the more that get out and vote there chances are reduced substantially. George Will knows this and should be ashamed. He say 47 years old. Is that old? I don't think so. Look at the constitution, at that II Amendment a lot older right. SS, Medicare, still very new in the big picture. But look at who wants to change them. Not working men and women, no the big bosses. They do not like to mach payments that is what this is all about. They did not like it back in the 1930s and they do not like it now. So Americans do not be fooled and all of you older people that now have this little benefit fight like h— to keep it just as it is. It just might be all there is between eating and striving!

  2. Ajay Jain

    All the republicans crapping about Voting Rights Act (VRA) on this board and the likes of you in the REPUBLICAN House should move aside in 2014 because the REPUBLICANS are the crux of the problem. President Obama won the elections of 2008 AND 2012 fair and square but the REPUBLICANS are not allowing him to govern through their rule of RECORD number of filibusters in the Senate and the HOUSE of REPUBLICANS has achieved nothing since it came to power in 2010. In 2014 its the REPUBLICAN's time to go and let OBAMA our democratically elected PRESIDENT rule the country and leave a legacy behind like the achievements of the 2008-2010 years when DEMOCRATS had the House Senate and the Presidency. We want the obstructionist REPUBLICANS out of the way in 2014. We want our House and Senate back in the DEMOCRATIC hands so we can govern and achieve something. All these doomsday.

  3. Ajay Jain

    All the republicans crapping about Voting Rights Act (VRA) on this board and the likes of you in the REPUBLICAN House should move aside in 2014 because the REPUBLICANS are the crux of the problem. President Obama won the elections of 2008 AND 2012 fair and square but the REPUBLICANS are not allowing him to govern through their rule of RECORD number of filibusters in the Senate and the HOUSE of REPUBLICANS has achieved nothing since it came to power in 2010. In 2014 its the REPUBLICAN's time to go and let OBAMA our democratically elected PRESIDENT rule the country and leave a legacy behind like the achievements of the 2008-2010 years when DEMOCRATS had the House Senate and the Presidency. We want the obstructionist REPUBLICANS out of the way in 2014. We want our House and Senate back in the DEMOCRATIC hands so we can govern and achieve something. All these doomsday deadlines that REPUBLICANS keep pushing on the country will haunt them in 2014! Mark my words. March 1st 2013. Vote Democratic always!

  4. Ajay Jain

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