Today in Shelby County v. Holder, the Supreme Court struck down a key part of the Voting Right Act of 1965, however, it wasn’t the part everyone thought would be struck down. The VRA has a special provision called Section 5, which required jurisdictions with a history of unfair election practices that deprived minority populations of their right to vote to submit any changes in voting rules (chiefly regarding redistricting) for approval to the Justice Department BEFORE they took effect. Most of these covered jurisdictions were in the South:
Section 4 provides the formula that determines which jurisdictions above are blue and which are gray, and it was that provision of the VRA that SCOTUS struck down. In a 5-4 decision, and despite overwhelming Congressional approval as recently as 2006, SCOTUS declared that the preclearance formula was the problem. This result was actually presaged by Northwest Austin v. Holder, decided by the court in 2009 when it held that the VRA “imposes current burdens and must be justified by current needs” and concluded that “a departure from the fundamental principle of equal sovereignty requires a showing that a statute’s disparate geographic coverage is sufficiently related to the problem that it targets.” 557 U. S., at 203.
Thus, Shelby County went the rest of the way and said that any preclearance restriction must be based upon current data, and current decision making. Congress, of course, can create a new formula, but that seems entirely unlikely.
And this from Georgia’s Attorney General:
Attorney General Sam Olens released the following statement regarding the decision by the Supreme Court of the United States in Shelby County v. Holder.
“When the Voting Rights Act was passed in the 1960s, several states and local jurisdictions, including Georgia, discriminated against minority voters. Discrimination is wrong, and Section 5 was an appropriate response.
I am pleased, however, that the Supreme Court recognized today that, “[n]early 50 years later, things have changed dramatically.”
The Voting Rights Act will continue to protect the rights of all voters in all states, but will no longer treat some states differently based on outdated formulas that, thankfully, no longer reflect current practices.
Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act makes clear that racial discrimination in voting is illegal nationwide, and remains a strong and effective tool to counter discrimination.”