SCOTUS Hears Arguments on the Voting Rights Act

SCOTUS heard arguments today regarding the constitutionality of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which permits the federal government to block even minor election changes made by certain jurisdictions covered under the law, if those changes are deemed to reduce minority voting power. The covered jurisdictions, mostly in the South, are those with a history of racial discrimination.

It looks like the five “conservatives” on the Court are skeptical about the continuing validity of Section 5. When Congress reenacted the Voting Rights Act in 2006, it simply relied on justifications given for the Act in the 1960s. On this note, this is one of my favorite parts of the argument when Justice Kennedy questioned the Solicitor General about relying on the state of America in the 1960s:

GENERAL VERRILLI: I think the — the formula was — was rational and effective in 1965. The Court upheld it then, it upheld it three more times after that.

JUSTICE KENNEDY: Well, the Marshall Plan was very good, too, the Morale Act, the Northwest Ordinance, but times change.

Indeed they do. It is a hard sell that in 2013, in a country with a second-term black president, that the Southern states must still get federal approval before making changes in the elections law that might affect minority voting power.

The Washington Post has this article on the arguments of counsel and questions from the Justices.

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