"Activist" Supreme Court Strikes Down Key Provision of Voting Rights Act

by Paul Siciliano


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Okay, I am being a little tongue and cheek calling the conservative justices "activist" in today's 5-4 ruling Shelby County v. Holder  (my analysis here).  No, I am not being tongue and cheek here.  In this case, the Supreme Court decided it's judgment as to where extra scrutiny of changes to voting laws is needed is superior to that of the U.S. Congress.  

Basically, the majority did not approve of Congress just retaining the covered jurisdictions it has had for preclearance for the past 40 years.  Congress needs to update the law.  That may be true, but that is something for Congress to decide, and they did so in 2006.  The re-authorization of the Voting Rights Act came after extensive hearings and debates.  There was evidence that many of those covered jurisdictions continued to propose suspect voting changes.  Those jurisdictions were represented in Congress and could have voted against the bill or seek such changes.  The bill also allowed for jurisdictions to "bail out" of the preclearance requirement if it had complied with the Voting Rights Act for a period of time.

To me, this is a matter of institutional competence, and Congress is more competent to make this determination.  The U.S. Supreme Court should have deferred to Congressional will in this matter.  Although Justice Robert's narrowed the decision to still allow for preclearance, practically it is dead until Congress acts (and we know that will never happen).  Shameful!