Archives

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder will announce today that the Justice Department is renewing enforcement of the Voting Rights Act in an effort to blunt the impact of the Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder, the Washington Post is reporting.  That includes a possible DOJ lawsuit against North Carolina over the voting law changes pending in the General Assembly.

The decision to challenge state officials marks an aggressive effort to continue policing voting rights issues and follows a ruling by the court last month that invalidated a critical part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Justices threw out Section 5 of the landmark act, which protects minority voters by requiring certain states with a history of discrimination to be granted Justice Department or court approval before making voting law changes.

The DOJ attack will include efforts to “bail-in” jurisdictions having discriminatory voting laws, subjecting them to preclearance — as permitted under Section 3 of the Act.  The first test of that tactic will come in a pending Texas redistricting case — discussed in our story yesterday — where challengers have asked the court to consider their bail-in claim. The department will support that request and will likewise ask the judge there to require Texas to submit all voting law changes to the Justice Department for approval for a ten-year period because of its history of discrimination.

“It’s a pretty clear sign that a lawsuit against the Texas voter-ID law is also on the way,” Matthew Miller, a former Justice Department spokesman, said in the Post. Miller said Justice may also sue North Carolina if that state passes a new voter ID law.

 

Here’s more reaction to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on Tuesday to strike down a key provision of the Voting Right’s Act:

FFELE“I am deeply disappointed with the Supreme Court’s decision today… Today’s decision invalidating one of its core provisions upsets decades of well-established practices that help make sure voting is fair, especially in places where voting discrimination has been historically prevalent.”
- President Barack Obama

“The activist majority on the Supreme Court has taken the unprecedented step of taking over a uniquely legislative function in disregard of the extensive work of the legislative branch and substituting their own judgment for that of elected representatives.  The decision overturning Section 4 of the VRA leaves millions of Americans vulnerable to discrimination in the most fundamental right of citizenship—the right to vote.  I am deeply disappointed by the result they have reached and its impact on minority voters as well as the precedent they have set for disregarding the factual and political judgment of elected Members of Congress.”
-Congressman Mel Watt, 12th District of North Carolina

“It’s time to bring the Section 5 rulings into this century, not the last century.”
- N.C. Sen. Tom Apodaca, who adds a full voter ID bill will emerge from a Senate committee next week Read More

Uncategorized

 

why courts matterIn its 5-4 decision today in Shelby County v. Holder, the U.S. Supreme Court essentially gutted the requirement that covered jurisdictions with a history of voting discrimination (including 40 counties in North Carolina) seek approval from the federal government before making any changes to their voting laws or procedures.

In his opinion, joined by Justices Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, and Alito, Chief Justice John Roberts claimed that the Court was not invalidating the principle that preclearance can be required. Rather, he said, the Court was merely discarding the coverage formula used to determine which jurisdictions had the preclearance obligation:

Our decision in no way affects the permanent, nationwide ban on racial discrimination in voting found in [Section] 2. We issue no holding on [Section] 5 itself, only on the coverage formula. Congress may draft another formula based on current conditions.

The practical effect, though, is that preclearance is at least stalled until Congress enacts a new coverage formula — not likely to be a speedy process, if it occurs at all.

According to Adam Liptak at the New York Times, “The chances that the current Congress could reach agreement on where federal oversight is required are small, most analysts say.”

 

 

 

First decision: Koontz v. St. Johns River Water Management District, a takings case. In a 5-4 decision written by Justice Samuel Alito, Florida is reversed. Kagan dissents, joined by Breyer, Ginsburg and Sotomayor

Second decision: Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl.  Again by Justice Alito, and a victory for the adoptive parents, a loss for the biological father.  The holding: Assuming for the sake of argument that the biological father is a parent under the Indian Child Welfare Act, neither of the two sections at issue bars the termination of his parental rights.

Third decision:  Voting Rights Act — Shelby County v. Holder. In a 5-4 decision, Chief Justice John Roberts writes: “Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act is unconstitutional. Its formula can no longer be used as a basis for subjecting jurisdictions to preclearance.”

The Court further holds, though, that:

Our decision in no way affects the permanent, nationwide ban on racial discrimination in voting found in [Section] 2. We issue no holding on [Section] 5 itself, only on the coverage formula. Congress may draft another formula based on current conditions.

Per scotusblog, here’s the Shelby decision in plain English:

Today the Court issued its decision in Shelby County v. Holder, the challenge to the constitutionality of the preclearance provisions of the Voting Rights Act. That portion of the Act was designed to prevent discrimination in voting by requiring all state and local governments with a history of voting discrimination to get approval from the federal government before making any changes to their voting laws or procedures, no matter how small. In an opinion by Chief Justice John Roberts that was joined by Justices Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, and Alito, the Court did not invalidate the principle that preclearance can be required. But much more importantly, it held that Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, which sets out the formula that is used to determine which state and local governments must comply with Section 5’s preapproval requirement, is unconstitutional and can no longer be used. Thus, although Section 5 survives, it will have no actual effect unless and until Congress can enact a new statute to determine who should be covered by it.

 

Per their order entered on May 13, the three-judge panel handling the redistricting case will hold hearings today and tomorrow to consider specific factual issues before deciding the parties’ respective requests for judgment.

The judges have asked for testimony and additional evidence in two separate areas:

First, were challenged districts subject to the Voting Rights Act drawn in places where racially-polarized voting existed — i.e., where black voters in the minority of voters were unable to elect candidates of  their choice — and was the drawing of such districts a reasonable response under the Act?

And second, in certain districts not subject to the Act (Senate 31 and 32, House 51 and 54, Congressional 4 and 12), where a majority black voting population was not achieved during redistricting, is there additional evidence that race nonetheless was the predominant factor in drawing those districts?

The court has held in abeyance any ruling on these and other issues raised by the parties in their requests for judgment pending completion of these hearings.