At Scotusblog, Tom Goldstein, too, is now coming to the conclusion that today’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the Voting Rights Act wasn’t the act of preservation that was first trumpeted:
Though the Supreme Court by a wide margin today formally declined to resolve a challenge to the constitutionality of Section 5, the reality is far different. The decision unambiguously served notice that the Justices are prepared to invalidate the statute as it stands.
Congress is now effectively on the clock: it has the period between now and the date that it decides a follow-on challenge by a covered jurisdiction that is not permitted to “bail out” of the statutory scheme to amend Section 5. If the statute remains the same by the time the next case arrives, the Court will invalidate the statute.
For U.S. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-Sharpsburg), it was a different metaphor, but the same conclusion:
“The court’s ruling in this case isn’t a home run for anybody. But the court did load the bases for a future case to hit a grand slam. A unanimous court said in pretty clear terms that Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act poses serious constitutional problems. Obviously, I wanted the court strike down Section 5.
I’m disappointed that the justices laid out the case for why the law is unconstitutional and then stopped short of tossing it. I do feel optimistic, however, that the court’s dim view of Section 5 means the law will not survive for the full length of its 25-year renewal. That’s good news.
U.S. Rep. John Lewis of Atlanta, naturally a vociferous advocate of the Voting Rights Act, chose to look at the bright side:
“I am glad to say that even after a significant constitutional challenge, the Voting Rights Act still stands. Section 5 remains a powerful tool for voters who believe their voting rights are being violated, and pre-clearance continues to be the most effective legal means voters have today to protect themselves from present-day discriminatory voting laws and practices….
“Before the Voting Rights Act was reauthorized in 2006, Congress developed a 16,000-page record that documented contemporary instances of voting discrimination in states throughout the country—not just Southern states but other states as well, like South Dakota and Arizona. Though we have made significant steps forward, this record proves that there are still many reasons today to maintain the protections offered by Section 5 of the VRA. We have come a great distance, but the struggle for voting rights in America is not over, and we should not rest until the voting process is fair, easy, and equally available to all citizens of this nation.
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