United States Supreme Court Issues Voting Rights Act Decision

The United States Supreme Court issued its opinion in Shelby County, Ala. v. Holder, holding that a key provision of the Voting Rights Act (“VRA”) is unconstitutional. Listed below are the key paragraphs explaining the Court’s decision.

Striking down an Act of Congress “is the gravest and most delicate duty that this Court is called on to perform.” Blodgett v. Holden, 275 U. S. 142, 148 (1927) (Holmes, J., concurring). We do not do so lightly. That is why, in 2009, we took care to avoid ruling on the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act when asked to do so, and instead resolved the case

United States Supreme Court

United States Supreme Court

then before us on statutory grounds. But in issuing that decision, we expressed our broader concerns about the constitutionality of the Act. Congress could have updated the coverage formula at that time, but did not do so. Its failure to act leaves us today with no choice but to declare §4(b) unconstitutional. The formula in that section can no longer be used as a basis for subjecting jurisdictions to preclearance.

Our decision in no way affects the permanent, nationwide ban on racial discrimination in voting found in §2. We issue no holding on §5 itself, only on the coverage formula. Congress may draft another formula based on current conditions. Such a formula is an initial prerequisite to a determination that exceptional conditions still exist justifying such an “extraordinary departure from the traditional course of relations between the States and the Federal Government.” Presley, 502 U. S., at 500–501. Our country has changed, and while any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks to current conditions.

While section 4(b) of the VRA was found unconstitutional by the Court, sections 2 and 5 remain.  It is now up to Congress whether it will create a new coverage formula.

Also, here are a few articles discussing today’s opinion:

The New York Times, Supreme Court Strikes Down Key Part of Voting Rights Act

Washington Post, Supreme Court Stops Use of Key Part of Voting Rights Act

POLITICO, Supreme Court Strikes Down Key Voting Rights Provision

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