Breaking: Supreme Court strikes down a key provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act; Updated

This is a big decision, and a victory for state’s rights advocates. Basically the ruling eliminates the requirement that states with a history of prior abuses get pre-approval from the DOJ before they can make changes to their voting laws. Today in Shelby County v. Holder, a majority of the justices weren’t buying Holder’s argument that states shouldn’t be allowed to exercise sovereignty over their own election laws because they may have discriminated in the 1950s or 1960s. There has to be evidence that such discrimination is occurring now. Sounds like common sense to me but, naturally, the Court’s liberal members dissented. Stephen Dinan at the Washington Times has more.

In a decision that marks the end of a major civil rights-era reform, the Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that the federal government can no longer force states and jurisdictions with a long-past history of voting discrimination to have to get federal approval for all of their voting laws.

The 5-4 ruling rewrites a key tool of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which for five decades has given the federal government unprecedented say in everything from how some states draw their congressional maps to where they place polling locations.

But beneath the legal ruling is a broader social significance, with the justices saying that past discrimination cannot be perpetually held against a state.

“The Fifteenth Amendment commands that the right to vote shall not be denied or abridged on account of race or color, and it gives Congress the power to enforce that command. The amendment is not designed to punish for the past; its purpose is to ensure a better future,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote for the majority.

The court’s four liberal-leaning justices dissented.

Update: Ed Morrissey’s take on today’s ruling:

The relevant argument is that the VRA departs from the basic principle of state sovereignty before applying law, at least under the old model in Section 4 for pre-clearance.  In order for the VRA to interfere with state sovereignty, Congress has to identify where racial discrimination in voting access is so endemic as to require that kind of intervention now, and not 50 years ago…

Update II: Read the decision here.

Update III: Via USA Today, Obama and Biden are “deeply disappointed” with the Supreme Court. They are clearly unhappy that Eric Holder has lost some of his ability to stop states from preventing voter fraud, something the Democrat Party relies on to win elections. I can only guess what the reaction will be on MSNBC to today’s ruling.

Update IV: Here’s Holder lamenting the Supreme Court’s decision as something that will “negatively impact the voting rights of millions of Americans”.

That’s odd. Not a partisan issue? Well, it certainly shouldn’t be. But I don’t remember Holder being particularly concerned about actual voter intimidation by the Black Panthers. I guess for Holder, partisan thuggery like that is just fine as long as it helps Democrats, but allowing states to make their own voting laws is a “serious and unnecessary setback”. Right.

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