“Times change,” said Justice Anthony Kennedy, the Supreme Court’s swing vote.
[pullquote_right]“Perpetuation of racial entitlement,” Justice Antonin Scalia called Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.[/pullquote_right]
“Is it the government’s submission that the citizens in the South are more racist than the citizens in the North?” Chief Justice John Roberts asked Solicitor General Donald Verrilli.
With that, it was made clear this morning at the U.S. Supreme Court that Sections 4 and 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act are in jeopardy. Conservative justices on the Supreme Court, most notably Justice Kennedy, questioned whether the law was still relevant during oral arguments in the case of Shelby County vs. Holder.
“Following through on the deep constitutional concerns stated in its prior Northwest Austin decision, a majority of the Court seems committed to invalidating Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act and requiring Congress to revisit the formula for requiring preclearance of voting changes. The vote seems quite likely to be five to four,” reported Tom Goldstein of SCOTUS blog.
Voting rights and voting ID laws were a huge issue during the last year as President Obama made his way to re-election. Over thirty states across the U.S. suddenly decided that it was time to change their voting laws and strengthen requirements for people to cast a vote at the ballot box.
“It’s an old disease. It’s gotten a lot better. A lot better. But it’s still there,” said Justice Stephen Breyer as he talked on efforts to stop minorities from voting. If today’s vote breakdown is any evidence, the vote will be 5-4 in favor or Shelby County and against the Department of Justice.
“I think it’s a safe prediction to say that the Voting Rights Act as it now stands is not going to survive. It’s clear there are five votes to strike down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act. The question is how far will the Supreme Court go,” reported NBC justice correspondent Pete Williams.
National Urban League President Marc Morial argued the Roberts court would be the second version of the court that decided the Plessy vs. Ferguson case.
”The arguments that we heard this morning gives us cause to pause and hope that we will not have to return to the streets to secure voting rights,” said Rev. Al Sharpton. In a case of fascinating timing, a dedication of the Rosa Parks statue took place at the same time the U.S. Supreme Court began oral arguments on a case that could gut a cornerstone of voting rights in America.