5:47pm February 27, 2013

Section 5 in Jeopardy as Kennedy, Scalia and Roberts Question Vote Protections


imes change,” said Justice Anthony Kennedy, the Supreme Court’s swing vote.

“Perpetuation of racial entitlement,” Justice Antonin Scalia called Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.

“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.

About the Author

Lauren Victoria Burke
Lauren Victoria Burke
Lauren Victoria Burke is an opinion journalist, comms expert and political analyst focused on justice reform policy. She created Crewof42.com, a blog that covers the work of Black members of Congress, in 2009. Ms. Burke was a staffer for the Senate Democratic Policy Committee and Director of Communications for Rep. Andre Carson (D-IN). She has had a very diverse career in politics and media and appears regularly on NewsOneNow with Roland Martin, Hardball and Up on MSNBC, WVON in Chicago, WURD in Philadelphia and WOL and WHUR in Washington, D.C. She is currently the Managing Editor of Politic365 and a contributing writer for TheRoot and NBC Black where she writes opinion and analysis. Additionally, Ms. Burke has been a contract photographer for Associated Press since 2004. She has authored three books of photography including two on President Obama's 2008 campaign for the presidency and one with Marvel Comics publisher Stan Lee. Ms. Burke was born in the Bronx, New York and grew up on Long Island. She holds a B.A. in History from The American University. Here e-mail is: LBurke007@gmail.com. Twitter: @LVBurke. Instagram: LVB325.



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One Comment

  1. Realista

    How can Justice Scalia say: “The Right to Vote may be a “racial entitlement”,

    Since by Definition: the Right to Vote does not preference one race or ethnicity over any other, and provides Fair access to All citizens.

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