Civil Rights groups like the NAACP condemned the Supreme Court's decision and put into retrospect how this decision could affect minority voters:The Supreme Court issued a 5-4 decision on Tuesday gutting a centerpiece of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which has long been used to preemptively snuff out discriminatory voting laws.
The majority opinion, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, overturns Section 4 of the law, declaring unconstitutional the formula used to identify which state and local governments with a history of racial discrimination are required to pre-clear any changes to their voting laws with the Justice Department or a federal court.
“Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act is unconstitutional; its formula can no longer be used as a basis for subjecting jurisdictions to pre-clearance,” Roberts wrote.
The ruling is a major blow to civil rights advocates as it is widely believed that Congress, which currently uses data from as far back as the 1970s to determine that formula, will not be able to pass a new formula into law. As a result, the ruling has the practical effect of neutering the pre-clearance requirement.
The decision frees up those jurisdictions to change their voting laws without supervision. But the federal government still has the power to target a voting law in court, after it is passed, if it is suspected of having a discriminatory effect on a particular racial group. - TPM, 6/25/13
And Senator Chris Coons (D. DE) nailed it with this statement:The latest decision came in a challenge to the advance approval, or preclearance, requirement, which was brought by Shelby County, Ala., a Birmingham suburb.
The lawsuit acknowledged that the measure’s strong medicine was appropriate and necessary to counteract decades of state-sponsored discrimination in voting, despite the Fifteenth Amendment’s guarantee of the vote for black Americans.
But it asked whether there was any end in sight for a provision that intrudes on states’ rights to conduct elections, an issue the court’s conservative justices also explored at the argument in February. It was considered an emergency response when first enacted in 1965.
The county noted that the 25-year extension approved in 2006 would keep some places under Washington’s oversight until 2031 and seemed not to account for changes that include the elimination of racial disparity in voter registration and turnout or the existence of allegations of race-based discrimination in voting in areas of the country that are not subject to the provision.
The Obama administration and civil rights groups said there is a continuing need for it and pointed to the Justice Department’s efforts to block voter ID laws in South Carolina and Texas last year, as well as a redistricting plan in Texas that a federal court found discriminated against the state’s large and growing Hispanic population.
Advance approval was put into the law to give federal officials a potent tool to defeat persistent efforts to keep blacks from voting.
The provision was a huge success because it shifted the legal burden and required governments that were covered to demonstrate that their proposed changes would not discriminate. Congress periodically has renewed it over the years. The most recent extension was overwhelmingly approved by a Republican-led Congress and signed by President George W. Bush.
The requirement currently applies to the states of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia. It also covers certain counties in California, Florida, New York, North Carolina and South Dakota, and some local jurisdictions in Michigan. Coverage has been triggered by past discrimination not only against blacks, but also against American Indians, Asian-Americans, Alaska Natives and Hispanics.
Towns in New Hampshire that had been covered by the law were freed from the advance approval requirement in March. Supporters of the provision pointed to the ability to bail out of the prior approval provision to argue that the law was flexible enough to accommodate change and that the court should leave the Voting Rights Act intact. - Boston Globe, 6/25/13
Sorry to use PJ Media as my source but for some reason it was the only website I could find Coons' statement. I singled out Coons because he was worried something like this would happen and has been urging his colleagues to take action:Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the court “has taken the legs out from underneath the Voting Rights Act.”
“The good news — if there is good news — is that the framework of the Voting Rights Act remains intact. The problem before us now can be solved with bipartisan legislative action, but it will take this Congress coming together to do it,” Coons said. “…We cannot simply wish away racial discrimination, and although we have come a long way from the era of Jim Crow, the very real threat of discriminatory voting practices unfortunately remains a fact of life in too many parts of this country.”
Democrats heaped on early pressure for a legislative answer to the ruling.“We must be clear — The Voting Rights Act is not ancient history. Just last year alone, Section 5 helped prevent discrimination across the country – on issues ranging from state ID’s to redistricting and reducing early voting. Voting is a sacred right and ensuring that every vote counts is a cornerstone of our democracy that must be embraced by both sides of the aisle,” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.).
“The last time Congress reauthorized the Voting Rights Act in 2006, it was passed for the fourth time with sweeping bipartisan majorities in both houses of Congress. We must come together once again to ensure that every American has the fundamental right to vote regardless of which community they live in,” she said.Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said the Voting Rights Act “is as necessary today as it was in the era of Jim Crow laws.”
“We must act immediately to rewrite this vital law,” he added. - PJ Media, 6/25/13
And Coons took no time calling for action, I received this e-mail from him today:“We have to be prepared to take prompt and vigorous action, hopefully bipartisan, to ensure that we continue to preserve that most central provision of American’s civil rights law,’’ said Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The court is set to rule this month in the case of Shelby County, Ala., vs. Attorney General Eric Holder. At issue is whether Section 5 is constitutional.
Shelby County officials argue the provision is outdated and should be thrown out. They also want justices to eliminate the formula used to determine which states are covered by Section 5.
Coon said questions that some Supreme Court justices asked during oral arguments in February make him worry they may throw out the provision.
“This Supreme Court is more and more skeptical of the root causes of — and the evidence of — the consequences of discrimination,’’ Coons said. “We need to be prepared to act legislatively to deal with the likely consequences of a federal government that may be more reined in.’’
Coons and civil rights activists say they won’t know exactly what the legislation would say until the court issues a ruling. But Coons said it could update Section 5 to require a swift review of potentially discriminatory practices at the polls.
Coons said key Democrats, including Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Richard Durbin of Illinois, chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights, are discussing possible next steps. Civil rights and voting rights groups would help shape any legislation, he said. - The Advertiser, 6/16/13
You can click here to sign Coons' petition:Just this morning, the Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act — one of the most important civil rights laws in American history.
With voting rights already under attack in a number of states, the Supreme Court has made it impossible to enforce critical civil rights protections. The decision will allow jurisdictions where the threat of ongoing discrimination is the most severe to enact unfair voter ID laws and carve up districts in a way that would segregate minority voters.
We need to fix this.
Congress must act immediately to restore voting protections for all Americans – but we need your help to get it done.
Several of my colleagues and I are urging Congress to restore these vital voting protections. Will you join us? Add your voice to demand common sense, bipartisan legislation in response to the Supreme Court’s decision:For all the progress we’ve made, racial discrimination still exists in this country. In the last year alone, the Voting Rights Act was able to stop 10 discriminatory election practices from taking effect, and prevented countless others from being proposed.
The Voting Rights Act was first passed in 1965, but it was last reauthorized just seven years ago, earning an overwhelming 98-0 vote in the Senate.
Today the Supreme Court has replaced the will of the American people and jeopardized nearly 50 years of progress.
We can make this right if we work together.
Click here to sign the petition and help restore voting protections for all Americans. Let’s ensure our country does not take a step backward:
I’m determined to prevent this decision from opening the floodgates to forms of voter disenfranchisement that so many in the civil rights movement fought to end.
As Coons stated above, he's not alone in calling for action. Senator Patrick Leahy (D. VT), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, issued this statement:
Nancy Pelosi also echoed Leahy and Coons' call:"Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act has protected minorities of all races from discriminatory practices in voting for nearly 50 years, yet the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the coverage formula effectively guts the ability of Section 5 to protect voters from discriminatory practices," he said in a release. "I could not disagree more with this result or the majority’s rationale. The Voting Rights Act has been upheld five times by the Supreme Court on prior occasions, and Section 5 was reauthorized and signed into law by a Republican President in 2006 after a thorough and bipartisan process in which Congress overwhelmingly determined that the law was still vital to protecting minority voting rights and that the coverage formula determining the jurisdictions to be covered was still applicable.
He continued: "Several lower court decisions in recent years have found violations of the Voting Rights Act and evidence of intentional discrimination in covered jurisdictions. Despite this sound record, and the weight of history, a narrow majority has decided today to substitute its own judgment over the exhaustive legislative findings of Congress. As Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, I intend to take immediate action to ensure that we will have a strong and reconstituted Voting Rights Act that protects against racial discrimination in voting." - TPM, 6/25/13
Attorney General Eric Holder also vowed to take action:"In 2006, Democrats and Republicans came together to reauthorize the law, garnering overwhelming bipartisan support in a Republican-led Congress – passing the House by a vote 390-33 and the Senate by a vote of 98-0, then signed into law by President George W. Bush," she said in a statement. "This year, we must follow in that same tradition, taking the court’s decision as our cue for further action to strengthen this legislation."
She continued: “Voting rights are essential to who we are as Americans, to the cause of equality, to the strength of our democracy. It is our responsibility to do everything in our power to remove obstacles to voting, to ensure every citizen has the right to vote and every vote is counted as cast. We must secure the most basic privilege of American citizenship: the right to vote.” - TPM 6/25/13
And Obama is going to be fighting hard on this issue:“The Department of Justice will continue to carefully monitor jurisdictions around the country for voting changes that may hamper voting rights,” Holder said. “Let me be very clear: we will not hesitate to take swift enforcement action — using every legal tool that remains available to us — against any jurisdiction that seeks to take advantage of the Supreme Court’s ruling by hindering eligible citizens’ full and free exercise of the franchise.”
The Court’s 5-4 decision in Shelby County v. Holder invalidated Section 4 of the historic 1965 law, eliminating a critical tool for the federal government to proactively snuff out discriminatory voting laws. The provision required specific state and local governments with a history of voter discrimination, as determined by Congress, to seek federal preclearance before making any changes to their voting laws. The administration retains the ability to sue to block voting laws after they take effect.
“Like many others across the country, I am deeply disappointed with the Court’s decision in this matter,” the attorney general said. “This decision represents a serious setback for voting rights - and has the potential to negatively affect millions of Americans across the country.” - TPM, 6/25/13
Action is certainly needed and fast. Texas Republicans are already pushing for action on voter ID laws:"As a nation, we’ve made a great deal of progress towards guaranteeing every American the right to vote. But, as the Supreme Court recognized, voting discrimination still exists," Obama continued in the statement. "And while today’s decision is a setback, it doesn’t represent the end of our efforts to end voting discrimination. I am calling on Congress to pass legislation to ensure every American has equal access to the polls. My Administration will continue to do everything in its power to ensure a fair and equal voting process." - TPM, 6/25/13
Again please do sign Coons' petition calling for action for voters' rights:Shortly after the high court issued a sweeping 5-4 decision Tuesday striking down a centerpiece of the historic 1965 law, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott vowed to immediately implement a controversial voter ID law in the Lone Star State that was blocked last year by the now-gutted preclearance provision of the Voting Rights Act.
“With today’s decision, the State’s voter ID law will take effect immediately,” Abbott said, according to the Dallas Morning News. “Redistricting maps passed by the Legislature may also take effect without approval from the federal government.”
The provocative move is the first in what could be a series of clashes between the Justice Department and state and local governments after the Supreme Court’s ruling. The court invalidated the section of the law specifying which state and local governments (all with a history of racial discrimination) are required to receive federal pre-clearance before making any changes to their voting laws. Texas was one of those states. - TPM, 6/25/13
By the way, Coons has been moving up pretty fast in the Senate ranks:
Coons will also be taking over the Appropriations Committee seat formerly held by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D. NJ) and will continue to serve on the Judiciary, Foreign Relations and Budget committees, and will retain his chairmanships of the Bankruptcy and the Courts Subcommittee and the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs.Democratic Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware will serve on five Senate Appropriations subcommittees, including one dealing with federal courts and spending by the Treasury and Office of Management and Budget.
Democratic Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee, announced the assignments today.
Coons already chairs the Judiciary Subcommittee on Bankruptcy and the Courts. His new assignment on the Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee “will put (him) in a unique position to protect Delaware's bankruptcy courts and the jobs associated with it,” said Ian Koski, Coons’ spokesman.
Coons’ other subcommittee assignments include the Appropriations subcommittees on Homeland Security; Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies; Legislative Branch; and the State Department, Foreign Operations and Related Programs. - Delaware Online, 6/24/13
By the way, Senator Amy Klobuchar (D. MN) sent out a fundraising e-mail in support of Senator Coons' re-election bid:
You can click here to donate to Coons' re-election bid:Last year, secretive Super PACs tried everything to take away our majority in the Senate. Thanks to you, they failed.
Now, they’re back – and this time, they have a new group of targets. My friend, Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware, is one of them.
When he ran in 2010, his surprise opponent raised $7 million in a few short weeks, most of which was spent attacking him. This time, Chris isn’t taking anything for granted. He’s building a grassroots, people-powered campaign for 2014 right now.
I need you to help me support him. His campaign needs to raise $65,000 by the June 30 FEC deadline, only 5 days from now. Will you please join me now in showing Chris we’re behind him?Click here to donate $5 or more to help Chris defend himself against the Super PACs’ attacks so we can preserve our Senate majority:
Since Chris’ election, he’s been the kind of leader we need more of in the Senate. He has been a strong partner dedicated to finding innovative solutions to the problems we face.
In our work together on the Judiciary Committee, I've seen him earn a reputation as a principled, pragmatic legislator eager to find bipartisan solutions to the issues confronting us. Chris is a strong voice for job creation and the innovation economy, responsible deficit reduction and forward-looking foreign policy.
It’s time to step up for him. We've got to help Chris build a strong grassroots campaign and show the Super PACs that this Senate seat isn’t up for grabs. Please contribute before the FEC deadline at midnight, June 30 to help him.
Click here to give $5 or more to support Chris. We need principled, innovative leaders like him in the Senate:
Thank you for your support,