Voting Rights Act Loses a Key Provision

New CCDC President Bill Wynn addresses the audience.

A deeply divided Supreme Court halted enforcement of the federal government’s most potent tool to stop voting discrimination over the past half century, saying it does not reflect racial progress. In a 5-4 ruling, the court declared unconstitutional a provision of the landmark Voting Rights Act that determines which states and localities must get Washington’s approval for proposed election changes. President Barack Obama, issued a statement saying he was “deeply disappointed” with the ruling.

The decision effectively puts an end to the advance approval requirement that has been used, mainly in the South, to open up polling places to minority voters in the nearly half century since it was first enacted in 1965, unless Congress can come up with a formula that Chief Justice John Roberts said meets “current conditions” in the United States.

Roberts, writing for a conservative majority, said the law Congress most recently renewed in 2006 relies on 40- year-old data that does not reflect racial progress and changes in U.S. society. “The coverage formula that Congress reauthorized in 2006 ignores these developments, keeping the focus on decades-old data relevant to decades-old problems, rather than current data reflecting current needs,” Roberts said. President Obama was sharply critical of the ruling and called on Congress to reinvigorate the law.

“While the Courts decision is a setback, it doesn’t represent the end of our efforts to end voting discrimination, “the President said. “I am calling on Congress to pass legislation to ensure every American has equal access to the polls.”

On the local front, Southland supporters of same-sex marriage are celebrating, with the U.S. Supreme Court clearing the way for same-sex unions to resume in California, although the high court fell short of setting a precedent that would legalize gay marriage across the country.

In a 5-4 ruling, the court found that backers of Proposition 8 , which was approved by California voters in 2008 and banned same- sex marriage, lacked legal standing to challenge a lower court ruling that found that measure unconstitutional.

“We have never before upheld the standing of a private party to defend the constitutionality of a state statute when state officials have chosen not to,” according to the court’s ruling, penned by Chief Justice John Roberts. “We decline to do so for the first time here.” Roberts was joined in the majority by Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, and Antonin Scalia.

Since Proposition 8 supporters had no standing, the court did not issue a ruling on the merits of same-sex marriage or Prop. 8 but merely let stand the original federal court ruling striking down the measure. The Supreme Court’s action means same-sex marriage will be legal in California, but not across the nation.

These historic decisions were rendered by our highest court in the land, as our nation is preparing to celebrate its birthday.

Happy Birthday America

 

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