“…Throwing out preclearance when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet….”

Today the U.S. Supreme Court gutted enforcement of the Voting Rights Act 5-4. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s dissent:



In the Court’s view, the very success of §5 of the Voting Rights Act demands its dormancy. Congress was of another mind. Recognizing that large progress has been made, Congress determined, based on a voluminous record, that the scourge of discrimination was not yet extirpated.


With overwhelming support in both Houses, Congress concluded that, for two prime reasons, §5 should continue in force, unabated. First, continuance would facilitate completion of the impressive gains thus far made; and second, continuance would guard against backsliding. Those assessments were well within Congress’ province to make and should elicit this Court’s unstinting approbation.


In answering this question, the Court does not write on a clean slate. It is well established that Congress’ judgment regarding exercise of its power to enforce the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments warrants substantial deference. The VRA addresses the combination of race discrimination and the right to vote, which is “preservative of all rights.” Yick Wo v. Hopkins, 118 U. S. 356, 370 (1886). When confronting the most constitutionally invidious form of discrimination, and the most fundamental right in our democratic system, Congress’ power to act is at its height.


Because the private right of action authorized by §2 of the VRA applies nationwide, a comparison of §2 lawsuits in covered and noncovered jurisdictions provides an appropriate yardstick for measuring differences between covered and noncovered jurisdictions. If differences in the risk of voting discrimination between covered and noncovered jurisdictions had disappeared, one would expect that the rate of successful §2 lawsuits would be roughly the same in both areas.6 The study’s findings, however, indicated that racial discrimination in voting remains “concentrated in the jurisdictions singled out for preclearance.” Northwest Austin, 557 U. S., at 203.

Although covered jurisdictions account for less than 25 percent of the country’s population, the Katz study revealed that they accounted for 56 percent of successful §2 litigation since 1982.


Congress approached the 2006 reauthorization of the VRA with great care and seriousness. The same cannot be said of the Court’s opinion today. The Court makes no genuine attempt to engage with the massive legislative record that Congress assembled.


The sad irony of today’s decision lies in its utter failure to grasp why the VRA has proven effective. The Court appears to believe that the VRA’s success in eliminating the specific devices extant in 1965 means that preclearance is no longer needed. Ante, at 21-22, 23-24. With that belief, and the argument derived from it, history repeats itself. The same assumption-that the problem could be solved when particular methods of voting discrimination are identified and eliminated-was indulged and proved wrong repeatedly prior to the VRA’s enactment. Unlike prior statutes, which singled out particular tests or devices, the VRA is grounded in Congress’ recognition of the “variety and persistence” of measures designed to impair minority voting rights. Katzenbach, 383 U. S., at 311; supra, at 2. In truth, the evolution of voting discrimination into more subtle second-generation barriers is powerful evidence that a remedy as effective as preclearance remains vital to protect minority voting rights and prevent backsliding.


[bold emphasis added]

Via Twitter:

Murshed Zaheed ‏@murshedz

This is not just a defeat for the “civil rights” community – it’s a defeat for our democracy. #SCOTUS #vra #mediamorons 9:41 AM – 25 Jun 13

SharkFu ‏@SharkFu

50 years after the March on Washington… I am beyond disgusted. A right without access is a right in name only. The struggle continues… 9:49 AM – 25 Jun 13

Alec MacGillis @AlecMacGillis

The 2008 House vote to renew the Voting Rights Act was 390-33. #SCOTUS vote to eviscerate it is 5-4. 9:17 AM – 25 Jun 13