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Voting Rights Act: 5 Quotes From Supreme Court Justices About Shelby County v. Holder Decision

By    |   Friday, 22 Jan 2016 05:11 PM

In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Shelby County v. Holder. The essential element to the case were key provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which made it mandatory for certain states with a history of voter discrimination to obtain a federal pre-clearance to alter its voting laws.

In a 5-4 vote, the justices declared the provisions (sections 4 and 5) unconstitutional.

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Here are five quotes from Supreme Court justices during and after the Shelby County v. Holder case:

1. Chief Justice John Roberts

“Our decision in no way affects the permanent, nationwide ban on racial discrimination in voting found in (section) 2. We issue no holding on (section) 5 itself, only on the coverage formula. Congress may draft another formula based on current conditions. ... Our country has changed, and while any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks to current conditions.”

2. Associate Justice Clarence Thomas

“While the Court claims to ‘issue no holding on (section) 5 itself,’ ante, at 24, its own opinion compellingly demonstrates that Congress has failed to justify ‘current burdens’ with a record demonstrating ‘current needs.’... By leaving the inevitable conclusion unstated, the Court needlessly prolongs the demise of that provision. For the reasons stated in the Court’s opinion, I would find (section) 5 unconstitutional.”

3. Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg

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

4. Associate Justice Stephen Breyer

"I don't know what they're (Congress) thinking exactly, but it seems to me one might reasonably think this: It's an old disease (voter discrimination), it's gotten a lot better, but it's still there. So if you had a remedy that really helped it work, but it wasn't totally over, wouldn't you keep that remedy?"

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5. Associate Justice Samuel Alito

“But when Congress decided to reauthorize it in 2006, why wasn't it incumbent on Congress under the congruence and proportionality standard to make a new determination of coverage? Maybe the whole country should be covered. Or maybe certain parts of country should be covered based on a formula that is ground in up-to-date statistics. But why — why wasn't that required by the congruence and proportionality standards?"

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In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Shelby County v. Holder. The essential element to the case were key provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which made it mandatory for certain states with a history of voter discrimination to obtain a federal pre-clearance to alter its voting laws.
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2016-11-22
Friday, 22 Jan 2016 05:11 PM
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