In the wake of last week's elections we have a couple related items of some interest...
The Blog of Legal Times, just a few days before the Election, posted an entry about Representative John Conyers (D-Mich.), the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, along with six other Democratic congressmen saying in a written statement back then that the Department of Justice has "expended substantial federal resources" to delay or overturn state laws that could have a disproportionate impact on minorities, and that he was going to continue to investigate states that have enacted election procedures that could create discriminatory barriers to the ballot box….. 37 states have introduced voting changes that have been cited to negatively impact the right to vote for over five million Americans, according to Conyers. ( Press Release )
Meanwhile, MSNBCnews reported days after that the Supreme Court had announced it would take up a battle over a key part of the landmark Voting Rights Act that civil rights groups fear will be used to “gut that law.” That case is Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder.
Shelby County's petition "puts at issue Congress' decision in 2006 to reauthorize until 2031 the preclearance obligation of Section 5 of the VRA under the pre-existing coverage formula of Section 4(b) of the VRA (which go) far 'beyond the prohibition of the Fifteenth Amendment by suspending all changes to state election law—however innocuous—until they have been pre-cleared by federal authorities in Washington, D.C.' Nw. Austin Mun. Util. Dist. No. One v. Holder, 557 U.S. 193, 202 (2009) (“Nw.Austin”).
"This Court has twice upheld the preclearance regime against facial constitutional challenge under then prevailing conditions in covered jurisdictions. South Carolina v. Katzenbach, 383 U.S. 301, 303(1966); City of Rome v. United States, 446 U.S. 156 (1980).
(But)" More recently, addressing the 2006 reauthorization, the Court recognized that '[s]ome of the conditions' that it 'relied upon in upholding this statutory scheme in Katzenbach and City of Rome have unquestionably improved. Things have changed in the South. Voter turnout and registration rates now approach parity. Blatantly discriminatory evasions of federal decrees are rare. And minority candidates hold office at unprecedented levels.' Nw. Austin, 557 U.S. at 202. Moreover, the 'evil that Sec. 5 is meant to address may no longer be concentrated in the jurisdictions singled out for preclearance. The statute's coverage formula is based on data that is now more than 35 years old, and there is considerable evidence that it fails to account for current political conditions.' Id. at 203 Because Congress has not since acted to rectify these problems, the constitutional validity of Sections 5 and 4(b) must now be resolved."