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LBJ's signature on the Voting Rights Act
LBJ's signature on the Voting Rights Act
A panel of judges on the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit upheld a key enforcement provision of the Voting Rights Act, setting up for a Supreme Court decision. Section 5 of the Act gives the Department of Justice oversight of voting laws for states and localities with a history of voter discrimination, and requires that any change in a voting law in those jurisdiction be "pre-cleared" by Justice.
The provision was reauthorized in 2006 for another quarter-century, and an Alabama county subsequently filed suit, saying the monitoring was overly burdensome and unwarranted. [...]

"Congress drew reasonable conclusions from the extensive evidence it gathered and acted pursuant to the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, which entrust Congress with ensuring that the right to vote—surely among the most important guarantees of political liberty in the Constitution—is not abridged on account of race," said the 2-1 panel of judges. "In this context, we owe much deference to the considered judgment of the people's elected representatives."

The court took a cautious, somewhat narrow approach, affirming longstanding policies while acknowledging that the conservative Supreme Court majority in recent years has raised concerns over whether "the extraordinary federalism costs imposed by Section 5"—in the words of the appeals court—mandate continued oversight.

The law is being challenged as well by the states of Texas and South Carolina, and this case will most certainly be appealed by Shelby County. Law school professor Rick Hasen expects that this case, or the states', will reach the Supreme Court by next term. Hasen believes that, in his dissent, Judge Stephen F. Williams "has provided a way for the conservatives on the Supreme Court to end Section 5 without having to declare that it would necessarily be unconstitutional if Congress tweaked it." He adds, in regards to the Supreme Court, "my money is on the Court holding—one way or another–that section 5 can no longer be enforced against the covered states."

Originally posted to Joan McCarter on Fri May 18, 2012 at 03:48 PM PDT.

Also republished by Southern Action and Daily Kos.

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