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The Meredith Mississippi March was named for James Meredith, who in 1962 became the first black student to attend the University of Mississippi. In 1966, Meredith, then a law student, led the march from Memphis, Tenn., to Jackson, Miss., to encourage African-Americans to register to vote.
The Meredith Mississippi March was named for James Meredith, who in 1962 became the first black student to attend the University of Mississippi. In 1966, Meredith, then a law student, led the march from Memphis, Tenn., to Jackson, Miss., to encourage African-Americans to register to vote.
A variety of citizen groups and advocacy think tanks seek to bring public attention to the U.S. Supreme Court as it prepares for a hearing Wednesday in a case whose outcome could mean an end for what civil rights activists say remains the heart and teeth of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

On Feb. 22, for example, there were two events, one by the NAACP, which favors continuation of Section 5 of the rights act, and the Heritage Foundation, which opposes it. Section 5 authorizes the federal government to "pre-clear" major changes in voting law in 16 states or parts of them that in the past kept minorities, particularly African Americans in the South under Jim Crow laws and American Indians in the West, from casting ballots. Civil rights activists say the section is still needed as a means to enforce the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments; foes say it's outdated, not to mention unconstitutional.

Briefing breakfasts, afternoon seminars, information sessions on the Hill and a coordinated bus campaign that mimics the Freedom Rides of the 1960s all focus on influencing the outcome of Shelby County [Alabama] v. Holder.

“While the justices play a distinct role in our society and in our country, they’re not divorced from society at large. I can’t see how they couldn’t be influenced by what people think about their actions,” said Ellen Buchman, vice president of field operations for the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, which is planning a rally during Wednesday’s oral arguments.

More than 80 Democratic chiefs of staff, legislative directors and legislative assistants showed up for a presentation on the case made by the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Constitution Society, the Brennan Center for Justice and the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights. The Congressional Black Caucus will address voting issues at a special “order hour” in the House of Representatives Monday evening.

In 2006, the Voting Rights Act was reauthorized for another 25 years by a 98-0 vote in the Senate and 390-33 vote in the House. In 2011, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia upheld the constitutionality of that reauthorization. You can read the opinion here and an analysis of it here.

Andrew Cohen recently wrote about the reauthorization in a thorough explanation of what the Shelby case is about:

And Congress' renewal could hardly have been accompanied by more diligence. "Congress held 21 hearings, heard from scores of witnesses, and amassed more than 15,000 pages of evidence regarding ongoing voting discrimination in covered jurisdictions," Obama Administration lawyers have reminded the justices. Those findings, the feds now argue, are entitled to great judicial deference, even if imperfect, and even if the resulting legislation only covers certain portions of the country with a long history of discrimination in voting practices.
In December 2011, employing its authority under Section 5 , the federal government blocked legislation in South Carolina to impose a strict photo-voter ID law that the justice department said would disproportionately keep minority voters from the polls. Just this past August, Section 5 was used by the federal courts to stop a discriminatory Republican redistricting plan and a proposed voter-ID law in Texas.

Without Section 5, those proposals and that redistricting would now be law.

Originally posted to Meteor Blades on Mon Feb 25, 2013 at 11:46 AM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I think the 2006 re-authorization with an (7+ / 0-)

    overwhelming bipartisan support in Congress is the strongest fact favoring the retention of Section 5. This will be a very interesting case to follow. Had there not been a recent re-authorization I think the odds would have been high that the five justice conservative majority would have struck down Section 5, the pre-approval requirement. The voting rights of southern African Americans, and the election of numerous African American politicians clearly differentiates 2013 from 1965. However, I think the re-authorization swings one or two of the conservatives to the side of keeping Section 5 in place.  

    "let's talk about that"

    by VClib on Mon Feb 25, 2013 at 12:00:42 PM PST

    •  Yes, but see NAMUDNO (14+ / 0-)

      Even when they punted on this in 2009, eight Justices signed onto this:

      The evil that §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. For example, the racial gap in voter registration and turnout is lower in the States originally covered by §5 than it is nationwide. E. Blum & L. Campbell, Assessment of Voting Rights Progress in Jurisdictions Covered Under Section Five of the Voting Rights Act 3–6 (American Enterprise Institute, 2006). Congress heard warnings from supporters of extending §5 that the evidence in the record did not address “systematic differences between the covered and the non-covered areas of the United States[,] … and, in fact, the evidence that is in the record suggests that there is more similarity than difference.” The Continuing Need for Section 5 Pre-Clearance: Hearing before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, 109th Cong., 2d Sess., 10 (2006) (statement of Richard H. Pildes); see also Persily, The Promise and Pitfalls of the New Voting Rights Act, 117 Yale L. J. 174, 208 (2007) (“The most one can say in defense of the [coverage] formula is that it is the best of the politically feasible alternatives or that changing the formula would … disrupt settled expectations”).

      .... The Fifteenth Amendment empowers “Congress,” not the Court, to determine in the first instance what legislation is needed to enforce it. Congress amassed a sizable record in support of its decision to extend the preclearance requirements, a record the District Court determined “document[ed] contemporary racial discrimination in covered states.” 573 F. Supp. 2d, at 265. The District Court also found that the record “demonstrat[ed] that section 5 prevents discriminatory voting changes” by “quietly but effectively deterring discriminatory changes.” Id., at 264.

    • a great source (9+ / 0-)

      for information on Supreme Court cases. The "Plain English" summary of Shelby County v Holder is available here:

      "let's talk about that"

      by VClib on Mon Feb 25, 2013 at 01:55:36 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  judgment run down as waters, & righteousness as (14+ / 0-)

    a mighty stream

    In 2006, the Voting Rights Act was reauthorized for another 25 years by a 98-0 vote in the Senate and 390-33 vote in the House. In 2011, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia upheld the constitutionality of that reauthorization.

    Warning - some snark above‽ (-9.50; -7.03)‽ Now with more SNAP: Saturday hate mail-a-palooza End of a series

    by annieli on Mon Feb 25, 2013 at 12:02:28 PM PST

  •  Linda Greenhouse at NYT is worried (11+ / 0-)

    The More Things Change

    How can it be that one of the crowning achievements of the civil rights movement, a provision upheld on four previous occasions by the Supreme Court and re-enacted in 2006 by overwhelming bipartisan majorities in Congress (98-0 in the Senate, 390-33 in the House), a law that President George W. Bush urged the justices to uphold again four years ago in one of his final acts in office, a law that has demonstrably defeated myriad efforts both flagrant and subtle to suppress or dilute the African-American vote, is now hanging by a thread?
    She suspects, perhaps with good reason that Chief Justice Roberts will throw the issue back to Congress, knowing full well that Congress is paralyzed, thus killing the Voting Rights Act:
    the fancy jargon in which the constitutional attack is clothed shouldn’t be permitted to hide the fact that striking down Section 5 would be a truly radical move, a march off a cliff of the court’s own making. Not so long ago, conservatives were attacking the Affordable Care Act’s health-insurance mandate as “unprecedented.” Invalidating a core federal civil rights law because the Supreme Court views it as outdated would be unprecedented indeed.

    When the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejected Shelby County’s challenge and upheld Section 5 last year, the vote was 2 to 1. The dissenting judge, Stephen F. Williams, said the coverage formula had become “irrational” — “as obsolete in practice as one would expect, in a dynamic society, for markers 34-to-59 years old.” Judge Williams said it was unnecessary to decide that Section 5 itself was unconstitutional; it was enough to invalidate the formula and tell Congress to come up one better suited to the times.

    Chief Justice Roberts and several other justices might well find merit in that approach. They would have to know that the chance that Congress would overcome sectional and partisan tensions in order to produce a new formula is even smaller than the prospect of Congress raising judicial salaries. Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act would effectively be dead in the water — but it would be Congress’s own fault, not the court’s. The accusation of “faux judicial modesty” that a frustrated Justice Antonin Scalia once hurled at John Roberts comes to mind.

    Resist much, obey little. ~~Edward Abbey, via Walt Whitman

    by willyr on Mon Feb 25, 2013 at 12:23:21 PM PST

    •  That's the most likely outcome. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I imagine they'll strike Section 5 and tell Congress to come up with a new metric.  Congress will then not do so.

      This is the Executive Branch's own fault; when it became clear that they were going to block Voter ID for pre-clearence jurisdictions, that was the beginning of the end.

      •  So your argument is that objecting... (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        El Bloguero, jm214, Adam B, Eyesbright, tb mare strict ID requirements that, in one jurisdiction, a federal court called racially discriminatory should have been avoided?

        Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

        by Meteor Blades on Mon Feb 25, 2013 at 01:51:51 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Well then, enjoy president Romney then. After (0+ / 0-)

        all, if that part of the VRA is struck down then all those discriminator voter rules pop back into existence because it's like that section of the VRA never passed in the first place, right?  So there is a very good chance that in overturning that section Romney could be installed as president and Obama kicked out by the Supreme Court.

        You have watched Faux News, now lose 2d10 SAN.

        by Throw The Bums Out on Tue Feb 26, 2013 at 04:23:40 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  By hook or crook, mostly crook, the GOP Hatriots (10+ / 0-)

    will try to steal elections in 2014.

    Will Dems show up in the same numbers they do for presidential elections?

    I sure as heck hope so.  I don't like fascism.

    It's difficult to be happy knowing so many suffer. We must unite.

    by War on Error on Mon Feb 25, 2013 at 12:26:03 PM PST

    •  What about 2012? After all, when a law is (0+ / 0-)

      declared unconstitutional it is as if that law never passed, right?  So wouldn't that mean at a minimum new elections must be held and at worst Romney becomes president by Supreme Court fiat?

      You have watched Faux News, now lose 2d10 SAN.

      by Throw The Bums Out on Tue Feb 26, 2013 at 04:24:31 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  IANAL but reading the case is heartening (9+ / 0-)

    Shelby County's main arguments appear to attempt to tackle settled law on the basis that, as Adam B and willyr note above, we've moved on from widespread bigotry and rampant racism is no longer the norm in our society (yeah, right...). They go on to claim that their restrictive measures show no intent to discriminate. The appeals court opinions shredded those arguments.

    I am a bit befuddled that the Supreme Court agreed to hear this case. Shelby County's reasoning for challenging the constitutionality of Section 5 is also weak (Federal overreach) but this Court has surprised us before.

    •  Game is on at WI state level to as Fed Court (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Darryl House, Jeff Y

      okays access by three suing groups to review emails concerning the most recent WI redistricting masterminded by GOP and Michael Best law firm.  

      The three groups sought access to review Walker's secret campaign email system that had sat right outside his Milwaukee County Executive office.  This redistricting helped ensure GOP retention of WI State Senate majority even though state as a whole is trending more blue. It also affected Assembly district maps.

      Lawmakers passed three laws when they developed the maps - one to establish the legislative maps, one to establish the congressional maps and one to change the rules for how redistricting is done. Attorneys for the Republican lawmakers have said they did not release any records related to the law that changed redistricting rules because they did not believe they were covered by subpoenas for their records. But the court said those documents must now be released.

      When life gives you wingnuts, make wingnut butter!

      by antirove on Mon Feb 25, 2013 at 06:26:45 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  via Pro: (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Darryl House, blueoregon, annieli


    why not read all you can, while you can ?

    (thanks, mr. blades.)

    There is no Article II power which says the Executive can violate the Constitution.--@Hugh * Addington's Perpwalk: TRAILHEAD of Accountability for Bush-2 Crimes.

    by greenbird on Mon Feb 25, 2013 at 12:45:02 PM PST

  •  Thanks (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eyesbright, tb mare

    "Let us never forget that doing the impossible is the history of this nation....It's how we are as Americans...It's how this country was built"- Michelle Obama

    by blueoregon on Mon Feb 25, 2013 at 01:23:20 PM PST

  •  Section 5 needs to be expanded because the Rs (4+ / 0-)

    Have infested our entire nation with voting discrimination. This is another failure of the constitution. Evil people want to steal my voting rights. Jim Crow is back & worse than ever because the evil confederacy wasn't destroyed.

  •  I agree (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Don't gut, make it the law of all the land. You know what's good for the goose and all. Just thinking that if we expand to all 50 this will help even the blue states stay on the ready.

    United we the people stand, divided we the people fall.

    by Penny GC on Mon Feb 25, 2013 at 04:19:03 PM PST

  •  I'm going to assume (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Stude Dude, Vatexia

    I'm going to assume this Supreme Court guts the Voting Rights Act.  I almost consider it done.  

    Let's see what the Democrats do in Congress.  Let's see what this White House in response.  

    If there is little to no response beyond hand wringing, we'll know these Democrats are a lost cause.  The next generation will have to put it right.  

  •  The idea that somehow this Court (6+ / 0-)

    will find Section 5 unconstitutional has me raging.

    The Voting Rights Act represents a very hard won triumph of Civil Rights Activists over the very same interests that are yet again trying to dismantle it. That they are still around, still spewing the same garbage, still claiming that this law is not needed, that this is 2013 (as if that says something), and that this is a post racial country, speaks volumes about their not so hidden intention to have the South Rise Again, to restore inequality however much and to whatever extent they can.

    This case has the possibility of making Bush v. Gore and Citizens United seem benign.  Or, put another way, is it judicial activism only when it's about equality?

  •  Seems to me our elections need to MORE federalized (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    a2nite, LilithGardener, Blood, tb mare

    NOT less.  

    For elections resulting in Federal office, it makes more sesne to have uniform rules.  On the whole shebang: early voting, voter registration procedures, ID procedures, etc.  

    I know, I know, it'll never happen.  Don't tread on me and all that.   But a lot of shenanigans might be suppressed if it did.

    "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

    by lgmcp on Mon Feb 25, 2013 at 05:13:12 PM PST

    •  I was thinking the same thing. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      lgmcp, tb mare

      Voter discrimination is alive and well in the USA, as everyone could see in November, 2012, putting paid to this ridiculous notion that "we've moved past those terrible days of racial discrimination." We need MORE Federal oversight and regulation of elections, not less.

      The Right Wing lives for this kind of thing. Chip away at Federal power, one chip at a time, and stay vigilant. Keep your "eyes on the prize" -- the eventual, inevitable, total disembowelment of Federal law.

  •  Why can't this jackass county use the bail-out (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eyesbright, a2nite, LilithGardener

    provision in the law?  Don't like it?  Clean up your act, stay clean, bail out.

    You have exactly 10 seconds to change that look of disgusting pity into one of enormous respect!

    by Cartoon Peril on Mon Feb 25, 2013 at 05:21:35 PM PST

  •  We need a new voting rights act (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eyesbright, LilithGardener

    that guarantees timely voting (no four hour lines), comprehensible ballots, & registration requirements not prejudicial to certain classes of voters. Repug voter suppression tactics will only get worse. & they will test these tactics in states that now have federal oversight if that monitoring is removed.

    "There ain't no sanity clause." Chico Marx

    by DJ Rix on Mon Feb 25, 2013 at 05:26:35 PM PST

  •  Cemented his reputation as an asshole (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Cruz has a lock on that one.

    "The real wealth of a nation consists of the contributions of its people and nature." -- Rianne Eisler

    by noofsh on Mon Feb 25, 2013 at 05:34:07 PM PST

  •  I am tired (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Of all the hate and fear.I live in the land of the BRAVE I think

  •  So in 2006 33 Repugs voted not to exted? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Here are the Ayes and Noes.  Some of these idiots are still in place;

    Daily Kos an oasis of truth. Truth that leads to action.

    by Shockwave on Mon Feb 25, 2013 at 05:53:08 PM PST

  •  The Jim Crow Blues - Odetta Holmes (2003) (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    "Jim Crow Blues"
 - Performed Live by Odetta Holmes (2003)

    Originally performed by Lead Belly (1930)

Lightning In a Bottle: A One Night History of the Blues 
Concert: New York's Radio City Music Hall (February 2003)

    "We gotta' get together people and put a stop to this ole Jim Crow."

    The New Jim Crow, same as it ever was, the Old Jim Crow.

    Lightning In a Bottle: A One Night History of the Blues 
concert: New York's Radio City Music Hall (February 2003)
Director : Antoine Fuqua
Executive Producer: Martin Scorsese

    Music Director: Steve Jordan
Producer: Alex Gibney & Margaret Bodde

    "They did not succeed in taking away our voice" - Angelique Kidjo - Opening the Lightning In a Bottle concert at Radio City Music Hall in New York City - 2003

    by LilithGardener on Mon Feb 25, 2013 at 05:53:54 PM PST

  •  Voting Rights (0+ / 0-)

    If Section 5 of the Voting Rights act goes down, the Repubs will run hog wild enacting laws to keep minorities from voting. Next thing you know they'll want to use color wheels to determine who can and cannot vote. My cousin lived in a small town in Georgia where black people are still expected to step off the sidewalk to let a white person pass by. The sheriff was heard to say "We keep our ni$$&ers in check." My cousin also told me that black folks are afraid to vote in that town. I think those justices who sit up in their ivory tower over there on the Supreme Court need to get out and about more and find out what's really going on in the nooks and crannies of this country. If they are ultimately convinced that Section 5 isn't necessary for election fairness in this nation, they're plain DUMB!

  •  Republicans in Alaska use the VRA to gerry-mander (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    astrogeology girl

    for Republicans.  As long as the VRA pre-clearance is approved, anything goes--even though districts are totally non-compliant with all other aspects of the Alaska constitution requiring fair representation within the state.

    Not good for Alaska citizens of any race or ethnicity.

    We need a VRA that helps ensure justice for all, but it doesn't appear we have that right now with the current law.

  •  I usually can see both sides to most arguments (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    astrogeology girl

    but this one is so starkely clear to me.
    Racism is alive and well and it just is expressed differently now. Maybe there is less of it but it certainly is not gone.

    Having these protections in place does not seem to do any harm to anyone.

    Lets hope that the SC has a more open mind--open to the experiences of others--

    Here again I see FYI an example of what Justice Sotomayor says: the court makes better decisons when it's makeup  more reflects the makeup of the country. Individual justices bring understanding of nuance about cases from their differing life experiences.

    I wonder what Justice Thomas would say or think. Perhaps he has been so insulated from racism because of his class difference from the average person (as well as now being a  SC justice) that he might really think it is gone.

    The opposition's argument is that things have changed but it's based on the wrong criteria. Sure things are better but as long as they are STILL unequal protections need to be there just in case. They do no harm and there still are instances that they are needed.

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