Bench Memos

Clarity on the Voting Rights Act

Today’s decision in the Voting Rights Act case confirms what the critics of the pre-clearance provision have been saying for years. And it’s a stark rejection of what most cowardly politicians and the traditional race-conscious establishment have long argued.

In contrast to the politicians’ claim that renewal of section 5, which requires states to get federal approval for voting changes, raised no serious constitutional issues, all nine justices agreed that the pre-clearance provisions of the Voting Rights Act are “raise serious constitutional concerns” or are actually unconstitutional. All justices also agreed that its prior decisions upholding the pre-clearance provision are no longer valid today and that the renewal of this provision, which constitutes a unique intrusion on the states, must be justified by current needs and conditions. Eight justices also agreed that the differentiation between covered and non-covered jurisdictions “may no longer be justified.” Justice Thomas, the only justice who did not join Chief Justice Robert’s opinion, would go further. He wrote that the Act not only was unconstitutional but that the Court should have so held.

It’s wonderful for the Court to speak with such clarity and seeming unity in its decisions, which is sure to spur further challenges to Section 5 of the Act.

— Todd Gaziano serves as a commissioner on the U.S. Civil Rights Commission and is director of the Center for Legal and Judicial Studies at the Heritage Foundation.

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