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Roberts Court Prepares to Gut Voting Rights Act

By       Message Mark Crispin Miller     Permalink
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Today the Supreme Court heard arguments on the constitutionality of Section 5 of the VRA Section 5 continues to be a critical element in preventing discrimination in voting across the country

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Read more detailed information about the case here and forward it to your friends and colleagues

Dear Mark,

Because of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act minorities do not have to overcome poll taxes, literacy tests, "grandfather clauses" and other discriminatory measures in order to exercise their right to vote. Despite this progress there is still much work to be done. That's why today's oral argument before the Supreme Court on Section 5 is so important.

Section 5 is a critical provision of the VRA that requires any new voting procedures be "pre-cleared" by the government in certain jurisdictions to prevent rule changes that would disenfranchise minority voters.  Recognizing the importance of Section 5, Congress has reauthorized it four times, most recently in 2006 with broad bipartisan support.  

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As Congress found in 2006 when it underwent an exhaustive  inquiry into the continuing need for key provisions of the VRA, Section 5 continues to be a critical element in preventing discrimination in voting across the country.  While Section 5 has done a tremendous job at empowering all eligible voters to participate in the democratic process, its work is not done

Click here for more detailed information about this case and forward it to your friends and colleagues.  We need your help as we continue the fight for minority voting rights!

The Lawyers' Committee has been a leader in this case, representing the Texas State Conference of the NAACP and Austin Branch of the NAACP in the case Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District No. 1 v. Holder in both district court, where the case was dismissed, and now at the Supreme Court.  The case began when a small utility district, located in Travis County, Texas, sought to be exempted from Section 5 coverage via the so-called "bailout" provision of the Voting Rights Act which allows jurisdictions to opt out of Section 5 coverage, or, in the alternative, to have the reauthorized Section 5 declared unconstitutional.  

Click here for more detailed information about this case and forward it to your friends and colleagues.  We need your help as we continue the fight for minority voting rights!

The continuing need for Section 5 was clearly illustrated by the work of the National Commission on the Voting Rights Act in 2005.  Established by the Lawyers' Committee, the Commission held 10 regional hearings covering practically every state in the union, and built an exhaustive record of discrimination in voting.  The Commission report found that, while evidence of the VRA's positive impact is clear, racial and language minorities are still vulnerable to historic tactics and new devices designed to dissuade and disfranchise. Minorities face unequal access to the ballot ranging from voting barriers to challenges electing representatives of their choice.

During the oral arguments, Justices Souter and Breyer referred to the large record at Congress' disposal, thanks to the work of the National Commission, when questioning the plaintiff's attorneys' assertion that Congress did not have sufficient evidence to draw from when they reauthorized the act. Additionally, Justice Ginsburg referred to the repeated litigation where the Lawyers' Committee represented African-American students at Prairie View A&M in Waller County, Texas on behalf of the NAACP as further evidence that Section 5 is still needed.

The Supreme Court should rule on the constitutionality of Section 5 by June.  We need to prepare now for the possibility of needing Congress to ensure adequate protections are in place for minority voters.  With you help, the Lawyers' Committee and Election Protection will continue to fight racial discrimination across this country.  

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Thank you,

Jonah Goldman
Election Protection Leader
Director, National Campaign for Fair Elections

P.S. Read the brief the Lawyers' Committee submitted to the Supreme Court here.

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Mark's new book, Loser Take All: Election Fraud and the Subversion of Democracy, 2000-2008, a collection 14 essays on Bush/Cheney's election fraud since (and including) 2000, is just out, from Ig Publishing. He is also the author of Fooled Again: The Real Case for Electoral Reform, which is now out in paperback (more...)

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