Monday, June 22, 2009

"I'm Not Dead Yet" -- Section 5 of Voting Rights Act Survives Attack

The authoritative SCOTUSblog has an excellent, brief summary of the Supreme Court's ruling today in the Voting Rights Act case that presented the issue, among others, of whether Section 5 of the Act should be "nullified." SCOTUSblog reports:

With only one Justice voting to strike down Congress’s 25-year extension of the Voting Rights Act’s controversial Section 5, the Supreme Court on Monday interpreted the law in a way that saves it. The Court said that all local units of government must be given the option to bail out of the requirement that they get Washington approval for any changes in their election laws or methods.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., writing for an eight-member majority in Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District v. Holder (08-322), said that Section 5 has achieved “historic accomplishments,” but “now raises serious constitutional concerns.”

And, he said, while the Court would not shrink from its duty to apply the Constitution to block “legislative encroachments,” the Court also was obliged to decide a case by interpreting the scope of legislation if that route is available as an alternative to striking down the law altogether. That is the option it chose.

My two cents: I can't agree with his assessment of "serious constitutional concerns," but Chief Justice Roberts kept his word on this one. If he continues to follow Justice Brandeis's version of judicial restraint, which requires the Court to give Congress the benefit of the doubt by interpreting laws so that they can be upheld under the Constitution, then the Obama Era will not be threatened by the Bush v Gore Court.

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