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The Supreme Court & voting rights: A sound decision

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Tuesday, June 25, 2013, 1:57 p.m.
 

It was a classic no-brainer for the U.S. Supreme Court.

In a 5-4 ruling Tuesday, the high court found Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act to be unconstitutional. The section — designed to eradicate voter discrimination by requiring nine states and parts of six others to seek federal approval in all matters electoral and renewed by Congress multiple times — relies on decades-old data that do not reflect reality, the court held.

“Nearly 50 years later, things have changed dramatically,” said Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the majority. Such as registration and turnout rates in the affected jurisdictions now approaching parity. Such as minority candidates holding office at unprecedented levels. Such as actual voting discrimination being rare, he said.

“(H)istory did not end in 1965. ... (H)istory since 1965 cannot be ignored,” Mr. Justice Roberts wrote.

But the usual suspects are apoplectic over the ruling. Among them, the leftist Alliance for Justice. “(A) five-justice majority ... has effectively removed the keystone from the arch of protection for people of color,” wailed group president Nan Aron.

It does nothing of the sort. It invalidated a legal antiquity that Congress repeatedly rubber-stamped for political expediency (while making the rules even more onerous) and opens the door wide for Congress to authorize a new section that relies on the facts on the ground — contemporary data.

After all, as Roberts also wrote, “The (15th) Amendment is not designed to punish for the past; it's purpose is to ensure a better future.”

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