WDEL Blog: Allan Loudell

U.S. Supreme Court negates key provision of Voting Rights Act

In one of the most anticipated cases of the current session, U.S. Supreme Court justices split ideologically, 5-4, striking down the key part of the Voting Rights Act.

On its face, it seems the justices are not effectively gutting the Voting Rights Act, just requiring Congress to revise the formula for determining which states and cities must win preclearance from the Feds before changing voting procedures.

In practice, though, given the current intractable, ideological polarization on Capitol Hill, Congress will never reach a consensus on appropriate revisions.

So the same Supreme Court which finessed a deal on President Obama's health-care overhaul could not find a similar compromise on the Voting Rights Act.

Perhaps that was inevitable. Chief Justice John Roberts, who found a creative way to avoid ruling against the breadth of Affordable Care Act, apparently felt no similar compulsion to validate the Voting Rights Act. Roberts' memos from his time in the Reagan Justice Department suggest a longtime desire to weaken, or eviscerate, the Voting Rights Act.

Basic coverage of the Supreme Court's decision, from NATIONAL JOURNAL...


Ari Berman at The NATION notes conservatives from the South have been gunning for the Civil Rights Act ever since its passage; he calls this decision from the Roberts court the most radical since "Citizens United v. FEC and the worst voting rights decision in a century, since the Court upheld poll taxes and literacy tests in Giles v. Harris in 1903"...


John Hayward at HUMAN EVENTS paints quite a different picture: Times have changed. "It's more of a 'reset' than a nullification". Hayward further asserts U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder will not longer be able "to beat common-sense voter identification laws into the dirt..."


I stand by what I suggested above: No way will this Congress - or any conceivable future Congress - be able to draft and pass a new workable formula for the Voting Rights Act.

You can hear my interviews with POLITICO's White House Editor Rebecca Sinderbrand and Kenneth Jost, Supreme Court Editor for CQ Press; Author, The Supreme Court, A-Z and The Supreme Court Yearbook, plus Adjunct Professor of Law, Georgetown University...

Audio Here

Posted at 2:27pm on June 25, 2013 by Allan Loudell

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Comments on this post:

Tue, Jun 25, 2013 9:04pm
Too bad we can't being back literacy tests.

Tue, Jun 25, 2013 9:08pm
Now there's something I can agree with!

Mike from Delaware
Tue, Jun 25, 2013 11:15pm
Billsmith and Mrpizza: You might be on to something.

The idea of a literacy test reminds me of an old joke: Today the State of Mississippi started requiring their black citizens to pass a literacy test to insure they could read and understand the issues of the election. The test consisted of nuclear physics and Chinese.

Seriously though, that might not be a bad idea as long as everyone gets the same test and it is a reasonable test that any high school graduate should be able to pass. It should only be in English as only citizens legally can vote; and to become a citizen you must be able to read and write in English. Good luck getting that passed. Al Sharpton would be out in full force ranting about that proposal.

Actually, why don't we revert back to what the Founding Fathers had set up with a minor change? I believe back in Colonial times ONLY property owners could vote. So make our voting laws so that ONLY property owners of all races, creeds, sexes, sexual orientation, all religions or no religion, ages over 21 could vote. Again, good luck getting this idea passed, but at least that was in the original plan set up by our Founding Fathers.

Wed, Jun 26, 2013 2:25am
Well, when I heard that the electorate of Mississippi and Alabama was over 50% black, meaning they could put anyone in office they wanted if they voted as a bloc, I realized it was time to remove that part of the bill.

The objections of some are that this is an emotional law for some, and any tampering with it is going to cause some controversy. But this was a remedial policy bill, and there is nothing left to remediate. Time to move on.

Wed, Jun 26, 2013 4:27am
MikeFromDelaware: Don't forget it was White, male property owners prior to the 15th and 19th amendments. There were other restrictions in some places so small property owners could vote for some offices but not others. The upper classes could make sure the common voters didn't do anything they'd disapprove of.

Wed, Jun 26, 2013 6:32am
MikeFromDelaware: Thought about your post some more. So, you want to bar people in apartments from voting? Really?
What about people in condos and co-ops? Are they property owners?
People who own property but live someplace else? They pay taxes but currently get no representation.
What about people who own stock in a corporation, which owns property? Do they vote? The courts have said corporate rights are an extension of the rights of the owners.
Your pastor probably wouldn't get to vote. Almost always churches own rectories, so pastors aren't property owners.
Do you still want to go with one person, one vote? Or should it be one acre, one vote? Or maybe $1,000 assessed value, one vote?

Currently the mortgage interest deduction is credited/blamed with pushing people into buying homes who maybe shouldn't have. Good for real estate companies, home builders, contractors and lenders. Maybe bad for the economy (see the current mess we're in). Add voting rights and there's an even bigger push for home ownership.

How about this? To vote you have to file an income tax return. You don't have to owe taxes, but you have to at least file a short form.

PS: You don't have to speak (or read/write) English to be a citizen. Some jurisdictions are required to provide non-English voting. I think a case could be made that voting in Spanish should be allowed in states originally taken from Mexico or Spain.

Mike from Delaware
Wed, Jun 26, 2013 10:37am
Billsmith: Good points. My main issue with non-property owners voting is in school referenda. These people don't pay that tax, yet kids who are 18 - still in high school - and apartment dwellers all get to vote to raise my property tax. Doesn't seem right to me. I checked into this a number of years ago [when I was doing my radio talk show] and because Federal Law says anyone who is 18 years and older can vote, the school referenda votes must also follow that law.

Other than that, I don't have a real issue with non-property voters getting to vote in political elections.

Wed, Jun 26, 2013 3:24pm
MikeFromDelaware: Their landlords pay the tax. And when the tax goes up, their rents go up. If the landlord is not a resident, or is a company, the landlord gets no vote at all. On top of that, you as property owner get to deduct local property taxes from your income taxes. So do landlords, even though they get the tax money from their tenants, who do not get a tax deduction to cover the portion of their rent that goes to pay property taxes.

That said, paying for schools through a property tax is something that should have been abandoned a century or more ago. But rich people like it. As a percentage of net worth, they generally pay far less having property taxed than having income taxed. In addition, these people are well-connected and their property is assessed for a lot less than it's really worth.

Mike from Delaware
Wed, Jun 26, 2013 5:38pm
Bill smith: I can deduct NCC Sewer Tax & Property Tax, but not school taxes.

Wed, Jun 26, 2013 5:47pm
MikeFromDelaware: I deduct school tax but not sewer. Very curious. If I get audited, I can always blame TurboTax.

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