Response to High Court's Gutting of Voting Rights Act: "Don't Mourn, Organize!"

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Posted July 3, 2013

Interview with Brenda Wright, vice president of Legal Strategies at Demos, conducted by Scott Harris

votingrights

With their narrow 5 to 4 ruling on the constitutionality of the 1965 Voting Rights Act on June 25, the majority conservative justices on the U.S. Supreme Court effectively gutted the landmark civil rights legislation designed to prevent discrimination against the nation’s minority voters. Specifically, the court ruling challenged the formula in Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act that determined the list of states and other jurisdictions mandated to receive special scrutiny of any proposed changes in their voting laws. Striking down the section 4 formula, the Supreme Court decision in effect invalidated Section 5 of the civil rights legislation, which required pre-clearance of new voting laws in jurisdictions with a documented history of discrimination, protecting voters’ rights before they are violated on election day. Now it’s up to Congress to replace the formula struck down by the court.

Since 1965, the Voting Rights Act has been renewed and amended by Congress four times, the most recent being a 25-year extension approved by Congress with overwhelming bipartisan support, and signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2006. In a sign of how quickly the court’s ruling will affect local election law, the state of Texas declared soon after the decision that a voter ID law that had previously been blocked under the Voting Rights Act, would go into effect immediately.

In her dissenting opinion, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg stated, "In the Court's view, the very success of 1965 of the Voting Rights Act demands its dormancy." Ginsburg went on observe: "Hubris is a fit word for today's demolition of the VRA." Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Brenda Wright, vice president of legal strategies with the group Demos. Here, she discusses the fallout from the Supreme Court’s evisceration of the Voting Rights Act and what Congress can do to repair the damage.

Find more views on the Supreme Court decision on the Voting Rights by visiting Demos at DEMOS.org.

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