The Fight Against Jim Crow Laws Reaches the Supreme Court

No, that’s not a typo. The Supreme Court has agreed to revisit the constitutionality of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, a Jim Crow-era law that requires the federal government to micromanage state election laws. And when I say micromanage, I mean it. Section 5 requires certain “covered jurisdictions” to get permission from the federal government before making any change – no matter how small – in its voting procedures. Those “covered jurisdictions” are mainly in the South, but not exclusively so. As the Cato Institute’s brief points out:

The list of Section 5 jurisdictions is bizarre: six states of the Old Confederacy (and certain counties in three others), plus Alaska, Arizona, and counties or townships in other states ranging from New Hampshire to South Dakota. Curiously, (only) three New York counties are covered, all boroughs in New York City. What is going on in the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Manhattan that is not in Queens or Staten Island?

Section 5 is an anachronism. Presumably it was once necessary for Congress to supervise state electoral practices so closely in order to implement the Fifteenth Amendment. But those days are gone. Today, Section 5 violates Article IV’s guarantee of a “republican form of government in each state,” as well as the 10th Amendment. And it conflicts with the Fourteenth Amendment’s basic premise of equal protection. Now is the time for the Court to strike down Section 5.