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.

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Members have made 15 comments.

  1. Profile photo of Tommy De Seno Contributor

    This is what I love about Ricochet.

    No matter how much stuff you think you know, you’ll always find out there is stuff going on out there that you were completely unaware of.

    For me, this is one of them!

    Very interesting, Adam!

    • #1
    • November 14, 2012 at 5:12 am
  2. Profile photo of Roberto Member
    Adam Freedman: Now is the time for the Court to strike down Section 5. · · 18 minutes ago

    Time perhaps, but truly how likely is it? As near as I can determine the Courts’ singular impetus in this day and age amounts to little more than blind worship at the alter of stare decisis.

    A bold step such as the one you describe seems incredibly unlikely.

    • #2
    • November 14, 2012 at 5:16 am
  3. Profile photo of BrentB67 Inactive
    Adam Freedman: … 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… · · 44 minutes ago

    Which is precisely why I agree with Roberto. Counting SCOTUS to do the right thing in almost any case seems like misplaced optimism, especially after the Roberts/Obamacare fiasco.

    • #3
    • November 14, 2012 at 5:26 am
  4. Profile photo of ConservativeWanderer Inactive
    Adam Freedman: Now is the time for the Court to strike down Section 5. · · 48 minutes ago

    If that happens under John ObamaCare-is-a-tax Roberts, I’ll be looking for pigs flying by my window.

    • #4
    • November 14, 2012 at 5:54 am
  5. Profile photo of PJS Reagan
    PJS
    ConservativeWanderer
    PJS: Wow, this is a tough crowd. · 9 minutes ago

    This crowd has been let down by John ObamaCare Roberts before.

    Fool me once, shame on you.

    Fool me twice, shame on me.

    10 hours ago

    I feel the same. Sadly.

    • #5
    • November 14, 2012 at 7:04 am
  6. Profile photo of Brian Clendinen Member

    Good it is about time. The fact that states are not allowed to remove party afflation on ballots because it somehow violates this clause is absurd. My biggest issue has been with this section is there is no expiration date. Some how Philly which is now very racist is not on the list and places which there has been no documented Racism by the government for 40+ years are on the list and none of the violators even work for the government any more. Even if the decision is narrow I hope they will at least put an expiration date on it and make the standards harder. That would be a major victory on its own. However, it would be nice if they did indeed get rid of the whole section.

    Hopefully they will look at title VII next.

    • #6
    • November 14, 2012 at 7:17 am
  7. Profile photo of PJS Reagan
    PJS

    Wow, this is a tough crowd.

    • #7
    • November 14, 2012 at 7:28 am
  8. Profile photo of Steven Jones Coolidge

    This is a tough era for rationality.

    SCOTUS won’t dare strike down any fragment of the VRA. I don’t see Roberts getting his fingerprints on a landmark decision which would be widely decried as racist.

    • #8
    • November 14, 2012 at 7:37 am
  9. Profile photo of ConservativeWanderer Inactive
    PJS: Wow, this is a tough crowd. · 9 minutes ago

    This crowd has been let down by John ObamaCare Roberts before.

    Fool me once, shame on you.

    Fool me twice, shame on me.

    • #9
    • November 14, 2012 at 7:49 am
  10. Profile photo of Whiskey Sam Inactive

    It should be struck down, but I am highly skeptical like many others here. I’ve given up hope in the Supreme Court doing what’s right in lieu of what is politically expedient.

    • #10
    • November 14, 2012 at 7:57 am
  11. Profile photo of BlueAnt Member

    The Supreme Court striking down legislation as unconstitutional? Does it still do that? How quaint.

    But maybe legislation has an expiration date. Maybe the SC is fine with striking down laws as long as they are old enough. What do you suppose the threshold is? Long enough that none of the SC justices on the bench when it was enacted are still there? Long enough that everyone who passed the law is dead?

    • #11
    • November 14, 2012 at 8:04 am
  12. Profile photo of Vance Richards Member

    Upholding the Constitution is one thing, but how long until we hear, “See? I told you they want to put y’all back in chains”?

    • #12
    • November 14, 2012 at 8:36 am
  13. Profile photo of Aelreth Member

    Was it Roberts or Thomas that said something to the effect of “In order to end discrimination against race we must first end discrimination against race”.

    There is a chance.

    • #13
    • November 14, 2012 at 9:38 am
  14. Profile photo of Liberty Dude Inactive

    I suspect the obsolete portion of the law will be struck down; Roberts is undoubtley eager to protect his legacy.

    Why this is of any practical consequence, however, eludes me. The South is deep red and will certainly remain so. It would seem that the irrelevance of the decision would attract a cowardly pragmatist like Roberts to use the issue as an adornment to his legacy.

    • #14
    • November 14, 2012 at 11:32 am
  15. Profile photo of Lavaux Inactive

    What, the Supremes uphold federalism? Yeah, I’ll believe it when I see it. Just think about it for a second: The highest federal court should limit the federal government’s power to preserve the states’ sovereignty. (Cue laugh track – uproarious.) What’s in it for the Supremes? The US constitution is full of obvious flaws like this. Seriously, it’s like divorcing a family court judge in her own court, with her presiding.

    • #15
    • November 15, 2012 at 12:12 pm